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Top Secret Files: Pirates and Buried…

Top Secret Files: Pirates and Buried Treasure: Secrets, Strange Tales, and…

by Stephanie Bearce

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this as a LibraryThing giveaway. The usual suspects are present; Grace O’Malley, Blackbeard, Black Bart (formerly John Roberts) Henry Avery, Mary Read, & Anne Bonny plus a few I was unfamiliar with, such as Cheng I Sao, Jeanne de Clisson, Sadie the Goat, Stede Bonnet, William Dampier, and a very brief mention of Captain Kidd. Most pirates had very brief and violent careers, but there are a few exceptions in this list. Grace O’Malley died an honored Irish chieftain at the age of 70, Henry Avery quit while he was ahead, Cheng I Sao made a deal with the Chinese Emperor, kept her plunder and was made “Lady by Imperial Decree”, William Dampier was a better scientist than pirate and ship’s captain, retiring from the sea at age 60. He is cited in the Oxford English Dictionary more than 80 times for the new words he introduced to the English language. None of these pirates said “Arrr”. It showed up in the 1930s when Lionel Barrymore played a pirate. In the few documents written by a very few literate pirates they used the same phrases as other sailors of their time. No pirate wanted to end up like Captain Kidd. Hung twice, his body tarred for preservation, and then hung in chains in the Thames estuary. A fun and interesting little book. ( )
  lisa.schureman | May 5, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I LOVE pirates, and I read books about pirates quite frequently. I thought this one was mostly just standard. The font was a little too small for younger readers, and didn't appeal as well as it could have to older readers. In spite of some weaknesses, I still enjoyed reading it.
  vivirielle | Apr 6, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
We love all things Pirates! This book is a great source of information on the time era when pirates ruled the high seas and there whereabouts treasure hunters might find some interesting facts too. ( )
  redheadish | Dec 24, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found this book thoroughly interesting and can see several ways to use it in a classroom setting. The book details information about how sailors became pirates and debunks our preconceived ideas of what they said and did. It also gives short biographies of famous pirates and recounts archaeological finds of sunken treasure. Interesting sidebars as well as crafts and activities extend the learning. Any child interested in pirates will devour this book!

Having said that, I'm not sure what age to recommend read this book. The reading level is fairly high and the font is rather small, causing me to lean toward later middle school. However, the activities and crafts are geared toward younger readers. As a result, I'm thinking this would be best for advanced readers in fourth-sixth grade. ( )
  julieaduncan | Dec 21, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book for kids on pirates contains a lot of interesting material on ships and weapons, some good infographics — flags and knots, for example — and refers to quite a few pirates of whom most kids and many adults won't have heard, such as William Avery and Henry Dampier. It's entertainingly written; it's a good place to start.

Some of the information, however, is incomplete or stilted, and the author's assertions somewhat unsupported. An example is the otherwise good discussion of pirates' clothing--in particular the abrogation of sumptuary laws by pirates who wore quality clothing stolen from aristocrats. "Pirates became heroes to people throughout England when they began wearing velvet coats stolen from rich nobles" is simplistic, though the author does qualify that to "one of the reasons that pirates were cheered by everyday people" later in the paragraph. I was glad to see discussion of privateers late in the book.

The section on pirates' language and vocabulary is fun and informative, but discussion of accent ("aargh" and the like) refers the reader only to the movies, when there has also been a long discussion of West Country (Bristol, Devon, Cornwall, etc.) and perhaps some Irish origins of many of the pirates portrayed in those films.

The discussion of the Chinese woman pirate Cheng I Sao mentions her husband in passing as a "sea robber"; that he was the original pirate chief is glossed over. It's a little misleading, too, to say that the events took place "at a time when American women didn't have the right to vote and many women could not even own property." While that is certainly true, it was also the case for most women everywhere, not least the women of China. In terms of the Chinese language, it's unclear why the book's editor retained two different romanizations, Zheng Yi, the husband, in Pinyin, and Cheng I Sao, the wife, in traditional Wade-Giles, though "Zheng Yi" and "Cheng I" are the same name, that of the husband (which the author does state).

Quite a few of the illustrations are from deviantart sites, quite a few unsophisticated though cute; most are attributed to the sites at least, if not to the actual artists. Some pictures appear to have been borrowed from commercial materials, altered, and not clearly attributed. Clip art is heavily used. Where historical art is reproduced, it is sometimes attributed (p. 10, for example); sometimes not (p.4, p.51, p.63, p.67, p.76).

The editor or proofreader should also have caught the typo on p. 23: "Pirates pieced [sic] their ears..."

The book's bibliography contains some useful-looking books as well as some websites from which information and activities were "retrieved." These include National Geographic and Huffington Post; I do appreciate these, since they show kids that one can find references to one's interests all over the place.

Maybe I'm just old-school, however, about some aspects of using online materials, but I don't feel a wikipedia entry is a complete reference. I'm of two minds about "If you want to learn more about the everyday life of a pirate, watch this video created by history.com. But be warned—it's got some gross information!" followed by the url. I have to say, I DID go watch it! ( )
  NatalieSW | Dec 12, 2015 |
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Warning!  Halt ye landlubbers!  Don't ye read any further unless you've a strong stomach and a curious mind.  These pirate stories be sometimes scary and sometimes gruesome, but they all be true.  And the truth can be a very frightening thing!
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A basic pirate guide.  Includes the basics of piracy: how the life is; weapons, words, and wardrobe; historical pirate figures; and everything you would ever need to know about treasure.  A fun basic guide written primarily with middle school and high school students as the audience.
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