Friday, May 15, 2015


Title: Arrgh!
Author: Stacey R. Campbell
Illustrator: M.S. Corley
Publisher: Green Darner Press
Date of Release: Nov. 1, 2014)
Genre: Middle Grade / Adventure
Publisher: Green Darner Press (November 1, 2014)
ISBN-13: 978-0988478442
Hard Cover and Paperback (282 pages)
Kindle (284 pages)

By Marlan Warren for Midwest Book Review

Arrgh! is a true treasure: Five not-easy lessons on the high seas. Stacey R. Campbell's Kidnapped-by-Pirates tale is greater than the sum of its title.

This Coming of Age Voyage takes off like a cannon blast when a runaway orphan finds himself forced onto a cargo ship by pirates posing as merchant seamen, and gathers momentum with inventive action until its gratifying conclusion.

Thirteen-year-old Christopher has escaped from an orphanage to search for family members. Ironically, he is nabbed off the street by two pirate thugs who pass him off to the ship's captain as a relative. Threatened with death if he does not pretend to be mute, Christopher enters a world of repressed silence—broken only during moments when he can communicate with Leo the Attack-for-Hire Mouse who comes to his assistance as a kind of life coach. The trained and certified Leo sets about teaching the timid youth Five Life Lessons.
Campbell deftly melds fantasy with reality; excitement with education; and classical storytelling with contemporary sensibility that honors Friendship, Family and Literacy.

As in Peter Pan, there is a line between non-adult and adult perceptions and abilities. When Christopher is befriended by the Captain's twelve-year-old daughter Lucy, it turns out that she can also understand the talking animals who come their way because she is not an adult. And when the duo find themselves stranded on an island, they revel in it as a paradise where they can do whatever they want without adult interference.

In a world where many are illiterate, Lucy begins to crack the mystery of Christopher when she sees him reading books from her father’s library.

Herein lie the expected dark moments and violence of the genre. However, Christopher and Lucy achieve their victories through The Power of the Plan—hopping from plan to plan as their fates shift.

The biggest lesson comes to Christopher when he must stay on the island without Lucy, and subdue the pirates with only the assistance of animal helpers. He comes out of it with this newfound truth: "I was never alone."

Young readers will be enthralled by the vivid imagery that makes up the swashbuckling action sequences, as well as the evocative sights and smells of this time period. A Glossary of Nautical Terms opens the book. Lessons include such vintage practical gems as how to manage a galleon in a storm. M.S. Corley's beautiful vintage-style illustrations would be at home in the earliest editions of any classic pirate tale.

How does it end? Here's a hint:
Lesson Number Five brought tears to my eyes.