The Pirates Who Usually Don’t Do Anything, by Cindy Kennedy & Eric Metaxas
As someone who is familiar with Metaxas’ more serious work relating to history and religion , I thought it would be worthwhile to look at some of Metaxas’ work for young people. Among the more interesting parts of his career was a time spent writing for VeggieTales. Now, I am a bit too old to be entirely familiar with the series, as I was a young adult by the time it hit the cultural consciousness, but having seen at least a couple of the movies as well as a selection of silly songs that included the painfully humorous “Barbara Manatee,” I am aware that I have the sort of sense of humor that can be at least mildly amused by the series, and this book is certainly in that vein. Obviously, this book is aimed at a young audience, but it is the sort of book that adults will at least be able to smile or mildly chuckle at while reading to the kiddos, and that seems like a mission accomplished for this mildly enjoyable book with a tie in to the VeggieTales Jonah movie.
Reviewing a book like this seems almost redundant. The short book, which has very little text and a lot of gorgeous animated pictures, probably taken from the film’s still shots, tells the plot of the VeggieTales Jonah movie from the point of view of the titular pirates who don’t do anything. Why Jonah would take a ride on a pirate ship to Tarshish rather than going on an ordinary Phoenecian trading vessel is unclear, but it is unlikely children would be interested in the logistics of iron age Mediterranean travel. At any rate, these pirates are bribed into traveling when they would rather just sit on the shore and eat cheese curls and despite initially believing that their problems are caused by a worm who happens to be a mildly stereotypical Middle Eastern merchant, they find that Jonah is the cause of the storm and see him swallowed up by a giant fish after he walks the plank. The book summarizes the plot of the story and even appears to have the pirates thinking that they may do more in the future after having seen God’s providence in action through their experience in the storm.
To be sure, this book is not a particularly deep one and its humor is without a question silly. Yet the book is co-written by Eric Metaxas, and it demonstrates that even at his silliest, he is able to deal with important and worthwhile subjects in a thoughtful manner. If he doesn’t capture the theological depth and complexity of Jonah, he does capture Jonah’s desperation to get away from where God had commanded him to go, and at the same time reframes the familiar story by telling through the point of view of the mariners, who are easily some of the most sympathetic figures in the story. Even though this book frames these mariners as pirates, probably because children seem to enjoy pirates and think highly of them, they remain sympathetic figures because it is obvious that they want to do their best to save Jonah from the judgment he faces for disobedience and because it is clear that these are pirates who are not raping and pillaging, but instead enjoying cheese curls and taking on the occasional freelance traveling gig. And that framing does much to make this book a largely sympathetic and mildly amusing one to read for both children and adults.
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