The Gingerbread Pirates

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
The Gingerbread Pirates Book Poster Image
Engaging twist on idea of toys becoming real.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value
Positive Messages

The pirates work together to save their crew. While prepared for a fight, they listen to what Santa has to say and come to a new understanding.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Santa, of course, models empathy, generosity, and kindness -- for which the cookies are very grateful. The pirate captain, though wary, trusts Santa's word.

Violence & Scariness

The pirate cookies -- one armed with a cutlass -- explore a darkened house to try to escape Santa, who they think is a cannibal.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know there is nothing to be concerned about in this book. The pirate captain carries a cutlass, but it’s never used (it’s nibbled by a mouse). The gingerbread pirates are scared that Santa Claus is going to eat them, but all ends well.

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What's the story?

On Christmas Eve, Jim decorates gingerbread cookies to look like pirates and saves his favorite -- Captain Cookie -- to stay by his bedside. The rest of the pirate cookies are set aside for Santa Claus to eat. After Jim goes to sleep, Captain Cookie sets off to round up his crew and rescue them from being devoured by their mysterious enemy. But when the cookies finally encounter Santa Claus, fear is replaced by wonder and joy as the gingerbread crew receives a most magical gift.

Is it any good?

The strength of this sweet fantasy is the watercolor and gouache illustrations by Matt Tavares. He presents the story mostly from the perspective of a gingerbread cookie, exploring a nighttime setting cloaked in mystery and drama. The crumbling cookies’ frosted expressions melt to fear and dismay as they prepare to face Santa Claus in the shadows, then turn to wary trepidation as they follow Santa to learn about Christmas.
Unfortunately, the serviceable text doesn’t live up to the imaginative premise or the handsome illustrations. It feels rushed and flat, and relies heavily on the artwork to explain key plot points. But kids won’t mind, and they’ll enjoy following Captain Cookie as he step-taps about with his toothpick peg leg. The oversized pages and large print make this a good choice for reading aloud to a group.

Artwork makes great use of perspective and captures the magic of home on Christmas Eve.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about perspective. Most of the story is told from the view of the tiny gingerbread captain, who sees stairs as cliffs and a cookie jar as a prison. Kids can pretend to be a small cookie and then a giant. How would the world look different? Take a ride on a parent's shoulders and see how the view changes.

  • Captain Cookie knows nothing about Christmas or Christmas Eve. Ask kids to imagine being the mouse he meets. How would they explain Christmas?

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