By Cap’n Slappy of TalkLikeAPirate.com
When I was but a wee lad my grandmother would take my little brother and me to the neighborhood library to pick a book. On most visits I would pick something from the children’s section – something we didn’t have at home. I had worked my way through Dr. Seuss and collections of “Peanuts” cartoons. By the time I was eight, I was ready for an adventure so I strayed a few shelves away, to the young adult section, and saw an illustrated copy of Moby Dick.
The sailors came alive to me in the pictures. I flipped pages – letting the illustrations unfold the story like a “sneak preview” at the movies. When at last we made our way to check out the books, my grandmother looked at the book locked firmly in my clutches and said, “Moby Dick? No. You’re too young for that. Put that back and go get one of those cartoon books.”
I looked at the cover of the book – and its thickness. I saw, for the first time, just how many words there were. Perhaps grandmother was right – perhaps I was in over my head. But just before I was about to turn around something inside me called out. “You want THIS book! You want to read about the sailors! You want to read about the whale!”
It would be the first time in my life that I would take a stand.
“Grandma.” I replied, firmly but respectfully, “I can read this!”
I must have sounded convincing because that night I was at home in bed with my illustrated copy of Moby Dick.
I liked to read in bed because my dad had always read to my brother and me during Sunday afternoon naps. His favorites would become our favorites – from Winnie the Pooh to dramatic readings of “The Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee” by Mildred Plew Meigs.
Ho for the pirate Don Durk of Dowdee!
He was as wicked as wicked could be,
But oh, he was perfectly gorgeous to see!
The pirate Don Durk of Dowdee.
But here I am – distracted as always by poetry.
Where was I, ah, yes – under the covers with Moby Dick. It started well – “Call me Ishmael!” And having been read to a lot, I understood most of the words, but a few days turned into a few weeks and there were some pages I leapfrogged from word to word – just trying to finish the page, not fully understanding the meaning.
I wouldn’t give up. I COULDN’T give up! I had to FINISH MOBY DICK! I had to show grandma that her faith in me was not misplaced. I had to show my mom and dad that I was becoming a big boy and could read big boy books. But mostly, I had to prove to myself that I could bite off more than I could chew and find a way to chew it anyway.
It wasn’t until years later – when I recalled the struggle and the victory of finishing off “the white whale,” that what I had read was a metaphor for what I was doing – taking on something big and finishing.
I think even the Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee would be proud of how far we’ve come since then.
Cap’n Slappy is a Pirate of the first order. He is one of the founders of the International Talk Like a Pirate Day phenomenon; a holiday celebrated by people on all seven continents, and the only holiday on the calendar that encourages people to babble like buccaneers for the sheer, anarchic fun of it. You can find Cap’n Slappy and his Pirate brethren on Facebook, or follow Cap’n Slappy on Twitter.
Reading Rainbow thanks Cap’n Slappy and the Talk Like a Pirate website for contributing this week’s guest blog post, and for helping us inspire kids to discover a love of reading, and believe that they can “go anywhere, be anything.”