Reviews /

Interview with Blackbeard & Other Vicious Villains

Authored by Andy Seed
Illustrated by Gareth Conway
Published by Welbeck Publishing Group

Interview with Blackbeard & Other Vicious Villains: Pirates, tyrants, robbers and their grim histories are brought together for bloodthirsty young readers. 

The author, Andy Seed, aims to interview ‘the horrid humans from history who actually did all the REALLY MEAN things that the rest of us would never DARE’. By using his time-travel cum translation machine, the tranimalator, the author meets a range of historical figures from the Emperor Nero and the outlaw Ned Kelly, to bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde and maritime bad guys Blackbeard and Zheng Yi Sao and so on… and this is where an adult reader might want to pause: does this sensationalise violent lives? In making these characters funny does it trivialise their crimes? And what can we make of ambiguous freedom fighters and rulers doing what they saw was needful? 

As to where it sits in school, I find this a bit difficult: amid the hilarity there would be a real debate possible with Y5 and Y6 children over Bonnie and Clyde’s casual justification for shooting people, for example, or Ivan the Terrible killing his son. The author and illustrator have created a book very much in the same vein as Horrible Histories, seeing some truly nasty characters as fodder for a comedy rewrite as well as an opportunity to present some interesting facts along the way. There is word play galore – Billy the Kid was chased by a POSSE, not a PUSSY; Zheng Yi Sao sails a junk, not a pile of junk – and the book aims to be lighter history, entertaining as much as instructive. And it is genuinely funny – but raises a lot of questions.