This is the second review post I have done to highlight some of Carole P. Roman’s fantastic children’s books! I was sent these books for review by the author, but all opinions expressed are my own.
Captain No-Beard and his crew mates are an imaginative collection of stories that really remind me of fables, with their easily identifiable ‘lesson of the day’. It’s a unique find in modern children’s literature because there are really very few books that I’ve come across that still actively try to relay an obvious ‘lesson’ in the style of Aesop’s fables.
#1. Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life
This is the original introduction to Captain No Beard, and where the other stories have very definable lessons/morals, this is more of an adventure tale that sets the stage for the rest. We’re introduced to Captain No Beard and the Crew, and they have their first adventure–surviving a huge storm, and meeting a mermaid. At the end of the book, we realize that all of the adventures actually happen right in Alexander’s bedroom. It’s a very imaginative story, and a delightful introduction to the series.
#2. Fribbit the Frog and the Tadpoles
Fribbit the Frog is out of sorts, and after some nudging, he finally reveals that he is worried. He recently became the big brother to a hundred or so tadpoles, and they are all swimming around, getting under foot, and taking all of his parents time. Captain No-Beard and his first mate, Hallie, take it upon themselves to share with him how much fun having siblings can be. Hallie only wishes she had a brother or sister until the very end of the book when they get back to Alexander’s bedroom and Hallie finds out that she has her own little tadpole. The moral of the story is that there’s no need to be jealous of little siblings.
I certainly agree with the lesson here, but I dislike how much people fixate on jealousy issues with younger children. If you look up any children’s books to do with having a younger sibling, jealousy ALWAYS comes up. I was the oldest of 9 siblings growing up, and as each of my brothers and sisters was born, we never even THOUGHT about jealousy. We were all happy and excited to have another brother or sister–jealousy was just not a thing. In light of that, I tend to think that if the adults around children exhibit the fact that there’s no need for jealousy, it won’t even occur to kids to feel jealous or worried of the change. That’s my two cents. Carry on…
#3. Strangers on the High Seas
Captain No Beard is frustrated with his little sister, Cabin Girl Cayla. She just keeps making messes and getting in his way! But when the intrepid pirates find themselves being followed by some scurvy strangers, Cayla proves to be a valuable secret weapon.
This one has dual morals, I’d say. First of all, the most obvious one is ‘Do not talk to strangers’. The second, slightly more subtle, reminds one of the power siblings can have together.
#4. Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis
Captain No Beard is leading an exploration in the far north, but when his crew discovers that his plan is to take some treasure without asking qualms of conscience ensue. When the crew stands up to him and tells him that they don’t want to be part of stealing something, it comes out that Captain No Beard is hoping to take home the Aurora Borealis. Since it is physically impossible to do that, the crewmates come up with a solution.
The moral of this story is that it is wrong to take things that don’t belong to you when you haven’t asked permission.
I don’t really think the story applies to most natural things that little kids are inclined to pick up, and so I can see it being a little confusing to children. I mean, who exactly is a kid going to ask if they can pick up a pinecone? Not EVERYTHING that exists is owned by somebody else, and it’s certainly not wrong to take some things, but it’s a helpful introduction to other lessons about sharing, ownership, and not stealing.
#5. The Crew Goes Coconuts
When Cabin Girl Cayla finds a new friend to bring aboard the ship there are mixed emotions among the crewmates. A few of them like Matie the Goat, and the others complain that she’s weird and smells funny. When Captain No Beard is forced to step in, he encourages them all to think of their own faults, and see that they’re not really so different. This is a clear, empathetic lesson about bullying, and I think it’s a great learning lesson for kids and adults alike. Kids, obviously, should be learning not to bully, but I think this book really gave me some insight into different ways to diffuse bullying type situations among little kids. It really is sad how unkind children can be. It starts so young–I’ve even seen the beginnings of it in my daughter’s age group (3 years old). It breaks your heart, as a parent, but the best way to combat it is through education and encouraging empathy.
There are several other books in the Captain No Beard series, covering topics like patience, sharing, and negotiation with siblings. I think the most adorable thing about this series (from a grown-up perspective) is how each new sibling/cousin enters the book. I don’t know if it’s ever said specifically, but I can just imagine that these books were loosely based on the author’s own children and nieces/nephews. The unity of the crew, even with a new addition every book or so, really binds the whole series together.
The main thing I didn’t like about the books was how they are sometimes quite repetitive (not within the story, just as a series in general) but I know kids tend to feel differently about repetition in books… I mean, it’s pretty obvious. They have to like repetition to be able to tolerate reading/watching anything 1247 times. I loved the uniformity of presentation in Roman’s geography series (read about it here), but I think I was expecting a little more variety for an adventure series.
Still, that’s not really such a big issue, more a peeve of mine that I would remedy by reading one or two books at a time instead of the whole series in one sitting.
Sophia, on the other hand, loves these books. I caught her yesterday playing that she was a ‘pirate princess’, and I just thought that was immensely fun.
Overall, we really liked this series. Check it out! 4 out of 5 stars.