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Pirate Stew

Neil Gaiman, illus. Chris Riddell
Age 5-9 years

Imagine if mum and dad go out for the evening and choose a pirate cook as a babysitter? In Pirate Stew we find out exactly what might happen. This is a splendid, rollicking rhyme of a picture book guaranteed to delight young readers. The illustrations are just fabulous, packed with comic characters, lots of detail and pirate themed fun. Look out for the many references drawn from classic pirate books such as Treasure Island and Peter Pan.

Author Neil Gaiman introduces his book and reads aloud from it here:



Share the story

Join in
When children are familiar with the story they will enjoy joining in (loudly!) with the chorus and might enjoy taking turns for sections such as the wonderful list of ingredients in the pirate stew.

Talk about the story

  • Think together about how the children feel at different points in the story

  • What would it be like having a pirate as a babysitter or even having pirates as parents? Share your thoughts

  • Share ideas for what you would put into a pirate stew

  • Were there any words or ideas children didn’t understand, talk about these together. For example, there are references to other stories eg Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson (Fifteen men upon a dead man’s chest, Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum) and a tongue twister ‘She sells seashells on the sea shore. The shells she sells are seashells I’m sure.’

    Joe tells us about sharing Pirate Stew with his sons Jacob (aged 5) and Luke (age 9).
    Jacob commented ‘I like all the pirates, and the end is very good, I think all my friends would like it as well‘, while Luke said ‘The book is horrifyingly hilarious’.

    Joe says: 
    'We all enjoyed reading this book together. It has great pictures and is a fun, rhyming story that you can read many times. I’m quite keen on the idea of getting pirates to babysit next time we go out for the evening, but Jacob is not so sure. We won’t spoil the end but Jacob decided he would prefer me not to eat the stew!

    Jacob enjoyed creating his own version of the cover – he loves drawing and painting and I was amazed at the amount of detail he noticed.'

Things to make and do

Dress up as a pirate
Collect clothing to help you dress up as a pirate – eg scarves, hats, belts, boots, loose shirt or stripey t-shirt. You could look back at the illustrations for inspiration. Add accessories such as a cardboard pirate cutlass from cardboard.

Make pirate stew
Find a big container to make an imaginary pirate stew. You could use an extra large saucepan, a bucket or box. Collect things to go in your pirate stew – this could include some real ingredients and some much more imaginative or sillier ones too.

Alternatively you could also make a real stew Pirate Stew Recipe – and give the ingredients alternative names as you mix them in. What ingredient might mermaid’s tears be for example?

Write a recipe
Write your own recipe for pirate stew – you could include some things from the story and add more of your own and illustrate your recipe.

Draw your own pirate crew
If you were a pirate captain who would you have in your crew? Children could draw their crew on a large piece of paper giving each of them a name and a specific job on the pirate ship.

Make a pirate treasure map
Pirates traditionally are very keen to search for buried treasure. You could stain a piece of paper with coffee or tea to ‘age’ a piece of paper and when it is dry draw a map of a treasure island. It would be fun to talk together about what to include on the island. Don’t forget the X marks the spot.

Find out more

Find out more about Pirates
The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has a fantastic selection of resources about pirates Stories from the Sea: Pirates resource | Royal Museums Greenwich (

Pirate Facts For Kids | What Are Pirates? | DK Find Out

For adults here is some Information about modern piracy 

Read more books by Neil Gaiman Neil Gaiman  |  Neil’s Work | Books

Titles also illustrated by Chris Riddell include:

Fortunately, the Milk

The Sleeper and the Spindle

Art Matters  


Other books include:

Wolves in the Walls



Read more books by author/illustrator Chris Riddell:

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat

Goth Girl


Other books illustrated by Chris Riddell include

A Great Big Cuddle and Honey for Me Honey for You with Michael Rosen.