Swashbucklers – Dan Hanks

Nostalgia for the win! When they were kids, Cisco and his friends fought an 8-bit war against an evil pirate and saved the world. Cisco is the only one who remembers what really happened; for everyone else, a gas leak was responsible for the Halloween ‘89 mayhem. 

“Look, honey, that’s the bloke from the bedtime stories your mum tells you. The gas leak boy, I told you he was real!” 

Supernatural fans know ‘gas leak’ is code for ‘whatever it was, it sure as hell wasn’t a gas leak’.

Now all grown up with children of their own, it’s time for the sequel because, as I’m sure you’re very well aware, sometimes the Big Bad doesn’t stay dead. Except it’s not quite as easy saving the world when your joints creak and you’re having to navigate the joys of parenthood while you’re dusting off your custom made game console weapons. It turns out that nostalgia can be deadly. 

“Why the hell did you decide that us four, ordinary, slightly unfit, middle-aged human nobodies could take on this momentous challenge again and get it right this time?” 

This is one of my favourite reads of the year and the perfect way to get you into the spirit for so many important holidays: Halloween, Christmas, Talk Like a Pirate Day… It’s also the movie I need to see. Outside of my head, that is. There’s a talking fox, a secret room behind a bookcase (be still my beating heart), enchanted forest (“Technically, all forests are enchanted-”), faeries that are bitey and priceless news headlines. 

Bizarre attack in Manchester as costumed cannibal snowman partially EATS homeowner. 

It was the Ghostbusters/Goonies mashup I never knew I needed and I loved every minute. I could almost hear the soundtrack playing during the action sequences. This may have been Cisco’s trip down memory lane but I felt like I grew up there too. 

“Bloody nostalgia” 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Angry Robot for the opportunity to relive my childhood through this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Cisco Collins returns to his home town thirty years after saving it from being swallowed by a hell mouth opened by an ancient pirate ghost, he realises that being a childhood hero isn’t like it was in the movies.

Especially when nobody remembers the heroic bits – even the friends who once fought alongside him.

Struggling with single parenting and treated as bit of a joke, Cisco isn’t really in the Christmas spirit like everyone else. A fact that’s made worse by the tendrils of the pirate’s powers creeping back into our world and people beginning to die in bizarre ways. 

With the help of a talking fox, an enchanted forest, a long-lost friend haunting his dreams, and some 80s video game consoles turned into weapons, Cisco must now convince his friends to once again help him save the day. Yet they quickly discover that being a ghostbusting hero is so much easier when you don’t have schools runs, parent evenings, and nativity plays to attend. And even in the middle of a supernatural battle, you always need to bring snacks and wipes…

Atticus Van Tasticus – Andrew Daddo

Illustrations – Stephen Michael King

“Together we’re goin’ piratin’.”

Ahoy, me hearties! It be Talk Like a Pirate Day and I be watchin’ o’er Atticus and his crew from the crows nest of The Grandnan.

Ye see, when Van Tasticus lads and lassies reach their tenth birthday they get to plunder one piece o’ treasure from Grandnan Van Tasticus’ giant shed. They be needin’ to choose their bounty wisely as that be the only loot they get.

When it be Atticus’ birthday his landlubbing days be o’er as he be choosin’ a ship. Blimey!

Atticus and his crew set sail, seekin’ treasure and adventure. There be walkin’ the plank, a stowaway and some surprises.

This be the first in a new series. There be smiles for ye scallywags and details in the pictures that ye ol’ seadogs will appreciate, from well known paintings in Grandnan’s shed to Muscles and Mullet channelin’ their inner Rose and Jack on the bow of The Grandnan.

If ye be worryin’ about what yet scallywag be readin’, thar be a crew member that be sayin’ “crap”.

I plundered me a signed copy of this book. If ye be putting yer mark on a pirate book, this be how ye do it right! Aaarrr!

I be givin’ this treasure four Jolly Rogers. 🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A ten-year-old pirate captain? Absurd? Not in the world of Atticus Van Tasticus, a fabulously funny new illustrated junior fiction series from the brilliant and whacky creative minds of Andrew Daddo and Stephen Michael King.

1750, when times were tough and teeth were rotten …

As part of an ancient family tradition, young Atticus Van Tasticus narrowly escapes a life down the coal mines – or worse, going to school – when he gets to choose the gift of a pirate ship from his Grandnan’s treasure pile. 

It’s a choice that will change the course of history – well, OK, his story, at least. Atticus pulls together a rag-tag bunch misfits – AHEM – a tough, brilliant crew, and sets out to wreak havoc – I mean – live a piratin’ life. 

With little else to his name, Atticus has a taste for adventure, beauty and danger – where any minute might be your last, and your next minute could be your best ( … if only they could get off the dock).

Princess Swashbuckle – Hollie Hughes

Illustrations – Deborah Allwright

Princess Swashbuckle’s parents are trying to find her a prince but she’s not interested. She longs to be a froggy pirate queen so she packs her belongings and boards the Stinky Fish and declares herself their new Captain.

She’s “on a mission to find NICE things to do” and under her leadership that’s exactly what they do. They help animals of the sea and land, have adventures and plenty of fun, and naturally everyone lives happily ever after.

The rhymes are lovely and flow well and the message is stellar! Princess Swashbuckle’s parents don’t understand her dreams initially, wanting her to follow tradition. However they eventually realise that she doesn’t need a prince after all and embrace her choices, allowing her the freedom to be the kind pirate queen she was destined to be.

Deborah Allwright’s illustrations are so much fun. They’re colourful and expressive, and I loved that Princess Swashbuckle’s head is shaped like a heart. There’s so many details to enjoy, particularly in the pages featuring a variety of animals.

I absolutely adore this book and need to find a kid to read it to – stat! This is the perfect book to encourage kids to follow their heart, especially if their dreams aren’t what society expects of them.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Tired of the same old princess-meets-her-prince stories? Bored of princesses in frilly pink dresses? Fed up with princes getting all the action? Yes? So is Princess Swashbuckle. She’s Swashbuckle by name, swashbuckling by nature and she’s about to show the world what a great pirate captain she can be. Charmingly breaking the mould, Princess Swashbuckle is a rollicking tale of adventure and finding your own happy.

Knock Knock Pirate – Caryl Hart

Illustrations – Nick East

☠️ Ahoy, me mateys! ☠️

I discovered Knock Knock Pirate after devouring Caryl Hart’s The Invincibles series. My local library had this one as well and of course I was going to request a copy because, well, pirates!

What an imaginative counting book! With great rhymes and plenty of pirates to count, our young main character (whose name is not Jim) is Home Alone when a posse of pirates take control of her house and sail it down the street and across the seven seas in search of treasure. I’m extremely impressed by the buoyancy of this home! Along the way the house-ship and its quirky sailors encounter some awesome marine life including a giant whale, giant squid and a group of sharks that look mighty hungry!

Nick East’s illustrations are funny and detailed. They compliment the rhymes so well and there’s just so much to see. I really liked the three granny pirates who arrive in style – wearing shawls while perched on top of cannonballs that crash through the roof.

From the other items visible in her treasure chest of costumes it’s clear this isn’t the first adventure this young girl has taken!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A visit from a pirate might sound like fun … but when the Captain’s whole crew turn up too – causing mayhem and chaos – it’s time for this little girl to panic. What is Dad going to say when he gets home?!

A Stegosaurus Would Not Make a Good Pirate – Thomas Kingsley Troupe

Illustrations – Steph Calvert

Ahoy, me mateys! This book were bein’ a fun ride. Chock full of colourful pictures and plenty o’ pirate characters, I enjoyed readin’ this story. Gary the Stegosaurus does his best t’ please Cap’n One-Tooth. Avast! He gets fired!

Gary was not bein’ the right size for pirate clothes, he be too big, his tail be too spiky, he not be eatin’ pirate food, and he not be good at countin’. Maybe there be ‘nother job perfect for a Stegosaurus, eh?

Cap’n Thomas Kingsley Troupe, ye did a good job. Cap’n Steph Calvert, ye drawin’ ability be full o’ whimsy. Lads and lasses, they be enjoyin’ this here book.

Thanks to me mateys at NetGalley and Capstone for givin’ me the opportunity to be tellin’ ’em what I be thinkin’ of it. Arrr!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Gary the Stegosaurus wants to be a pirate. But then he gets the chance, things do NOT work out. Getting seasick is the least of Gary’s worries once he’s on that ship! This delightful picture book from the Dinosaur Dreams series includes discussion questions, an interactive look-and-find fact section, and dinosaur facts.