Jean Laffite

The Pirate Who Saved America

This post is part of Nonfiction Monday 
hosted today by Booktalking
(pub. 4.1.2012) 48 pages 

A True Tale with A Cherry On Top

     and Illustrator:  Jeff Himmelman

haracter: Jean Lafitte - the pirate

O verview from the jacket flap: 

      "Jean Lafitte's life was an action-packed adventure, and he even helped to change the course of American history! As a young boy, raised in a Jewish household, Jean longed to be a pirate. With the help of his pirating brothers and uncle, he became a privateer at a young age. Soon, the only life he knew was one of the high seas - full of glory, riches, disaster and revenge... His most remarkable role came when he helped General Andrew Jackson fight the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. With Jean's help, and that of his fellow privateers, Jackson beat back the British - effectively making Laffite the pirate who saved America!"
T antalizing taste: 

   "Even though pirating was a common business in those days, their Grandma Zora strongly disapproved. She raised Jean and his older brothers and sisters after the death of their mother. Grandma Zora told stories, too. Hers were about the family's suffering in Spain and how they had to practice their Jewish faith in secret. Like many others, they had fled to the New World and had settled in Port-au-Prince in Saint-Domingue (later named Haiti)...
    Grandma Zora, however, wanted the boys to be well educated and use writing to help others. She sent them to good schools.  So Alexander [Jean's older brother] had to secretly teach the boys about pirating." 
and something more: As I've often mentioned, I love learning about the origins of a story or what inspired an author to write that particular book. The idea for the book, Jean Laffite - The Pirate Who Saved America, was kindly given to Susan Goldman Rubin by another children's book author, June Sobel. (Just another reason I feel so lucky to be involved in the kidlit world -- I'm so often impressed by the generosity, kindness and encouragement kidlit writers, illustrators and bloggers give to each other.)  Susan explains in a recent article on Nonfiction Book Blast that she and June Sobel "were both signing books at a book fair once, but to put it more accurately, she was signing hundreds of copies of Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC, and I signed only two copies of my holocaust themed book. June kindly stopped by to say hello and gave me a gift: did I know that there was a Jewish pirate named Jean Laffite? No, I said. June told me that she had not included him in her book but I was free to take the subject and run with it."  And run she did -- straight home to research him, and a book was born.  Thanks June, for sharing your idea!  
         Of course, I had to check out June's pirate book also, and here's the beginning of Shiver Me Letters: "'R' roared the captain. 'R's not enough. We need other letters to make us tough. Let's sail far away to find ABC's. Bring me back D's, E's, F's, and some G's.'"  Arrrr!  Swashbuckling fun!


Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Very cool...I teach about Andrew Jackson and the War of 1812, but had never heard of Laffite - now I can add this tantalizing bit to get my kids interested!

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Yes! Who wouldn't want to learn about a pirate? And the book has great resource material in the back of the book. There's even a Jean Lafitte Park! Thanks for stopping by

shelf-employed said...

Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop in New Orleans is on the registry of National Historic Landmarks, built between 1772 and 1791. Believe it or not, it's still in use as a bar! Very cool.



Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

So cool! I just love this history. Just another reason I would like to visit New Orleans.

Jeff Barger said...

This would be a great addition to the biography books in the classroom. Pirates are quite popular. Thank you for letting us know about this book. Now I need to go find the origins of the word "swashbuckling".

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Jeff,
Yes! Pirates are intriguing, aren't they? I grew up near Disneyland and I never tired of The Pirates of the Caribbean ride -- hmmm... perhaps I should research female pirates for possible biographies.

You raised my curiosity about the origins of the word "swashbuckler", and this is what I found from the Online Entomology guide: From the 1550s -- "blustering, swaggering fighting man" (earlier simply swash, 1540s), from swash "fall of a blow" (see swash) + buckler "shield." The original sense seems to have been "one who makes menacing noises by striking his or an opponent's shield."

Great blustering, swaggering word!