On Wednesday, I wrote about meeting Ms. Kate Inglis in Chicago during BlogHer.
Recently, I received her first novel, The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods, in the mail. I was quite surprised by the book’s appearance. As you may recall, I had described Kate as one of those angelic-looking women surrounded by a constant glow. So why was she writing about a band of dirty, smelly, and belching pirates? Was this smudge-lover the same sweet woman I met in Chicago?
The Dread Crew is a “rollicking” pirate story for smart kids and adventurous adults about a very unusual band of hooligans in the Nova Scotia area of Canada. These rowdy and rude pirates travel in a giant crumbling woodship that rumbles through the forest, destroying everything in sight as the group searches for junk. Their lives are turned upside down when this mean-spirited bunch meet their most formidable nemesis yet — Grampa Joe, another junk collector, albeit a more successfully one, who wins clients over with his sunny disposition. Before you know it, Grampa Joe becomes the teacher, showing the “pirates of the backwoods” a new approach to piracy, a “nicer” one.
The humor and sarcasm of Kate’s writing would have made this book a favorite of mine when I was a boy. The tone reminded me of those oddball adventure books written by Roald Dahl. “The Dread Crew” turns piracy on its head in unexpected ways. Pirate unions? Pirate junk-collectors? Pirates roaming in the forest?!
This novel has a strong sense of place, that of the Maritime Canadian woods, and at first, it seems like a strange place for a “pirate story.” On further research, I discovered that there is a whole tradition of Atlantic Canada pirate adventures, and clearly Kate is playing with — and against — this long tradition, even presenting her readers with a very modern environmental message underneath all of the “heap o’ splinters” and maggots in beards.
Some younger kids might need a bit of guidance with this book because the pirates are nontraditional. Don’t expect the Pirates of Penzance/Pirates of the Carribbean type of pirates. These are Canadian Pirates of the Backwoods! Our friends up North do things differently.
After I finished the book, I gave it to my mother to read, hoping to share my enjoyment. After she read a few pages, she came into my room, asking, “What kind of pirates are these? They don’t go on the water?” Luckily, the beautiful illustrations by Sydney Smith help clarify what the pirate “ship” looks like on land, and how it travels through the forest. Once my mother “got it,” orienting herself to the time and location, she loved the novel as much as I did.
I love stories that go against the clichés, and this novel does just that. These unique pirate characters make this young adult novel a special one. Each character is quirky in his or her own way, and the illustrations are beautiful. I read it in one sitting, admiring the clever dialogue between Grampa Joe and the pirates.
Kate is an amazing writer, particularly in her descriptive powers. You can smell the lousy odor of the pirates in her words, and hear the burps of Captain, Hector the Wrecker Gristle, in the sentences.
SPECIAL TREAT JUST FOR READERS OF CITIZEN OF THE MONTH!
Last night, I was able to get Kate to do an impromptu “interview” with me about her book. One caveat — even though she is now a professional novelist now, I am NOT a professional interviewer. This is less of an interview than a recording of our Skype conversation as some handyman was fixing the roof in her home. The interview is fairly long. I promised her that I would cut it down, but well… I lied. Maybe next week when I have a chance.
(jeez, just listened to the recording. I talk WAYYYY too much for an “interviewer.” As usual, she sounds like an calm inspirational angel and I sound like an overbearing New York cab driver from 1940. Try to skip me and just listen to her. Also, the nonsense in the beginning was because I was confused over Kate’s last name. Even though it is spelled Inglis, it is pronounced “Ingels.”)
Here is the unedited version of the conversation —
If you want to learn more about “The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods” — or how to order it online, you can go to the book’s website. Check it out. It is gorgeous.