Book review: The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found, by Martin W. Sandler

Sandler, Martin W. The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found. Candlewick, 2017. $19.99. 170p. ISBN 978-0-7636-8033-6. Ages 9-13. P8Q7

Pirate lore, the reality of pirate life, and the culture of the early 18th century are blended in this description of one ship that sank off Cape Cod less than two years after its maiden voyage. It was a time of high inequality of income, and people, mostly men, chose piracy to support their families. The Whydah, the only pirate ship to be recovered, was built and used as to carry slaves to Jamaica. Through text and pullouts, Sandler covers information about how the ship was taken from the British on its first voyage and then sunk by a storm less than a year later and what happened to the few survivors. Another subject is the salvage attempts through the centuries and the successful one that began in 1984 and continues today, releasing thousands of artifacts with some of this in the Whydah Museum in West Yarmouth (MA). Maps, drawings, and photos add interest and information.

Verdict: Maps, drawings, and photos add interest and information. Pullouts are interesting but distracting to the narrative, a difficulty for less competent readers. The pieces about pirates will appeal to reluctant readers, and the subject is inviting. Additional information about the quantity of treasure found would have been useful, and the language evolves into more juvenile, such as the pirates using “bad names.” The Whydah Museum described in the text is actually in West Yarmouth, an hour away from Provincetown, as Sandler claims. Yet the book is a delightful read that covers a great deal about 18th-century culture as well as more accurate information about the life of pirates during that time.

April 2017 review by Nel Ward.

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