A review of Rover Rob’s Tales by Rusty Gladdish

It is summer 1541 and the sun beats down on a handsome galleon in full sail as it glides out of the harbour of old Tangiers. Aboard ship, and among the motley crew, is our reluctant hero, an innocent young puppy. He is excited by the brisk activity of the sailors and out of sight of his father, Silas, he runs through the forest of legs. He is looking for a diversion and he finds one in the shape of the ship’s malign and cunning cat, who then engages the naïve puppy in a game of hide and seek. Suddenly the artful feline appears from out of nowhere and barges him overboard. He watches with satisfaction as the puppy sinks beneath the waves and, smirking craftily, says goodbye to the hapless creature.

‘The feline watched the thrashing little dog fall towards the dark waters and gave a deep, satisfied purr. He raised a large paw and extended his razor sharp talons in a wave-like gesture. The boat sailed on, neither the crew nor Silas had noticed the incident.’

The puppy strikes his head and sinks like a stone beneath the waves, but then he manages to fight his way back up to the surface and frantically treads water trying to keep afloat. Just as he is tiring and becoming weaker he sees what looks like a leather bag floating above the ocean and moving towards him. It has a strange glow and is encircled by green sparks. The bag plunges down into the deep water and positions itself under the limp body of the puppy. Then it surges upwards, carefully carrying its precious cargo to the safety of the harbour. Once deposited on the harbour wall the traumatised puppy’s euphoria at having survived is short lived as he realizes the ship carrying his father, Silas, is disappearing over the horizon. At this point, his rescuer reveals his identity and explains that his name is Gladstone bag. He belongs to a renowned magician who has given him magic powers. Gladstone takes pity on the poor, motherless pup and names him Rover Rob, because he says, ‘You have robbed death of its toll.’

By the time we meet the heroine Grace O’Malley and her father, Black Oak the fearsome pirate, we’re hooked, as we are swept along on a magical journey on board the good ship ‘Maggie’. Here we share the perils and the bloodthirsty adventures on the high seas of Rover Rob and his new-found friends. The message the author sends to her young readers is one of compassion, loyalty, friendship and the need for new generations to be ecologically aware; and also to encourage children to respect animals and treat them with kindness. I think this book would appeal to children aged from ten years and upwards.

This is a remarkable book, and what is even more remarkable is that English is not the author’s first language. Rover Rob’s Tales has been written in the true spirit of the pirate genre and has all the ingredients for a fascinating and interesting read. For pirate aficionados and animal lovers alike, this could be the book for you, so why not step aboard, me hearties!

Rover Rob’s Tales by Yaelle Byrd can be purchased from amazon.com

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