Review: The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate
The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate by Scott Nash. September 2012. 9780763632649. Gr. 3-6.
Confession: I judge books by their covers. I know, I know, the idiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover” has been around for a long time, and it does apply to a lot of things. But, in this case, I picked up a copy of The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate solely because it looked neat. I didn’t pore over reviews, read “best of” blogs, get a raving recommendation from a friend…I just liked the cover. Perhaps it took me back to reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island as a grade-schooler? The skull and crossbones, combined with the faux-antique look grabbed me. Plus, who doesn’t like a swashbuckling pirate adventure?
This pirate adventure is a bit different. The characters are animals, much in the style of Brian Jacques’ Redwall series or Robert C. O’Brien’s Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. In this case, the main characters are birds, and Nash does a nice job of basing the characters’ personalities on the way real birds act. If you have ever watched birds interact at a bird feeder, you know that bluejays act as brash, thieving bullies, so it is a good choice to have made the leader of a band of pirates Blue Jay. Here, though, Blue Jay mostly relies on rumors that he is a tough and ruthless warrior, when in reality he is a wise and fair leader. He captains a flying ship, the Grosbeak, and oversees a crew of colorful characters including a junco, chickadee, snipe, and others.
The story begins with Junco finding a rare egg that Jay covets, and takes on board the Grosbeak. What the egg contains is a mystery, but the creature within becomes an asset and friend to the pirate crew. Soon, Jay and his crew run into trouble when the Grosbeak falls out of the airstream and is shipwrecked in hostile territory. Here, they meet the villainous Teach, Bellamy, and Avery, crows who are always angling for riches and a fight. They hold Jay and his ship hostage, and it is up to other members of the crew to find a way out of this predicament. This is attempted with the help of some unlikely allies, including a group of sparrows and a nearsighted mole named Hillary. They uncover the crows’ secret arsenal and prepare for a fight.
The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate is a fun and entertaining read. Boys and animal lovers in particular will enjoy this book, which is enhanced greatly by Nash’s illustrations. The classic struggle between the villains and good guys is appealing and this book is just good, old-fashioned fun.
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