Book review: Can pirates be farmers?

“When you plant love, it grows.”

-Pirates on the Farm

Synopsis:

I bought this quirky little title, Pirates on the Farm, on a whim at a children’s consignment shop and gave it to Mon Cœur for Christmas. It was pretty unassuming and I wasn’t really sure what the story would be about, other than the obvious.

The story is interesting, providing many opportunities for discussion, and the illustrations are delightfully playful.

The story unfolds as a little girl explains how the pirates came to be their neighbors, and as they do certain very piratey things (like looting), how different people in the community react.

Her younger brother is an admirer – he loves everything pirate. He has found an eye patch and starts calling his sister “Matey.”

Her mother is beside herself with shock, and does everything she can to try to remove them from the neighborhood. She meets with the Sheriff, then bands together with the women of the church to try to kick them out of the community.

But the dad, he’s a gracious guest of the pirates, a helping hand, and a friend to his new neighbors. As the pirates navigate their new life on land, the dad helps to make repairs to their barn/ship, he sits with them at church, even though they don’t sing the correct words, and they steal from the offering plate, and he sits down to dinner and eats (by any non-pirate standards) an unappealing meal and asks for seconds.

Windows

This book allowed us to see some of the many tasks a farmer has – planting, watering, harvesting, milking, shearing, and even branding. These tasks are hilariously illustrated with the pirates’ faux pas – prancing through the cornfield, swinging their swords to harvest corn? Dumping whole bags of seeds in one very large, and very deep hole?

It allowed us to see how various people can react differently to the same situation: with enthusiasm, with shock and dismay, with just the facts, and with encouragement and without judgement. What a spectrum of reactions!

This reminds me of the quote that we have no control over other peoples actions, all we can do is control our own. And how one reacts to a situation can be just as powerful to determining the outcome of an event. We always have the power to change things for better or worse. I’ve learned this the hard way, and still stumble more often than I wish, when patience is waning and emotions are high.

We all have our own prejudgements of what pirates are supposed to be and do, and so some of the things they do in the book are no surprise – stealing, eating hardtack, and sword fighting.

And then there are moments that show them in a completely unexpected and even endearing light – singing in church, bringing gifts to a dinner party, and “saving” baby Jesus from the manger, because they didn’t “understand why anyone would put a baby in a trough.”


This is a new favorite of MC’s and we read it pretty much every evening before bed. The illustrations are funny, and it’s a quick, lighthearted read that you can dive deep into and discuss as much as you want.

Questions that kept the conversation going well after turning the last page:

What does it mean to be a neighbor?

Are we planting love? (On specific occasions when we need to step back, look at what we did, and retry)

How could we react differently to — ?

Can we look for and appreciate unexpected actions from others?

Pirates on the Farm written by Dennette Fretz and illustrated by Gene Barretta

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