The Buccaneers


244 pages
ISBN 0-440-41671-X
DDC jC813'.6




Susannah D. Ketchum, a former teacher-librarian at the Bishop Strachan
School in Toronto, serves on the Southern Ontario Library Services


Sailing to the Caribbean for the first time, 17-year-old John Spencer
recalls his father’s warnings about pirates, sharks, hurricanes, and
cannibals. Then, a thousand miles from shore, the crew of the Dragon
spots a lifeboat. The occupant is a gifted sailor, but some believe he
is a Jonah. Indeed, the Dragon soon encounters almost all the perils
foretold by Mr. Spencer, and John ends up on an island that is swarming
with buccaneers.

Though Lawrence is too generous with nautical terminology, he writes
beautifully and his love of the sea is compelling. The Buccaneer, a
sequel to The Wreckers and The Smugglers, includes many references to
the earlier books, but stands on it own. Full of action, blood, and
gore, it will appeal to many boys. However, there seems an unnecessary
wallowing in cruelty. Bartholomew Grace severs a hand from one of his
men. A plundered ship is peopled by corpses, among them one sailor
nailed to the capstan, and another “fixed to the mast by a great spike
driven through his chest.” Although several characters are memorable,
many, including the arch-villain Grace, are little better than
caricatures. (In an author’s note, Lawrence admits that Grace is a
“buccaneer in a time when there were no buccaneers.”) A further
anachronism, John refuses to carry slaves or sugar, after a trader asks
him, “Who do you think cuts the canes, boy? Who ... loads the ship but
slaves?” John’s stance, however laudable, is suspiciously
high-minded for the era. Recommended with reservations.


Lawrence, Iain., “The Buccaneers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 16, 2024,