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Author: Geraldine McCaughrean

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Publisher: Harper, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2009

Material: hard cover

Summary: Upon seeing her infant nephew Paul, spinster Aunt Mireille told the family that Paul "Pepper" Roux would be dead by age 14. Saint Constance revealed that to her in a dream. For 14 years Pepper wondered how he would die. Well he certainly wasn't going to sit home with his mother and aunt. He wandered down to the harbor where, to his surprise he found his father, drunk as a skunk. Pepper donned his father's captain's uniform and by fate's own hand, found himself to be the NEW captain of L'Ombrage. With the help of the eccentric Achille Duchesse, the Captain's steward, Pepper is setting course on a new life. But there are cards that fate has not yet revealed. What of Aunt Mireille and her prophecy? or his father, left in a drunken stupor on the shore? This is a pirate adventure with lots of heart.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 13; read yourself: 11 and Up

Interest Level: 10 and Up

Reading Level: 6.4

Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.

Adult Reader Reaction: This was not at all what I expected. It was a fun, funny read. Pepper is an imaginative, superstitious youth with a huge heart. Duchesse is the pirate-y personification of Klinger (from M*A*S*H*).

Pros: Emotions roll like the sea in this action-packed adventure with both lovable, deplorable, and misunderstood characters.

Cons: None, really. Alcohol and getting drunk are parts of this story. It is not glorified (quite the opposite) but those who are sensitive to drinking in books for preteens / teens should be aware.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is definitely a worthwhile read. It has a 'classic' yet timeless feel to it that makes it fun for adults, as well.


Educational Themes: There is a lot to explore vis-a-vis human relationships (ego, integrity, love, self preservation, family, et al). The idea of dreams and superstitions, as well as how our "inner voice" guides us are worth noting. There is a TON of word play in the book, and readers who enjoy the subtleties that come with wordplay can have fun finding (and explaining) the double meanings.

Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.

Literary Categories: Fiction - adventure, life lessons, humor, middle grade, family, pirates

Date(s) Reviewed: December 2015

Other Reviews: See Critics Reviews at; and reviews and reader feedback at


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