Midnight pirates by Ally Kennen

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Midnight pirates by Ally Kennen. Published by Scholastic, 2013. Paperback, 228 pages.

ISBN: 9781407129884

Publisher’s synopsis:

Aaaaaaargh me hearties! Running a hotel should be easy, right? Not if your guests are pirates! As three children find out when their parents go away to America, running a hotel is much harder than it seems. They pretend there are adults in charge, but the chaos just keeps on mounting. And things become even stranger when a very odd guest checks in. A ship is wrecked close to the beach, and crates of washed-up cargo are there for the taking. Was it an accident? Or does the sinister guest have something to do with it?

From the back cover:

Welcome to the wild hotel…The manager is ten years old, the guests are loopy and a ghost roams the roof. With no parents around, three kids and a dog are running the show. But their chaotic adventure turns sinister with the arrival of some dangerous visitors…

What did I think about the Midnight pirates?

Reading this reminded me so much of many hours as a child spent reading Enid Blyton mysteries. Plus there was the rather unwelcome memory of the BBC series ‘Poldark’ set in the same part of Britain. Unwelcome only because when I looked it up I realised it was a 1975 production making me feel very old! The description of the Southern coast of Cornwall, where  Midnight Piratres is set is wonderful. I haven’t visited that area of England but I feel I would like to now. This really is the sort of book that you almost want to read with rain beating against the windows, in front of a roaring fire by candle light. I had such a strong vision of how the hotel looked in my mind, that a movie or TV adaptation of this would probably never live up to it. Anyway, I digress….

An Enid Blyton read alike this is not, despite the memories. This is an adventure story with authenticity – certainly not ‘lashings of ginger beer’. This is the first book I have read by Ally Kennen and I was impressed with how vividly she portrayed both the characters and the setting. The characters, especially 13 year old Miranda, are very real and believable. Her brothers (Cal 16 and Jackie 10) are both irritating and annoying in turn. The children have led a charmed and idyllic life while their  parents struggled to run the dilapidated and failing hotel. When the parents announce their decision to sell up and travel, the children are told they will be moving away forever and going to boarding school. All of them have strong ties and reasons for wanting to stay – Cal surfs and has a local girlfriend, Miranda loves the local wildlife, especially the seals, and Jackie is very attached to the family dog Fester. Jackie decides to run away back home to the hotel and circumstances mean that Cal and Miranda have to go with him. They struggle with the poorly provisioned conditions until Jackie has the bright idea of pretending the hotel is open and taking guests. When things turn sinister, the reader gets a very real sense of how the children in this story are out of their depth and genuinely frightened. The portrayal of modern day pirates that board ships to steal both the boat and cargo, is all too believable.

This is a great story and I am so pleased to have it to offer to my students. Last year many of my now Year 6 students read the first in the Laura Marlin mysteries ‘Dead Man’s Cove‘ by Lauren St John as a class read. It’s lovely to have something in the same genre that is so easy to recommend to them.

Ally Kennen reading an excerpt from Midnight pirates:

Source: Renlearn UK  via Vimeo.

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