13 Fantastic Children’s Picture Books about Pirates

Pirate fever hit our house hard in late 2012. Seemingly overnight, my five year old became obsessed with Jolly Roger coloring pages and drew new “treasure maps” daily. C-Man and I always thought of us as a ninja family in the ninjas v. pirates smackdown, so this was somewhat awkward. However, we dutifully went to the library for books about pirates, and over time I found quite a few favorites! Here they are, and I hope you find something new and fun for your household as well. (Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links.)

My picture book posts were originally published and then occasionally expanded between 2012-2015, with reviews based on reading with my kiddo between preschool age and about eight years old. As of 2023-24, I’m freshening up my lists and adding more recs.

Pirate Girl (2003) by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer

Not going to lie, this confused me at first. I expected Molly, kidnapped by pirates, to stage some kind of escape, or at least sabotage the pirates’ dinner! Instead she’s simply unfazed by her captivity, and completely confident that it’s all going to be just fine… because she knows something the pirates don’t! The kind of book you appreciate so much at the end, you need to then re-read it once you’re in on the joke. Well done!

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs (2005) by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Russell Ayto

PIRATES AND DINOSAURS! It’s like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups of books! This was so popular at our house that one of Boy Detective’s school teachers asked to borrow it. Truth be told, I was laughing as much as the kids. Well of course Captain Stubble is crying because dinosaurs stole his pirate ship! And of course Flinn and his school friends, who find the Captain in the back of their classroom’s supply closet, are the only ones who can help! What doesn’t make sense about that? The art is kid-like to represent Flinn’s imagination, without being messy or incoherent. Go for it, you won’t be sorry!

Don’t Mention Pirates (2006) by Sarah McConnell

Satisfyingly silly. Start with a little girl who knows her true calling, then add a grandfather whose gold tooth is a little loose and a few shovels… and the Silver family will never be the same! I liked this so much I bought a copy instead of relying on the library.

Backbeard, Pirate for Hire (2007) by Matthew McElligott

Backbeard (not Blackbeard) is a pirate. He and his crew wear bright colors, and he has a pig on his shoulder instead of a parrot. Unfortunately, NONE of these things are okay with the Pirate Council. (Did you know there was a Pirate Council?) So it’s off to look for a regular job, which is hard when you’re the hairiest, smelliest, dirtiest pirate who ever lived. Oh hey, the tea shop is hiring, that should work out, right? I’m not a big fan of dirty, hairy, smelly pirate stories, but this one was funny enough to win me over. Backbeard the Birthday Suit comes before it, but we read it second, and that turned out just fine.

Papa is a Pirate (2009) by Katharina Grossmann Hensel

Really, he’s a pirate! Or is he? The wit here is not to be missed, starting with the front cover itself. Boy Detective found a new silly detail or joke in the interior illustrations every dang time we read this one, which was at least 15 times. Gals like me will also appreciate the story of how Papa met Mama.

Night Pirates (2011) by Peter Harris, illustrated by Deborah Allwright

The calm, cool counterpart to the more rumpus-type books in this post. Young Tom wakes up one night to find that a band of girl pirates are stealing the front of his house… what the heck? The dreamy feel of the art and writing makes this a perfect bedtime story, and the “kids get one over on grownups” adventure is satisfying even when you’re the grownup.

Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime (2011) by Myra Wolfe, illustrated by Maria Monescillo

Charlotte Jane, like her parents, is a pirate through and through. And she’s not happy with this whole “bedtime” idea, so she decides she just won’t. After all, it keeps her from doing all the fun stuff! But will the fun stuff be as fun without any sleep? Monescillo’s art is so rich, I loved looking at it.

Pirate Vs. Pirate: The Terrific Tale of a Big, Blustery Maritime Match (2011) by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

Bad Bart and Mean Mo face off to decide who is the best pirate in the world… only to discover that they have an awful lot in common. Their contest and its eventual resolution is pitch-perfect. Mean Mo is officially my favorite female pirate, and I really appreciate how Boiger and Quattlebaum present her as a woman who is not petite and conventionally pretty.

Small Saul (2011) by Ashley Spires

Saul is determined to be a pirate, though he barely passes pirate school. The crew he joins is in for a shock, as Saul immediately sets about redecorating and cooking. Can this atypical pirate find a home on the high seas? Caution: there’s a little bit of yucky stuff, mostly because pirates are kind of unwashed. And like almost all children’s picture books about pirates, there’s just one token person of color in the pirate crew. SAD. But Saul himself is a charmer and this is a good book about being different that doesn’t smack you upside the head with its message. And I totally approve of his tattoo.

But! (2014) by Tim Hamilton

I thought I was going to hate the art. But this is SO well-written, and the people of Halibut Bay “where hats were hard to come by and people had cold heads” won me over. Eddie, the hero of our tale, has to throw a birthday party for a pirate because his Aunt Sue tripped on some yarn and broke her leg. Cake and balloons are covered, but what birthday gift can he get for a pirate with zero notice? Hamilton provides a happy ending with an extra laugh, and my kiddo at age 7 was delighted with this.

And here are the books I’ve read on my own since my kiddo got too old for them; they’re all fantastic! I haven’t had a chance to write reviews or pull the covers yet, but click on through and see if one of them might be perfect for you.

And that’s the list!

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