Cover image for Piracy & plunder : a murderous business
Piracy & plunder : a murderous business
Meltzer, Milton, 1915-2009.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton Children's Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
ix, 86 pages : color illustrations, color maps ; 26 cm
Surveys the history of pirates, why and how they became thieves and killers, the lives they led on sea and on land, the harm they did, and the fates they suffered.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 8.2 4.0 54171.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
G535 .M44 2001 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
G535 .M44 2001 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Author Notes

Historian Milton Meltzer was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1915. He attended Columbia University, but had to leave during his senior year because of the Great Depression. He got a job writing for the WPA Federal Theater Project. During World War II, he served as an air traffic controller in the Army Air Corps. After the war, he worked as a writer for CBS radio and in public relations for Pfizer.

In 1956, he published his first book A Pictorial History of the Negro American, which was co-written by Langston Hughes. They also collaborated on Langston Hughes: A Biography, which was published in 1968 and received the Carter G. Woodson award. During his lifetime, he wrote more than 110 books for young people including Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? about the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression; Never to Forget about the Holocaust; and There Comes a Time about the Civil Rights movement. He also addressed such topics as crime, ancient Egypt, the immigrant experience, labor movements, photography, piracy, poverty, racism, and slavery. He wrote numerous biographies including ones on Mary McLeod Bethune, Lydia Maria Child, Dorothea Lange, Margaret Sanger, and Henry David Thoreau. He received the 2000 Regina Medal and the 2001 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his body of work and his lasting contribution to children's literature. He died of esophageal cancer on September 19, 2009 at the age of 94.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-9. You won't find buffoonish, cartoonlike Captain Hooks in this title. Meltzer's pirates are violent thieves and murderers, and this evenhanded history doesn't shy away from the brutality (gang rape is mentioned, for example). Portraits of some of the most notorious characters (including several female pirates) appear between vivid descriptions of life on board and piracy tactics. There's also an overview of the industry's cozy, well-defined ties to world governments, aristocracies, and the wealthy elite. Meltzer's language is clear, engaging, and never sensationalized, offering plenty of useful context: "Note, however, that drunkenness for centuries was just as common in civilian life as on pirate ships." Waldman's muted, thickly brushed illustrations complete a somewhat lackluster format, but the inherently interesting subject and Meltzer's fair and captivating storytelling will draw both researchers and browsers. --Gillian Engberg

Publisher's Weekly Review

"This book aims to tell the true story of pirates and piracy," writes Meltzer (Ten Queens: Portraits of Women of Power) in his foreword, and tell it he does, ripping the lid off the Errol Flynn-inspired, romantic version to expose the actual cruel and bloody history. From as far back as references in Homer's Odyssey to the Viking raiders and such larger-than-life figures as Blackbeard, Sir Henry Morgan and Captain Kidd, Meltzer offers a broad historical overview of crime on the high seas and explores the roots of what drove men (and women) to piracy including unemployment, mutiny and simple greed. In a series of brief, easily digestible sections, the author paints a vivid picture of unsavory pirate life around the globe (from Chinese pirates to those who stalked the seas outside of Rome during the time of Spartacus in 73 B.C.). He reveals their code of conduct, connection to the slave trade and their thinly veiled alias as "licensed pirates" or privateers (with such renowned historical figures as Sir Francis Drake), and takes readers up through the modern-day, subtler form of piracy the violation of international copyright laws. Meltzer aims this strong material at older readers and it is not for the weak of stomach (there are vivid descriptions of some of the more gruesome forms of pirate torture, as well as a mention of gang rape). The book is very valuable in debunking the romantic myths that have grown up around this criminal society. Waldman's darkly evocative artwork, a somber swirl of line and color, effectively echoes the edgy tone of the text. Ages 10-up. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Meltzer once again lives up to his reputation as a fine author of nonfiction. While there are many other books available on the subject, this one offers a visually stimulating and educational alternative. Readers will obtain a realistic and unromanticized view of pirates, understanding the motives behind their cruel acts of violence and greed. The author goes back to the ancient Greeks and describes accounts of piracy in Homer's The Odyssey, in chronicles of Viking raiders, through to the present day. He includes Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, and other notorious figures. Waldman's evocative artwork reinforces the dark tone of the content. Gray text boxes appear throughout, telling about familiar people like Thomas Jefferson and Julius Caesar who attempted to deal with the problem of piracy. This title has enormous appeal for students writing reports and will attract history buffs and general readers as well.-Carrie Lynn Cooper, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
A Plague of Piratesp. 3
The Createst Haulp. 3
Homer's Pirate: Odysseusp. 5
A Thousand Shipsp. 8
A Fleet of Ruthless Pagansp. 12
Privateers--or Pirates?p. 16
Drake: Official Piratep. 17
A Cozy Connectionp. 22
Blackbeardp. 23
Speed, Surprise, Terrorp. 26
Who Pirates Werep. 29
Life Aboard Shipp. 34
A Democracy of Thievesp. 37
A Code of Conductp. 39
Tactic of Terrorp. 41
Marooningp. 43
The Honorable Sir Henry Morganp. 45
Captain Subatol Dealp. 49
A Private Republicp. 50
Pirate Queenp. 53
They Dressed Like Menp. 55
On the Barbary Coastp. 61
People: The Richest Prizep. 65
In the World Todayp. 71
Buried Treasurep. 75
Figures of Romancep. 79
Selected Bibliographyp. 82
About the Author and the Illustratorp. 83
Indexp. 84