Thursday, February 28, 2008

Maggie and the Pirate

Maggie and the Pirate
Ezra Jack Keats ~ Four Winds Press, 1979

Yea, so I really only have one friend that is as obsessive about collecting vintage kids' books as me (she perhaps even more so), so the next couple of days (including yesterday) I'm gonna highlight some titles she turned me on to of late.

We were having a discussion about cricket cages a while back and she brought up this little ditty by Mr. Keats. At the time I didn't remember it, but once I got a copy in hand and read it a few times, the pictures and story began to become eerily familiar. It surely passed through my childhood library card at one point or another.

A strange little book, the main character, Maggie, lives in a semi-psychedelic bus with her parents. Maybe on an island. Maybe beside a small island. It is hard to tell, but I do know that the illustrations include water, palm trees and a beach. (I mean, did Keats retire to Florida or something to become a pot-smoking hippie or what? Going from following the life of an inner-city black kid to a curly, redheaded cracker seems like a major life change. He keeps us guessing in genre for sure.)

Maggie has a pet cricket named Niki, and if that isn't cool enough, she (and the cricket) get stalked by a stranger who refers to himself only as "The Pirate". When the Pirate cricket-naps Niki, it is up to Maggie and her friends to save the day. I mean if this doesn't smell of The Red Hand Gang I don't know what does.

In the end, Niki becomes a fatality of one of childhood's most mysterious games -- friendship -- and the book ends on a somber, open-ended note that truly echos the realities of life, death and love.

They all sat down together.
Nobody said anything.
They listened to the new cricket singing.
Crickets all around joined in.

No forced happy ending. No clean-cut resolution. Very refreshing for a children's book. Anywho, check out this clip from a film adaptation of the book.

Also by:
Whistle for Willie
In a Spring Garden
How To Be A Nature Detective


Anonymous said...

Wow! I didn't think anyone else out there was as obsessed as me about finding vintage books for my kids!!! I was so thrilled to find, at Border's no less -- The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. It's just too bad that most of her other wonderful kids' books are out of print. She was one of my favorites growing up. I also found The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster -- which I remember loving. There is a book that always sticks in my head that I haven't been able to find. I think it was called The Red Hand Gang. I googled it and came up with your blog. I remember it being about a group of kids that goes around solving mysteries. I couldn't find any other reference on your site towards that book. Do you have other info -- author?? There's one more that I've been obsessed with finding, but I cannot remember the title! Helpful, huh?! I think the word peppermint was in the title. It was about a little girl that had to live with an obscure relative, (aunt or something) because her parents died/dissappeared. The obscure relative was of course very mean -- kept her locked up only to let her out to clean and do chores. It wasn't all sad and depressing -- something magical, wonderful, or mysterious happens of course - just can't remember what it was!! Just hoping this rings a bell for you or someone out there. Just remembered another odd detail from that book -- something about eating kippers or sardines or some little fish! Maybe it was written in the UK?? BTW -- noticed that you are a new Texan! I am a Texan - born and bred -- and am now a new Virginian! It's beautiful here, but I sure miss Texas! (I am submitting anonymously, because I'd have to create an account first -- I will do that once I submit this comment.)

Burgin Streetman said...

When I mentioned the Red Hand Gang here, I was referencing an old 70s TV show. I didn't know the show was based on a book. EXCITING! i'll have to investigate. and the peppermint one does sound familiar. check out this site and leave a post. the members are pretty obsessive.

i moved from Virginia when I was about 19, and have now been in Texas about 5 years. I love it!

Lola said...

GREAT! I will check out that site as soon as I leave this comment. Thanks! It was definitely a book -- just not sure of the title. Could have been The Adventures of the Red Hand Gang or something like that. No idea when it was written, but I read it when I was around 8 and that was in the mid-70s. I love your blogs! Thanks for doing them! If you haven't already been to Barton Springs pool in Austin -- it is a must on a hot hundred-degree Texas summer day. Ice cold, but deliciously so!!! Lived in Austin for almost 30 years - but also lived in San Antonio for a few years as an animal trainer at Sea World.

Lola said...

That was a great site --! Just posted my question last night and already have my answer! "Peppermints in the Parlor" by Barbara Brooks Wallace. It's even still in print, but I ended up buying a 1st edition -- hate how they change/update the artwork on newer editions! Thanks so much!

Burgin Streetman said...

I knew someone would know it! Great find!

Antmusic said...

The "red hand gang" could be The Black Hand Gang (Hans Jurgen Press), The Bloodhound Gang, The Sugar Creek Gang or The Goosehill Gang series of books all in print in the 70s.

Oh, and there are a few books in that Barbara Brooks Wallace series. Great stuff.

Tony said...

One of my all time favorites! Been looking for this for years, but I couldn't think of the name. Such soothing illustrations!

Chandra said...

Wow! We just read this book! What a trip! After years of reading picture books I thought I had seen it all. What a treasure!

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