Looking for children’s book about pirates? During our pirate unit, we read a number of fun books about pirates for kids. Below I review 11 books about pirates that include both non-fiction and fiction selections. The non-fiction books offer a great look at the history of pirates. The fiction books, on the other hand, provide a lot of fun-filled pirate-themed reading opportunities.
As I mention in my reviews below, adults may want to exercise some caution with the non-fiction books that include details about the more unsavory aspects of pirate life (pillaging, plundering, and murder, anyone?). In general, I enjoy reading non-fiction books with my kids because they are often better teaching tools than fiction books. Thus, I did share many details about the ugly side of pirate life with my kids, but other adults may choose differently.
Note: For more pirate-themed activities and printables, see my Pirate Unit Study page.
Non-fiction books about pirates
Inside Access: Pirates by Philip Steele
This is a mostly non-fiction book about pirates, although it is narrated by the fictional pirate Jake “Rattlebones” Rogers. The book is organized around a series of topics, such as pirate ships, pirate weaponry, why people became pirates, pirate treasure, and pirate fighting tactics. The text is fairly simple and several pages include flaps to lift, making the target age for this book kids in early elementary school. Do note that while this book does not go into gruesome detail, it does mention some of the less savory aspects of pirate life such as fighting, stealing, and murdering. The book includes a mix of photographs (with actors dressed as pirates of long ago) and illustrations. This was my favorite of the non-fiction books we reviewed. (But adults wanting a tamer non-fiction book should consider the Boshouwers book reviewed below.)
Pirates by Greg Nickles and Bobbie Kalman
As with the book by Steele reviewed above, this fact-filled book is also organized around a series of topics that include famous pirates, parts of a pirate ship, pirate clothes, pirate flags, and a pirate’s fate. This book is a bit more text heavy than the Steele book, although I appreciated its focus on introducing new vocabulary with bolded words throughout the text and a glossary at the back.
The book begins with a statement that pirates were not good people and that it is wrong to rob and hurt people. I like that it did this, since this book also discusses pirate behaviors of the sort I don’t usually discuss with my children (murder, anyone?). The book also explains that today we prefer to think of the fun things pirates did and the adventures they had. The book includes both illustrations and photographs of kid and adult actors dressed as pirates. The last pages of the book include several suggestions for pirate-themed activities.
Pirates by Suzan Boshouwers
This is another fact-filled book about pirates, although it is filled only with cartoonish illustrations rather than photos of real people. Of the three non-fiction books reviewed here, this is the one that goes into the least detail about the more unsavory aspects of pirate life. It does mention stealing, but that’s about as far as it goes. For example, while the book by Nickles and Kalman states that the pirate’s Jolly Roger flag means “death,” this book gives a more kid-friendly explanation, saying only that the Jolly Roger lets others know that pirates are coming. The end of the book includes a short quiz about pirates to test kids’ knowledge.
Fiction books about pirates
Pirate Boy by Eve Bunting
Danny is a young boy who wants to be a pirate. But then he wonders what would happen if he later changed his mind? His mom assures him that she would come to get him, most likely on the back of a friendly dolphin who could help her swim out to his pirate ship. However, Danny has lots of worries about his mother’s plan. What if she encounters sea monsters who want to eat her up? What if the pirates won’t let him go home? How will his mother get the two of them home after she rescues him? Fortunately, Danny’s mother seems to have just the right answer to each of these worries, and is even willing to deploy her “magic spray” if needed. Parents will chuckle at Danny’s questions, while children will find reassurance in the message that parents will do anything in their power to help their children come home if needed.
Backbeard: Pirate for Hire by Matthew McEilligott
This book tells the story of Backbeard, the hairiest pirate who ever lived. However, Backbeard does not dress like a typical pirate. One day he is called before the Pirate Council, who tells him he must change his clothes or be kicked out. So Backbeard sets off to look for a job so he can buy some new clothes. No one wants to hire him, until he meets a little old lady who runs a tearoom. Backbeard struggles in his new job, but he improves so quickly during his first week that the little old lady decides to leave him in charge while she goes to visit her children one day. However, Backbeard struggles to run the tearoom by himself. By the end of the day, he has made a mess of things and goes to tell the little old lady that he had to fire himself. When he walks in and meets her three children, however, he discovers that her children are the members of the Pirate Council, but all dressed in normal clothing! They beg Backbeard not to tell their mom they are pirates, and in return they agree that he can continue to dress however they want.
Roger, the Jolly Pirate by Brett Helquist
Roger is a lousy pirate. He can’t tell one side of the ship from the other, and he smiles when he should scowl – which earned him the nickname “Jolly Roger.” The other pirates don’t want anything to do with Roger. So when Roger’s ship enters into battle with the Admiral, his fellow pirates send him down below the deck. He wants to do something to make the other pirates like him. So while the battle rages up above, Jolly Roger decides to make a cake for his fellow pirates. However, when he lights a match to bake the cake, his accidentally shoots himself through a batch of flour right onto the deck where the battle is occurring. Covered in flour, spotted with soot, and shrieking in terror, Jolly Roger frightens the Admiral and his men. Thinking they are seeing a ghost or a skeleton, the Admiral orders his men to abandon the ship and Jolly Roger saves the day! Jolly Roger’s fellow pirates are so happy with him they create a flag in his honor. . . a flag that still to this day is a symbol for pirates everywhere.
A pirate’s favorite word, of course, is “arrr.” But ‘R,’ says the captain of the ship, is not enough! He wants to collect all of the letters of the alphabet. His crew agrees to help, and they set off in search of the ABC’s. The anchor goes into an ‘A,’ a ‘B’ floats by on the bay, they find a cannonball carved with a ‘C,’ and so on until they capture all the letters up to the ‘Y.’ But that isn’t sufficient for the captain, who insists they collect the entire alphabet! But the pirates don’t know where to find their ‘Z.’ As they sleep that night, however, zillions of ‘Z’s’ zoom all over their heads.
This is a fun and adorable pirate-themed alphabet book. Young children learning their letters will enjoy searching out the letters in the pictures, and adults will appreciate how each letter is found on or with an object beginning with the same sound.
Pirate vs. Pirate: The Terrific Tale of a Big, Blustery Maritime Match by Mary Quattlebaum
Bad Bart is the biggest and burliest pirate this side of the Atlantic. Mean Mo is the maddest, mightiest pirate this side of the Pacific. When they meet one day, they engage in all sorts of contests to determine who is the biggest, maddest, burliest, mightiest, and richest pirate of them all! Although they hold swimming contests and cannonball throwing contests and arm wrestling contests, the end result of all these contests is a tie between Bad Bart and Mean Mo. When they count their treasure, both pirates have 1,953 pieces of treasure, resulting in another tie. So what will two pirates do who both aim to be the biggest, maddest, burliest, mightiest, and richest pirate of them all? Get married and join forces, of course!
I Love My Pirate Papa by Laura Leuck
This is a cute story of a young boy who lives on a pirate ship with his pirate papa. Together the boy and his father engage in pirate activities like shimmying up the mast, eating pirate grub, and searching for treasure. My favorite part of the story was where the boy described how he learned the letter ‘X’ because his pirate papa let him read his map. The book ends with the pirate papa whispering to his sleeping son that he appreciates his treasure, but in the end he prizes nothing more than his son. The fun, rhyming text of this cute story is accompanied by beautiful, mixed media illustrations that will draw in young readers.
How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long
Jeremy Jacob is just a normal boy spending the day at the beach with his family when he spots a pirate ship approaching the shore. When the pirates come to the beach, they notice his sand castle and declare him to be a wonderful digger. The pirates decide that Jeremy Jacob shall join their crew to help them bury their treasure. So Jeremy Jacob becomes a pirate. He learns to talk like a pirate and eat like a pirate and have pirate manners. He likes that pirates don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do. He decides that maybe he will be a pirate forever. But at bedtime Jeremy Jacob learns that pirates don’t get tucked in, they don’t get bedtime stories, and they certainly don’t get bedtime kisses. He decides he doesn’t want to be a pirate after all. When disaster strikes the pirate ship, Jeremy Jacob saves the day by showing the pirates a good spot to bury their treasure, and then he rejoins his family.
Pirates Don’t Change Diapers by Melinda Long
A follow up to the book How I Became a Pirate, in this story the pirates come back to visit Jeremy Jacob and collect the treasure they buried in his back yard. When the pirates arrive, they wake up Jeremy Jacob’s little sister, Anne, and she begins to cry. Jeremy Jacob tells the pirates that they will not be able to dig up their treasure until little Anne is happy, so the pirates take over babysitting duties. They change Anne’s diapers, feed her, and rock her, all with hilarious results as pirates are not accustomed to such duties. Once Anne is settled and sleeping, the pirates decide to use their map to find their buried treasure. But alas, they have lost the map! And when they recover the map, they discover that baby Anne has eaten most of it! But Jeremy Jacob is able to use what is left of the map to help the pirates find their treasure. They give him a small token of appreciation and then leave on their merry way.
More Pirate learning resources
More pirate posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- Pirate Montessori activities
- Pirate sensory bin and small world play
- Parts of a pirate ship
- Lucky treasure chest
- Make your own telescope
- Make your own compass