Age Range: Middle grades (but may be too much for some sensitive kids — read on)
My eight-year-old and I just finished reading The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate by Scott Nash, and we had swashbuckling good time. It’s an exciting pirate story, but in this world, the pirates are all birds, and their ship, the Grosbeak, sails in the air. Blue Jay the Pirate has a reputation as a fearful pirate that you better not mess with, but his crew knows him better than that, and because of his good leadership skills, they remain loyal to him.
Blue Jay loves to collect treasure, and some of his most prized possessions are eggs. Unfortunately, sometimes they hatch, but they never had too much problem with that until now, when they find themselves raising a young gosling that will soon get bigger than their entire ship! In the end, however, the gosling, crew, an unlikely mole, and a whole community of thrushes work together to overthrow Blue Jay’s bully cousin and his followers, the crows.
The characters are likable, it’s well written, and beautiful illustrations by Scott Nash are placed throughout the story and make this book a pleasure to behold as well as read. However, there are some things that parents should consider before buying it for their children.
There is violence in the book. Although you are reading about birds, the actions, emotions and stories of these characters are very human, and I found it to be more realistic in this regard. I was taken aback when a young, lovable character is killed in the second chapter only because I knew the book is recommended for middle grades, and I was not expecting that. There is violence later in the book when the pirates and thrushes fight the crows as well. This book may not be the best pick for sensitive readers.
It also uses a high vocabulary, which I thought was a positive thing because it made my son want to use his dictionary.
Aside from these points to consider, we found the story to be fun and engaging, and it was perfect for my son who likes adventure and birds. (We were often referring to our bird app to look up photos of the real birds the characters were based on.) We also had fun learning and imagining what life is like for a mole, which in real life is quite unassuming and lives underground, but in this story becomes quite the hero.
SHELLI BOND PABIS is home | school | life magazine’s senior editor. She writes about her family’s homeschooling journey at www.mamaofletters.com.