Book Review: Jean Laffite: The Pirate Who Saved America

When I saw the new Jean Laffite: The Pirate Who Saved America by Susan Goldman Rubin, I knew that I wanted to read a copy.  After all, preschool boys love pirates, so I knew a pirate biography would be a great way to sneak a little non-fiction into our reading routine. Upon request, Abrams Books for Young Readers was kind enough to send a review copy.
I was not disappointed in this interesting story about a patriotic pirate’s saving of New Orleans in the War of 1812, and my preschooler enjoyed looking at the wonderful illustrations. (Note: The book was on a early elementary age level, so I did not read the entire book to my preschooler.)
Jean Laffite: The Pirate Who Saved America


My Summary of Jean Laffite

For those unfamiliar with Jean Laffite (also spelled Lafitte), he grew up in Saint-Dominique (now Haiti) in the late 1700s.  Born as a Jewish outcast of Spain, he developed a vengeful spirit against Spaniards that later drove him to join the pirating forces that attacked Spanish ships. This hatred of Spain only intensified when his wife died after being marooned by a Spanish man-o-war during what should have been a peaceful trip to France.
Later, Jean moved to New Orleans, where he was known as the leader of the pirates. Unlike many of the other pirates, Laffite stood apart for his gentlemanly clothing, good manners, and calm disposition.
When the British fleet tried to attack New Orleans in 1814 (a decisive battle for the War of 1812), Jean offered the services of his pirate gang to help defend the city from certain defeat. At first the mayor of the city balked at joining forces with a band of outlaws, but he ended up realizing the desperateness of the city’s situation. Due to the pirates’ help, the city of New Orleans was saved, and Jean was later pardoned by the American government and given safe haven in Texas.

My Opinion of Jean Laffite: The Pirate Who Saved America

Susan Goldman Rubin tells the story of Jean Laffite candidly and with great detail. She did a wonderful job of portraying who he was as a person and why he chose the life that he lived. I appreciated how she even included some of the parts of his life that were contradictory such as his selling of slaves despite later evidence that he did not believe in slavery. She also wrote a nice Appendix for the back of the book that fills in some of the details that older readers might want answered, such as what happened to Laffite after he moved to Texas.
Jeff Himmelman makes his picture book debut with his illustrations for Jean Laffite. Children will love his large, realistic illustrations.  
picture book and activity ideas for kids
My pirate reading about Jean Laffite.

Pirate Themed Activity Ideas for Jean Laffite

Katherine Marie’s photography site has photos of several pirate themed learning activities (with links to directions)

Additional Resources for Jean Laffite

One last pirate fact, as my preschooler pointed out to me, “It’s a good thing pirates only wear one patch because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to see!”
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This blog uses Amazon affiliate links. This review is written from a book provided by the publisher.


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