I read Jim Morgan and The King of Thieves (a NetGalley ARC) and reviewed it here in April. When Sarah Miniaci offered me the next installment, Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull, my e-reader was in the shop, so she sent me a copy in the mail. Thanks, Sarah!
I admit that I'm a sucker for pirate adventures, so even had I not enjoyed the first in the series (which I certainly did), this one would have appealed to me.
Many of you have probably given frequent thought to the quality of books for young readers. I've always considered a good book for kids to be one that can just as easily enthrall adults. There are many good books for young people out there, and I enjoy reading them.
On the other hand, there are many books for this age group that are condescending or simplistic or poorly written or all of the above. Good books for young people should be just as meaty and just as thoughtful as possible, I think, in order to secure their futures as readers.
Raney obviously realizes this, and I can imagine that he has great fun writing the adventures of young Jim, the brothers Ratt, and Lacy. While I'm not fond of books that are patently pedantic or didactic, I do want a book for young people to touch on important values, to have a keen sense of the human flaws we all share, and to include examples of character growth.
Jim, our protagonist, has certainly come a long way from the spoiled young fellow that began the first novel. In the Pirates of the Black Skull, we see Jim continue to struggle with dilemmas and difficulties, some of which are just part of growing up in general, but--because of all the adventure and magic--the importance of friends, of trust and trustworthiness, of responsibility, integrity, and accountability...can be the difference between life and death.
The trick is, perhaps, to present all of this without appearing to be preaching, to make the young readers come to these conclusions for themselves. Kudos to Raney for letting his readers ride the adventure, aware of Jim's bad decisions, but hoping that he will realize his mistakes and correct them. As adults, we are aware of what he is doing, but young readers will be able to incorporate these values in a way that blends easily with the adventure.
And there is plenty of adventure: there are villains, monsters, liars, and betrayals; and there are steadfast friends and there is humor and suspense.
One niggling item: I did get a little confused about the identities of the schemer, the thief, the warrior, and the sailor in Janus Blacktail's story. I'll be alert to the appearance of Janus Blacktail in the next episode of Jim Morgan's adventures because Jim owes the mysterious cat a secret.
This was an ARC sent by Sarah Miniaci at Smith Publicity, but the ebook is available on Net Galley, and Amazon has the Kindle version for $2.99.
If you have a penchant for adventure and/or are looking for good books for young readers, I can wholeheartedly recommend both Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves and Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull.
Juvenile/Adventure. Dreamfarer Press. 2013. 320 pages.