a wonderfully concise look at younger sibling-hood

by Pamela Allen – Penguin Books Australia (Puffin Books), 1991
ages newborn to 8 years / emotional resilience, funny, imagination

i wish i had a pirate suit.png

That's William at playgroup, all dressed up as a pirate and asking: “Who will be my crew?”

And, when William's dad was five or six-years-old, he used to leap on to the lounge chair asking exactly the same question: "Who will be my crew?". They’d both been reading I Wish I had a Pirate Suit over and over again. It’s pretty great when a father can share much-loved books with his three-year-old son. 

There’s a reason why this book has lasted two generations in our family: it’s funny and it understands the vicissitudes of younger sibling-hood (and the benefits of being an oldest child).

I Wish I Had a Pirate Suit is the story of a long suffering little chap whose older brother Peter has a pirate suit:

Peter has a pirate suit. He is the pirate captain and I’m his only crew.

After captain-ing it over his brother in all sorts of funny ways (“He’s eating all the jelly babies and there’s nothing I can do”),  Peter grows too big for the pirate suit. For a moment it seems like the little brother will finally get his chance, but … he:

hasn’t got a crew because … Now Peter is a lion tamer and the lion is… GUESS WHO?”

It’s a funny and entirely believable ending. A few more reasons I like reading this book with kids:

Being able to adapt to whatever life throws you takes some learning—if we can do it with wry good humour like this young narrator we’ll be so much the happier. He’s been looking forward to his turn at the pirate suit, but throws himself with gusto into being a lion instead. It’s all about making the best of whatever comes.

Deciding when to stand your ground and when to go with the flow is an ongoing question. Your child might notice some inequity in the brother’s relationship and be worried, or even outraged. I's always good to notice an inequity—even if you decide to let it pass this time.

There’s a good conversation to be had about the ethics of the pirate life. Pirates are a constant in childhood imaginary games and I’m all for that—but it’s interesting to talk to kids about what pirates do and when / if that’s ok. (Is it really ok to make someone walk the plank??)

Catching humour can be tricky—it often needs a solid grasp on reality to be able to see the funny side of a situation. When William’s dad was little, he worried about how bad pirates were and I needed to talk through the humour of the story with him before he could really get in to it. Once he understood, he loved being ‘in the know’.

Each page rhymes, so the words are easy to learn by heart. That's fun for early readers but also cool for cementing the story (and its lessons) in little brains.

A small reading hint:

There’s a great bounciness to this book when it’s read aloud, so emphasising Peter’s name (conspiratorially) at the beginning of each page helps to keep the rhythm going.

Whether you read it as a child or not, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading I Wish I Had a Pirate Suit with the kids in your life. You might find you're able to recite it by memory as you drive too—I speak from experience!

Amazon  -  Book Depository

Book Depository has free postage anywhere in the world and great pricing, but Amazon might be cheaper for North American readers.

Names in this book – Peter