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Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Dread Crew, written by Kate Inglis with illustrations by Sydney Smith. Nimbus Publishing, 2010. $12.95 ages 9 and up

"As the greasy, sour-faced one whistled appreciatively,
the captain himself shouldered his way through the crowd
to darken the doorway and even he, well versed as he was
in the art of thuggery, went wide-eyed at the sight. There
were stacks of metal sheeting, and rows upon rows of
refurbished small appliances. There was a mountain of used tires
and inner tubes, a pallet row of light fixtures to be rewired,
and discarded furniture in need of new rungs and springs.
An entire wall of reclaimed flooring and windows and
construction material stretched into unlit darkness. Shed
was a word wholly inadequate for what contained all this."

Oh, there are such characters in this story for you to get to know!  We meet Eric first. He is sure that he has seen signs of pirate activity in the general vicinity of his home in rural Nova Scotia. But, Eric is young and we would expect that he might imagine a world of adventure where pirates are the norm...until we meet the pirates and then Grampa Joe, who also believes.

Grampa Joe is a friendly and elderly man living nearby, who collects junk for use in a myriad of new and continually evolving projects. It is a wondrous world he and Eric inhabit, where tea with your neighbors is a daily activity, where there is no internet, no big box store and a lot of caring and concerned friends... not perfect, but idyllic.

And there are pirates, unionized ones. You might know some people like them...they scavenge for scraps that might be useful to others. They unload their wares at union headquarters in order to keep from serving time in the brig. The dread crew steals the junk that we don't use. They travel in a huge wheeled ship that leaves chaos in its path as they barrel their way through the woods that surround Eric's home. And they are can tell from the front cover. Sydney Smith brings them to glorious life...all their flies, and warts, and nasty 'bits'. Kids will love them!
There is so much imagination at play here, and friendship, acceptance, teaching and learning. Grampa Joe is the consummate teacher, recognizing that things would be much better for the pirates if they used honey not vinegar in obtaining the junk they need and love. He teaches be example, and soon the pirates are welcomed to the community and even protected when the need arises.

Kate Inglis' way with words will find her new fans to eagerly await her next offering. She has written a descriptive, spirited adventure story that reminds me of some of our favorite reads when the kids were younger...The BFG, The Witches and others by Roald Dahl. Full of action, expressive language, and people to love despite their idiosyncrasies and often rank demeanor, this book would be a great readaloud in a middle years classroom. There is humor and mockery, but also underlying respect and admiration. The dialogue is witty and often sarcastic...perfect for the age group.

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