David loves birds. After the success of Swordbird and the sequels as read-alouds, I thought The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate would be a great choice for his special bedtime book. It was a good choice; both he and his brother really liked the story. For the past month or so they have taken on the roles of various birds into the ever changing backyard war games they play together and with friends.
The story is fairly reminiscent of other adventure tales. Blue Jay is the captain of the Grosbeak, the most feared pirate ship of the skies. (Yes, the ships fly.) He’s kind of like the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride. He isn’t really all that fierce but he knows he has to keep up his reputation in order to have other ships fear him and surrender to him more easily. He also likes collecting unusual objects, especially unusual eggs, and the book begins with the acquisition of a large unusual egg. The egg eventually hatches to reveal a gosling. There is some controversy over whether or not to keep the gosling. It’s huge and some of the crew are concerned that it’s geese family will come looking for it. However, Blue Jay and the ship’s navigator, Junco, insist that the gosling should stay. Junco has a maternal bond with Gabriel the gosling and Blue Jay believes that it will bring them adventure of some kind. Adventure really begins when the Grosbeak crashes and the crew is attacked by a local gang of crows. The pirate crew enlists the help of a local village of sparrows and Hilary, a star-nosed mole, to battle the crows and win back their ship.
The boys did really enjoy the book. They liked all the battles and the bird heroes. I’m glad we read it but I thought it was just ok. Scott Nash does a good job of creating his fantasy world and many of the characters are appealing and interesting. However, in many ways the book is kind of a muddle of different storylines. There is a whole political backstory about the sparrows and the ruling class of thrushes, some semi-religious overtones about geese and ducks (the goose is somehow seen as a god like figure) and a whole lot of characters. I had a hard time keeping some of the characters and minor plot points straight. (For example, the birds aren’t allowed to migrate but Gabriel wants to migrate at the end and the other birds are going with him. I think this loophole might have been explained earlier but I couldn’t remember and didn’t really care enough to spend the time looking it up. I think if the author could have figured out what the core of his story is (coming of age story? adventure story? political allegory?) it would have made for a tighter, better book.
Stop by Read-Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word!