Pirate Queen: The Legend of Grace O’Malley

Candlewick. Apr. 2019. 128p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781536200195.
Gr 5-9–Before she was the notorious Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley was a teenager eager to sail the seas. When in 1546 she sneaks on board her father’s ship as he sails to Spain, Grace is drawn into the war between the English and the Irish. Grace marries and settles down with children, but when her husband is murdered, she once again returns to the seas in defense of Ireland, beginning a decades-long crusade against her eventual nemesis, Elizabeth I. This is a character-driven epic, and readers will press on to continue Grace’s exploits, rather than follow along for a history lesson. Lee wisely focuses on Grace and her rotating cast of supporting allies; while those unfamiliar with the time period will occasionally be confused, they can follow the emotional arc of its heroine. Hart’s illustrations imbue the many historical skirmishes with a gravitas befitting a Marvel or DC battle. The long life of Grace O’Malley means that Lee has quite a bit of plot to work through; younger readers might be perplexed, particularly as Grace ages and the second half of her story becomes more complex.
VERDICT This swashbuckling tale of a real-life pirate is recommended for libraries in need of historical fiction

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