The Pirate Cruncher



Too full of clever laughs to scare most young mateys.

What parents need to know

Educational value
Not applicable
Positive messages

Greed leads these pirates to their doom, despite ample warning of what would happen if they continued on. The message rings through loud and clear.

Positive role models

There are no good role models here, but that’s the obvious point -- the pirates suffer greatly for their poor choices. Kids reading the book get to play the part of wise observers who know far better than these bumbling pirates.

Violence & scariness

It’s a tale of a pirate-eating beast from the deep, so a bit of scary stuff is to be expected. But the monstrous nature of the story is lightened with such sly humor, kids are more likely to feel empowered than frightened. The pirates do carry swords and guns.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, being a tale of pirates and monsters, this book has a generous share of swords, guns, and long, sharp teeth. But kids will know these foolish pirates are headed for trouble, and giggle as the crew’s worst fears come true. The pirates hear about the treasure in a tavern, but judging by the straws in the mugs they’re most likely drinking root beer rather than spirits.

Kids say

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What's the story?

There be treasure abroad -- but is it worth the cost? A mysterious fiddler shares a treasure map with Captain Purplebeard and his greedy crew. After they set sail, he warns them of a pirate-eating monster, but the captain is undeterred. They press on, even as they grow increasingly unnerved by the fiddler’s terrifying song. The pirates, of course, run into the dreaded pirate cruncher -- the real surprise is how, exactly, they got there.

Is it any good?


Both menace and humor are surprisingly well combined in this book's lively illustrations. “I think treasure brings nothing but trouble!” squawks a macaw early in this cautionary tale. He’s right, of course, but like most adventures the real fun is in the journey. The eccentric crew’s thoughts are shown in cartoon bubbles, shifting from treasure to monsters, but they set aside their doubts. The abundant visual jokes -- a sleeping pirate cuddling a teddy bear with an eye patch, a tentacle salting an oblivious pirate’s breakfast egg -- infuse the deliciously dark story with sly humor. 

This may not be good bedtime reading for sensitive kids -- aside from the monster issue, the dark tones of the early pages and the decorated font can make it a bit difficult to read in subdued lighting. Observant readers may pick up on the clever twist at the end early on, and those who miss the hints the first time will pore over the book to find all the clues. The fiddler's rhyming chantey has an easy, fun rhythm without going overboard on pirate talk.

The pirate cruncher’s long tentacles quietly curl through each page, pulling its prey ever closer. The gotcha ending is wonderfully played.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the pirates’ greed and the expression “blinded by greed.” How does greed affect this crew of pirates?

  • The pirates don’t gather much information before deciding to go off on this adventure. What questions would you have asked before deciding whether to go?

Book details

Author:Jonny Duddle
Illustrator:Jonny Duddle
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Templar Books
Publication date:April 13, 2010
Number of pages:38
Publisher's recommended age(s):3 - 8
Read aloud:3
Read alone:7

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 2 and 6 year old Written bystown December 22, 2012

A great book for kids AND parents

We started reading this book to my son when he was four and he still likes it at age six, but probably not as much as I do! The pirates do get eaten in the end, so it's pretty dark, but so playfully written and beautifully illustrated, most kids will be fine.
Parent of a 5 and 5 year old Written byDCTwinMom December 10, 2013

One of my favorite read-aloud books

"The Pirate Cruncher" and "The Gruffalo" are the best read-aloud books ever. I have twin 5 yo boys, and they adore listening to me read this book. We've owned it for about a year. For "Pirate Cruncher", you get to alternate between singing a pirate chanty and growling the pirate captain's commands. The illustrations are richly detailed and teach foreshadowing. My kids love looking at the illustrations and pointing out details of the pirates' costumes and evidence of the Pirate Cruncher.
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Educational value


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