Monday, March 16, 2009

Blackbeard: The Pirate King by J. Patrick Lewis

A bibliographic poem

Blackbeard: The Pirate King, told in verse by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrations by various artists based on stories, myths, documents, and their own imaginations. National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C. 2006.

J. Patrick Lewis has created a bibliography of the notorious pirate Blackbeard using poems and prose. With the writings are an amazing collection of paintings depicting the life of this famous and infamous pirate. The paintings, ranging in time from 1730 to 2006, give the reader a feast for the eyes while reading Lewis's poetic account of the life of the pirate king.
Lewis has married with the paintings verses of both poetry and prose, describing events of truth and myths surrounding Blackbeard, whose real name may have been Edward Teach. Particularly fascinating is the earliest known illustration of Blackbeard by Thomas Nicholls from 1730 paired with a verse detailing the pirate's appearance:
"Now Teach was as tall as a waterfall...His beard began beneath his eyes, curled down in pigtail braids..."
Lewis uses imagery suited to the senses and rhythm and rhyme to create his writings, bringing to life the illustrations of the Pirate King as in "The Brethren of the Coast":
"But of all the thieves of the Seven Seas,
No one would ever reach
The height and might
Of the roguish knight
Of the Black Flag, Edward Teach."
In addition to offering an auditory and visual banquet of tales of high sea adventures, Lewis includes a time line of the highlights of Blackbeard's life and historical notes at the bottom of each page explaining the illustration and expanding upon the poem.
Blackbeard: The Pirate King will be most enjoyed by older students with an interest in history and pirates. The paintings chosen for this book will maintain that interest while the writing will engage the imaginations. Further personal research is encouraged with the historical notes and bibliography and websites offered at the end of the book. If an appeal for pirates was not within oneself before reading, curiosity will be piqued upon finishing this delightful rendering of the most famous pirate of them all.

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