When I was a young girl, I was a detective. Not any ordinary detective, mind you: I was a supernatural detective. I detected fairies and goblins and elves and witches. Witches were my specialty. I almost caught a witch, once.
She lived in an ancient, crumbling farmhouse on a rural road just north of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, on the far side of a dank, stinky pond that my friends and I called, for reasons that I can no longer recall, Old Man’s Dam. We would hike up the road and hide in the bushes along the swamp, waiting to see if we could spot her. My friends thought that this was all good fun, and that we would run if we saw her, but I knew different: this was serious business. She was a real witch, I was sure of it. And if I ever had the opportunity, I was going to confront her. At least, I was pretty sure that I was going to confront her. If she happened to have flying monkeys, I would probably run. A kid couldn’t be blamed for that.
I never did catch her. But I took copious notes in my Very Important and Very Secret Detective Notebook (in which I also kept sketches of the fairies that I glimpsed in the gully, and the goblins that I knew were breaking into our basement on a regular basis) and I had, by the time we moved away from Dawson Creek, a more or less complete dossier on The Witch Of Old Man’s Dam And Associated Magical Beings and if you asked me what I was going to be when I grew up I would have rolled my eyes at you and informed you that I was already a professional Witch Spy and Detective Of All Things Supernatural.
So it was that when I began reading The Dread Crew, the story of the exploits of a young pirate tracker and his pirate quarry and the indefatigable young girl whose moxie puts the pirates to shame, I felt that I had been plunged directly back into my own childhood. These, I thought, are my kind of kids. Would that I had had them as companions in my witch-hunting days, instead of the lily-livered neighborhood kids, who always ran when the farmhouse windows rattled or the resident dog began to howl. As it was, I really only had Harriet the Spy and the Famous Five and Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins and the Darlings and the Pevensies as my imaginary companions in adventure. Had the incomparable Kate Inglis, Pirate Wrangler and Writer Extraordinaire, been precocious enough to have invented her pirate trackers in the seventies, they would have occupied pride of place in my crew. And I would have invented all manner of adventures for them to join me in – let’s invite the pirates to help us find the witches! – and we would have spent many a night curled up under the covers with flashlight and cookies, plotting our schemes.
Alas, I no longer curl up under the covers with flashlight and cookies – not regularly, anyway – and I no longer hunt witches or study fairies and the goblins have been left to ransack my laundry and so instead of keeping Eric and Missy and Grandpa Joe (he’s a right old Joe!) and the Dread Crew to myself, I’ll read it to my own kids with the same passion that I read – over and over and over again – Peter Pan and, soon, the chronicles of Narnia and the adventures of the Five and the Twins and Miss Drew and Harriet and, I suppose, Harry Potter and his gang. And I will urge them – I will insist to them – that pirates are as real and as awesome as the Dread Crew, and that they could find them, too, if they applied themselves hard enough to looking. I’d offer to help them, but the looking, I know, is the domain of the small and the intrepid and although I am very much the latter, I am no longer the former and true pirate trackers and witch hunters and fairyologists work, always, without their mothers.
Which is not to say that I cannot dig out my old notebooks and go on some quests of my own. I just might. I am inspired.
(Find out more about the Dread Crew at the Dread Crew Not-So Secret Headquarters. Go on, check it out. You won’t be disappointed. You might just be inspired to do some pirate tracking of your own.)