Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book-A-Day 2010 # 358 (1/27) -- Polly and the Pirates, Vol. 1 by Ted Naifeh

Even though there are still real pirates in the world -- and news of their attacks turn up, every so often, focusing our attention briefly on the Horn of Africa or odd corners of Southeast Asia -- in stories, pirates have been almost entirely stripped of their terror and wonder, turned entirely into a catalog of funny looks (eyepatch, wooden leg, parrot, striped bandanna on the head, sashes and vests and puffy shirts and vaguely naval jackets) and an excuse for old-fashioned seafaring adventure. Pirates are old-fashioned, so they're safe -- from the movies (where Tim Powers's deeply unsafe novel On Stranger Tides is going to lend its name, and probably not much else, to the latest big action franchise) to graphic novels for pre-adult readers.

And that brings us to Polly and the Pirates, a collection of the six issues of Ted Naifeh's adventure story for readers of most ages. (The back cover has one of those age-band logos indicating that it's for people seven years and older, which doesn't strike me as wrong...or unreasonable.) Most of Naifeh's work has been for younger readers -- or, at least, not deliberately aimed away from them -- from Gloomcookie to Courtney Crumrin to his most recent gig illustrating the Good Neighbors graphic novels over Holly Black's writing. (See my reviews of the three Good Neighbors books.)

But Polly is more obviously for pre-adults; the heroine is living in a boarding school in a mildly alternate late-19th century San Francisco (some names are different; North America seems to be made up of more countries than we're used to; and, of course, there are pirates sailing in nearby waters, fought by very British-navy-looking types in gigantic ships), with the usual two friends, one prim and serious, the other wild and enthusiastic. And the dangers are never life-threatening -- Polly is more worried that her headmistress will find out the scandalous things she's getting up to, or that she'll lose honor.

But, as you might guess, young Polly -- her age is never precisely nailed down, but she seems to be around junior-high size -- gets caught up with a gang of pirates, and it has to do with her own family's past. So she races around after a lost treasure map (originally belonging to the fabled Pirate Queen, Meg Malloy), discovers that her stage-trained swordcraft works pretty well in real life, and figures out which pirates to trust and which to battle.

It's always great to see a girl get to be the swashbuckling one -- it's still not as common, or as unremarkable, as it should be, so each time it happens is a small joy -- and Naifeh has a deft hand at making Polly feminine but not girly and adventurous without being stereotypically tomboyish. She's her own person -- though she does have one of those occasional unsettlingly large and bulbous Naifeh heads. If I had a daughter, I'd want her to be just like Polly.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

1 comment:

Cacy said...

I have this graphic novel myself and I am so hoping for a volume 2!

Post a Comment