ARRRRRRRRR me matey! Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Never heard of it? Where is your pirate spirit? It’s an excuse to celebrate all things pirate, and a great theme for story times that will draw the sprogs (errr… I mean boys and girls) into the library. And I be speaking the truth, seeing as how my two pirate story times this week drew over 60 people each. So, what do you do at a pirate story time? Here’s the outline that I followed, along with some other idears for you lilly-livered landlubber.

Title: Roger the Jolly Pirate
Author/Illustrator: Brett Helquist
ISBN: 0066238056
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: HarperCollins Publishers, c2004.
While this is probably the longest and most detailed of the three stories I did, it’s also the most fun for older preschoolers. They feel smarter than poor Roger the Jolly Pirate as he tries to bake a cake in a cannon during a fight above deck. His misadventures end of saving the day as the cannon cake propels him through the air, shrieking and covered in flour, causing the Admiral and his men to think the pirate ship is haunted and abandon ship. The satisfaction on their faces for guessing the outcome is priceless. It also is a cool por-qua story for how the Jolly Roger flag came about and got its name, and considering the Jolly Roger flag is seen in the next couple stories, it’s a nice beginning. I interrupted the story with my own explanations about what was going on when I felt the vocabulary was over their head. For instance, especially when it talked about Roger not knowing the leeward from the starboard or the mizzen from the mast, I just added that those were all “parts of a ship”. Otherwise, a great read with a clandestine moral of everyone is able to help or do something in some way.


Title: Sheep on a Ship
Author: Nancy Shaw
Illustrator: Margot Apple
ISBN: 0395481600
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.
I stumbled across this one quite by accident, and instantly fell in love with it due to its simplicity. Most pirate books have a lot of text, but this one, with its rhyming narration and clear pictures make it perfect for younger audiences. Nothing in the text suggests pirates, but the additions in Margot Apple’s pictures of a Jolly Roger and bandanas on each sheep make it obvious that they are pirates instead of, for instance, navy seamen.

Title: I Love My Pirate Papa
Author: Laura Leuck
Illustrator: Kyle M. Stone
ISBN: 9780152056643
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Harcourt, 2007

The newest of the three books, I chose this one because it again it was in rhyme, which in my experience seems to capture kids attentions just a little better than longer text. It also gave a nice overview of what pirates do, such as digging for treasure. And it gave all the kids a chance to consider pirates as parents, instead of just scary grown-ups. It painted a positive picture of pirates.

In between each story, we did a rhyme to break up the readings. The first one I did was “A sailor went to sea, sea, sea.” While singing the song, I had the kids either crouch down or stand up every time they heard the word sea and stay that way until the next time they heard sea. So, it went something like this, starting from a standing up position:
A sailor went to sea (down), sea (up), sea (down)
To see (up) what he could see (down), see (up), see (down)
But all that he could see (up) see (down) see (up)
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea (down), sea (up) sea (down)
Then we did it a second time, starting from the crouched down position, so that we ended standing up again. It was a lot of fun, and even some parents got involved.

We also did “There Was a Pirate had a bird and Polly was his name-o”, obviously to the tune of Bingo. I had a parrot puppet on one hand, so when clapping out the letters, I lifted up and slapped my knee with the other hand, which worked pretty well, and kind of gave me the look of a one-legged pirate possibly dancing a reel.

Finally, I did the song “The Waves on the Sea”, which is to the tune “The Wheels on the Bus”. Each verse has an accompanying action.
The Waves on the sea go up and down. (more kneeling and standing up in unison with the words up and down)
Up and down, up and down.
The waves on the sea go up and down
All day long.

The fish in the sea goes swish, swish, swish… (put your hands together, palms touching, and move them side to side in front of you each time you say “swish”)

The pirates on the sea go “Ahoy Matey, Ahoy Matey, Ahoy Matey”… (give a salute for each Ahoy Matey)

The shark in the sea goes snap, snap, snap… (hold arms out straight in front of you and clap your hands together three times)

More fun rhymes are available online by searching “Pirate story time”. One site I especially like is Born Librarian’s list of rhymes, and I wish I’d had time to incorporate some of them.

I had several craft opportunities for the kids after the stories and rhymes were done.

  • Make a spyglass by gluing a piece of black construction paper to a paper towel roll. It works better if you apply the glue to one end of the paper, start rolling, and then put some glue on the remainder of the paper.
  • Make a toilet paper parrot. The instructions are right here, and are extremely easy to make. I pre-cut the feathers and the rectangles that served as the body, and provided googly eyes. Only one parent/child missed the beak and decided to make their own, so I don’t think the beak is necessary.
  • The template for a whole sheet of pirate eye patches are available here. Again, I pre-cut them all out, and the provided hole punchers and scissors to cut the thread to the right size.
  • We had some leftover cut up black plastic table cloths from a program over the summer. I printed off a skull and crossbones picture on white paper, and had the attendees glue a printout to the plastic table cloths to make a pirate flag to take home.
  • We made tri-corner hats out of construction paper. Cut three pieces of paper into identical shapes and then staple them together into a triangle, leaving the middle open in order to slide on your head. This site provides an example, but what I did was made the sides shorter and had them curve upward and meet in the middle, so each strip looked like it had a hill. If this doesn’t sound right, picture those very simple/generic car drawings without the wheels, and you’ve got the general shape we made.

And of course, you have to remember to dress the part. Striped stockings or tights, goucho “pants”, a striped shirt or a white ruffled shirt, and maybe a vest or sash will make you look the part. Don’t forget the bandana, earring, and maybe even a hook or sword. There are obviously quite a few other pirate stories and crafts available. What have you used successfully in the past?

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