Reviews for Jean Laffite : The Pirate Who Saved America

Booklist Reviews 2012 March #2
Some facts about pirates are expected--they are smugglers and thieves, they live and die in duels, and their main aspirations are Spanish doubloons and treasured jewels. Jean Laffite, a pirate from Saint-Domingue, certainly fits many of these stereotypes, but he also embodies several other surprising historical personas. Laffite was a Jew, and his ancestors were exiled from Spain to the New World. Through stories of his beloved grandmother, Jean learned of the suffering of his people in their homeland and became an avowed enemy of any ship flying Spain's colors. With his brother Pierre, he sailed the high seas in the early nineteenth century, robbing and plundering. Laffite found himself in New Orleans in 1814 and managed to warn the governor of the impending British invasion. Although Rubin may overstate Laffite's role in saving America, she does not soft-pedal some of the seamier aspects of his piracy, such as his stint in slave smuggling. Laffite is not your average pirate, and his life story makes for an uncommon pirate tale. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
This picture book biography explains how a Haitian-born Jewish pirate provided General Andrew Jackson with information that helped him win the Battle of New Orleans. The lengthy text makes a complicated life and its historical context accessible for middle graders. Illustrations with loose background strokes and muted colors create a sense of the largely nautical setting.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 March #2
Who knew that some pirates in the old days were Jewish and fought on the side of the good guys? Mateys, meet Jean Laffite, a real pirate of the Caribbean. Rubin's slim book begins in what is now Haiti with Laffite's early days as a descendant of Spanish Jews. She moves on to his "career" as a successful privateer and smuggler and then to his fighting alongside Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. Wise to the ways of the bayous and marshes, knowledge crucial to American defenses, Laffite also supplied Jackson with troops and ammunition. Amazingly, the fierce battle was over quickly and the British trounced. Thereafter, all was forgiven, as Lafitte and his pirates were proclaimed heroes and lauded for bravery and patriotism. Details about the rest of his life remain spotty in the historical record. While several of Laffite's nefarious exploits are recounted here, they're told in a matter-of-fact tone that doesn't make them sound as exciting and dangerous as they had to have been. The paintings rendered in muted colors are fairly stiff, though some add atmosphere and rousing flavor. Lafitte is depicted as heavily buckled in the illustrations; too bad he doesn't come across as more swashbuckling. Still, this will suffice as an introduction for die-hard pirate fans and add an interesting, quirky footnote to American history. (author's note, bibliography, index) (Picture book/biography. 8-11) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 February #3

Move over, Jack Sparrow. Jean Laffite grew up hearing stories of how his Jewish family was persecuted in Spain and forced to flee to Port-au-Prince in what is now Haiti. Carrying a letter of marque from France, Laffite (c. 1776-c. 1823) and his brothers sailed the high seas, capturing vessels flying the Spanish flag. Debut illustrator Himmelman's copper-toned digital illustrations are warm and cinematic: whether Laffite is staring down his enemy on a ship engulfed in flames or looking fiercely contemplative as leader of the first "pirate convention," he emerges as a handsome and magnetic hero. Readers will be captivated by this exciting story of a little known privateer. Endnotes offer more in-depth biographical information, including Laffite's conflicted attitude toward slavery and the possibility that he faked his own death. Ages 6-9. Agent: George Nicholson, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Apr.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 May

Gr 3-6--Move over, Jack Sparrow, and make way for Jean Laffite. Pirate enthusiasts will appreciate this well-researched picture-book biography of a Jewish pirate of the Caribbean, born in the early 1780s. Many Jews were kicked out of Spain and other parts of Europe at this time. Laffite's family fled to the New World and settled in Saint-Domingue, later renamed Haiti. As a boy, he longed to be a pirate like his oldest brother, who often brought him gifts from his travels. Fueled by his hatred for Spain, he eventually became a privateer, that is, a pirate with a license to capture and loot Spanish ships. Laffite seized many a Spanish schooner, became rich, fought duels, and even got marooned with his family on a desert island. In 1808, the pirates held a convention and elected him their leader. Though the Governor of Louisiana appealed to President James Madison to help eradicate pirates, the War of 1812 gave Laffite the opportunity to prove himself a hero to the American government. The impressionistic paintings were done in Photoshop with a Wacom Tablet using a palette primarily of grays and browns. The text is too lengthy for a read aloud, but young swashbucklers will enjoy reading it on their own. This well-informed narrative gives readers a sense of what was happening in the world at the time as well as what it was like to be a real pirate.--Barbara Auerbach, PS 217, Brooklyn, NY

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