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Tomorrow's Schools Today

The Fierce Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate

One stormy day, a pirate came to the house on the jetty. He stood on his toes, and starting tap-tap-tapping on the window…

Written by Joy Cowley and illustrated by Sarah Davis

  • Description

    The fierce little woman lived in a house at the end of a jetty.

    She knitted socks in blue and green wool, to sell to sailors who had got their feet wet. But when there were no ships at her jetty, she was quite alone.

    One stormy day, a pirate came to the house on the jetty. He stood on his toes, and starting tap-tap-tapping on the window…

  • Book Details

    Country of Origin New Zealand
    Reader Age 2-5 year, 5-7 year
    Book Size

  • Reviews

    1. Good Reading (Australia), May 2011

      It’s not often you have a love story
      between a fierce little woman and
      a pirate who’s scared of the dark.
      The little woman lives in a house
      at the end of a jetty and knits socks
      for sailors who might have wet feet.
      When there are no ships at her jetty
      she’s quite alone but never lonely.
      There are so many wonderful things
      to do, like playing her bagpipes to
      the seagulls and swimming in the sea
      below When the wicked pirate tries
      to scare her into letting him into her
      house one stormy day, he finds he has
      met his match. Maybe it’s time for
      gentler tactics.
      This story was originally published
      for the educational market in 1984
      but now this new edition comes with
      wonderfully vibrant illustrations that
      complement the story perfectly. It’s a
      story where you actually know what’s
      going to happen in the end and you’re
      so happy when it does.

    2. Kids’ Book Review blog, April 2011

      A fierce, red-headed little woman lives on a house on the end of a very long pier. She has a curious house. In the summertime, she can open a trapdoor in her floor and plunge into the ocean for a swim in the briny deep. In the winter, she can sit by her fire and throw a fishing line down the trapdoor hole and fish for dinner. One stormy day, a wicked pirate appears on the pier. He taps on the window. Not used to visitors, the fierce little woman looks up from her knitting and thinks it’s only the wind. But the impatient pirate taps again. ‘Who’s there?’ asks the woman. A wicked pirate! And he wants to come in! But the fierce little woman tells him to go away if he knows what’s good for him.
      The pirate becomes miffed and knocks on the door, but the feisty lass again tells him to go away. Not to be ignored, the pirate tries the trap door under the house, but the fiery woman tells him she’ll tie him in fishing line and throw him in the ocean if he doesn’t go away! Finally, the pirate tries a different tack. He may not be a wicked pirate after all. He is actually a lonely pirate, in need of a good meal and warm socks. The heart of the fierce woman softens and she opens the trap door. The grateful pirate accepts a hot drink and a pair of knitted socks. He is so impressed by the cosiness of the cottage and warmth of the woman, he asks her to be his bride. Three kids later, this unlikely couple are living a glorious life in the house at the end of the pier. They swim in the summer and fish in the winter and have a wonderful life together. And the best thing of all? The fierce little woman remains fierce. This poignant story with its strong heroine is a wonderful way for kids to enjoy non-traditional role play in a magical setting. Illustrations by talented Sarah Davies do not disappoint, and lend a poignancy and emotion that will truly mist the eyes. Her paintings are utterly magical, and perfectly bring together a story that will remain with the reader . . . hopefully forever.

    3. Brisbane’s Child, April 2011

      This is a newly illustrated edition of a picture book that was originally published in New Zealand in 1984, but has long been out of print. It tells the whimsical story of a self-sufficient woman who lives alone in a house at the end of a long jetty. She does not seem fierce to begin with, and spends her time knitting, swimming and playing the bagpipes in apparent contentment. However, when a wicked pirate turns up on her doorstep, the little woman becomes fiercely protective of her solitude, determined not to let him into her life. This is not a taming of the Shrew-type tale in which a forceful man tames a feisty woman. In this story, it is only when the wicked pirate shows vulnerability that the fierce little woman relents and lets him in – to the benefit of them both. The charming text is perfectly complemented by Sarah Davis’s rich, dynamic illustrations, and both bring out the message that life is lived best when it is shared, transmuting the fierce and wicked into the friendly and warm. Recommended for ages 3 to 7 years.

    4. Burnie Advocate, March 2011

      This is a happy-ever-after tale about an unlikely couple. The fierce little woman lives alone in a cottage at the end of a pier. She knits socks to sell to sailors and plays the bagpipes. On a stormy day, a pirate bangs on the door, demanding to be let in. Being a fierce little woman, she tells him that if he breaks in, she’ll hit him over the head with her bagpipes. The wicked pirate eventually admits that he’s been left behind by his ship, his feet are wet, he’s hungry and that he’s afraid of the dark. ‘I didn’t know a wicked pirate could be scared of the dark,’ she told him as she opened the door. ‘I didn’t know a fierce little woman could knit so fine,’ he said, warming his toes by the fire, wearing a pair of her blue and green socks. To cut a short story even shorter, they marry and have three children, who are not particularly fierce or wicked. The story was written by New Zealander Joy Cowley in 1984 and has been given a second life in this new edition with wonderful illustrations by former Kiwi Sarah Davis, who now lives in Sydney.

    5. National Library, Create Readers Blog, February 2011

      This re-vamping of Joy Cowley’s 1984 reader, with superb new illustrations as blue and green as the socks the feisty heroine knits for wetfooted sailors, should surely be a strong contender for 2011 children’s literature awards. As we have come to expect from a Gecko book, the presentation is outstanding. This salty tale of love, loss and unrequited ferocity is quirky enough to appeal to independent readers of all ages, as well as being a great read-aloud.

    6. NSW Association for Gifted & Talented Children, February 2011

      `The fierce little woman lived in a house at the end of a jetty. She knitted socks in blue and green wool, to sell to sailors who got their feet wet.’

      Not only does she knit socks, she also plays the bagpipe to the seagulls. In winter she runs a fishing line through the trapdoor in her floor and in summer she uses it to go for a swim under the house. The fierce little woman is so fierce that she’s not even afraid of the wicked pirate who comes scratching at her window one dark night, threatening to break in. In fact she threatens to whack him with her knitting needles! But is the pirate as wicked as he seems? And is the fierce little woman really as fearsome?

      Joy Cowley is an extremely talented and prolific NZ writer who has crafted some wonderful, whimsical narratives, including such gems as The Duck in the Gun. She has a gift for story – and for strong-minded, sometimes eccentric characters that capture the imagination of the reader. In The Fierce Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate, Cowley challenges the stereotype of the independent woman – as well as that of the wicked pirate – in lively, evocative prose.

      Sarah Davis’ illustrations are essential to the text and her skill at creating powerful personalities is quite remarkable. The range of facial expressions Davis manages to capture is astonishing, adding nuances of her own to Cowley’s characterisations. The energy that pours off the vibrant illustrations carries the story well beyond the page, evoking the fierce little woman’s love of the sea and solitude, her pride and determination, her strength and her sensitivity. Readers will laugh out loud at the images of the fierce little woman intimidating the (very tall) wicked pirate.

      An absolutely delightful picture book, this is a story to be read again and again. And again. (Be warned!)

    7. Canvas magazine, NZ Herald, November 2010

      First published in 1984, this delightful tale has been given a new lease of life with fresh illustrations by Sarah Davis. And beautiful illustrations they are that capture the battle of wills between the strong-minded but lonely woman and the sensitive pirate who tries to put on a bold face. While this is essentially a love story and the woman and pirate do settle down to domestic bliss, the characters play against type, making it thought-provoking for kids.

    8. Swings & Roundabouts, December 2010

      A story for children who like stories to have happy predictable endings. The fierce little woman threatens the pirate with some drastic actions if he comes into her house but then the pirate says he is scared of the dark. Now the fierce little woman changes into a caring kind little woman and it has a fairy tale ending. There is a love/fear factor that will capture the attention of most children. This new edition has illustrations that are quite moody and mirror the storyline.

    9. Parents in Touch UK, December 2010

      This is a really unusual book with stunning illustrations by Sarah Davis. The Fierce Little Woman lives happily on her own at the end of the jetty. She never smiled, but that is all about to change! The Wicked Pirate is determined to get into her house – he tries the door, he tries the window and he even tries the hole through which the woman fishes. But will she let him in? This story will appeal equally to girls and boys, with two feisty characters to enjoy. The dramatic illustrations portray these characters beautifully and are full of quirky little details to draw the attention and give talking points.

    10. Wairarapa News, November 2010

      This little Joy Cowley gem is a lovely tale of perseverance and acceptance. The fierce little woman has blazing red hair, lives on the end of a blustery jetty in a cozy little house knitting socks and she plays the bagpipes – the only thing missing is a kilt. The pirate comes complete with a gold earring and parrot and his is a rather strapping chap in his resplendent seafaring coat and skull-and-crossbones hat.

      Though he is initially rebuffed by the fierce little lady, she eventually concedes to his persistent requests to take refuge inside her house and be warmed by the fire. He does it by saying that he is afraid of the dark. Not very pirate-like, if you ask me. Though described as wicked, there doesn’t seem to be much evil about him. And despite being independent and strong-willed, the fierce little woman doesn’t seem too ferocious at all, though she is not afraid to stand her ground.

      WIth Joy Cowley penning the tale, you know it is going to be a great children’s yarn and the illustrations by Sarah Davis are fabulous. In fact, the paintings would make this book a winner all by themselves. The rich oil colours and whimsical odd-couple scenes are all very endearing of this lavishly illustrated edition. The ruggedly handsome pirate is balanced with the curly-haired, plucky heroine and without giving too much away, three ruddy-cheeked rugrats soon become part of the pier-dwellers’ brood, making for an entirely wholesome conclusion.

      The aspect that I most enjoyed about the illustrations is the effort taken to capture authentic human expressions on all the characters. It’s good to see Gecko Press giving this Cowley classic a new lease of life and they couldn’t have found a better illustrator in Sarah Davis.

    11. Page & Blackmore Booksellers, December 2010

      In this new, brilliantly illustrated edition of Joy Cowley’s story, the fierce little woman and the wicked pirate make their way from mutual antagonism to domestic bliss, causing a lot of laughter along the way. It is a lovely story.

    12. ‘Books for Christmas Giving’, Storylines, November 2010

      Originally published as an educational reader in 1984, it is wonderful to see this title back in print. The fierce little woman is not intimidated by the pirate when he starts tapping on her window. But appearances can be deceptive, and friendship can change the most wicked heart. A wonderful story to share, with illustrations that add to the story.

    13., December 2010

      Newly illustrated by Sarah Davis with intricate and imaginative detail, no child will be able to resist this reworking of a classic tale. The Fierce Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate is a delightfully colourful picture book suitable for young boys and girls a like. With fantastic contrasting shades to portray the difference between the fierce woman and fearful pirate, Sarah Davis brings life and pace to a simple love story.

    14. ’50 Best Children’s Books of 2010′, NZ Listener, December 2010

      …Veteran storyteller Joy Cowley sees her out-of-print The Fierce Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate brought back to life by Sarah Davis. The feisty bagpipe-playing knitter initially resists the charms of the swashbuckling pirate who sets out to woo her; it’s not until he admits to being scared of the dark that she allows him in.

    15. Christchurch City Libraries blog, December 2010

      A newly illustrated edition of one of Joy Cowley’s most loved picture books. I loved this book as soon as I set my eyes on it! Sarah Davis’ illustrations are absolutely stunning and she has captured Joy Cowley’s characters perfectly. Thank you Gecko Press for giving this wonderful story new life.

    16. Magpies magazine, November 2010

      A self contained, determined woman living contentedly, if not happily, at the end of the jetty, whiles away her time knitting socks for sailors and playing the bagpipes to seagulls. Her life is suddenly turned upside down when she gets a visit from an equally determined pirate. Although she initially resists his demands to come into her house, eventually, as he appears more vulnerable, she softens and finally gives in, with very happy consequences. Both the main characters show equal strength and determination making the story appealing to both boys and girls… As with all good picutre books the illustrations complement the text beautifully and whilst it was first published in 1984 as an educational title, it is fantastic to see this delightful story being given the full trade livery it deserves and as always the production and design by Gecko Press is of the highest standard. Highly recommended.

    17. Around the Bookshops, November 2010

      A wonderfully warm story in which both the pirate and the fierce little woman retain their individuality while enhancing everything about their lives – including a real makeover for what was, at the befgnning of the story, a very humble little house. A book to treaure for the story, for the ‘message’ it gives and for the illustrations from Sarah Davis, which as Joy says, have turned the story into a classic.

    18. The Weekend Sun, October 2010

      The star of the story is a self-sufficient young woman who manages well on her own. She has her own home by the sea, runs a profitable knitting business, fishes for her food, and makes her own entertainment. Although she’s little, she’s fiercely independent. When a proud, wicked pirate knocks on her door, she orders him to leave. He’s persistent and tries various ways to get into her house. She threatens to [whack] him with her knitting needles, bash him with her bagpipes, and tie him up with her fishing line. The pirate is furious at her refusal to let him in. However, he’s not as tough as he appears and, eventually, he has to reveal the truth.

      Vibrant illustrations by Sarah Davis bring this salty tale to life. Colour and page design highlight the contrasts between the stormy sea outside and the cosy home inside. Each double spread reveals new delights and detail to discover. The superb end pages enhance the story.

      The little woman is a bright-eyed, free spirit. Davis shows her staunch attitude with folded arms, hands on hips and fierce scowls. The puffed-up pirate is transformed as the story develops and he finds true treasure. This new edition of Joy Cowley’s much-loved story will enchant young readers.

    19. Bay of Plenty Times, November 2010

      Joy Cowley was this year’s recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (Fiction). And rightly so. She has published over 600 books for every age from preschool to adult. Alongside Margaret Mahy, the Word Witch, she is probably recognised at home and abroad as a best-loved New Zealand writer for children.

      Cowley has won awards too numerous to list, and her contribution to New Zealand literature is recognised by the Storylines Joy Cowley Award for an Unpublished Children’s Picture Book, for which entries are currently being judged.

      Adults who grew up with Cowley’s multifarious productions might want to get hold of her recently-published memoir, Navigation. Those who want to emulate her will grab a copy of Writing from the Heart, also out now and an excellent guide for beginners and more experienced writers who will reassure themselves with its wit and wisdom.

      With Cowley so much in the news, it’s apt that Gecko Press has chosen to reissue The Fierce Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate in a delightful new edition that teachers and librarians will welcome back in print. Grandparents, this is one to tuck into the children’s Christmas stockings. (A book at Christmas has always been an unbreakable rule in my family, and a tradition assiduously maintained.)

      Cowley’s feisty heroine is happily independent when Cowley’s story opens in her house by the jetty – until one day a pirate comes calling. A wicked pirate, intent on mischief and derring-do. ‘Let me in!’ he demands. ‘Let me in!’

      ‘Go away!’ she cries, and battle begins between a determined man and a determined woman. It isn`t until, defeated by her resistance, the pirate admits he is cold, wet, hungry and afraid of the dark that she finally opens the door.

      With the socks she knitted on his feet, and a hot cuppa not the only thing warming the cockles of his heart, he surprises himself and the fierce little woman with a proposal of marriage … ‘and now they have three children who are never fierce, and only sometimes wicked … At night they listen to the sea breathing in and out under the floor.’ Entertained by her bagpipes and his parrot, there seems no reason why the five of them should not live happily ever after.

      Cowley’s picture-book for ages four and upwards is charmingly illustrated in sea colours and muted tones by Sarah Davis. Beautifully written, and beautifully produced, both good reasons to buy a copy for your favourite child.

    20. Tomorrow’s Schools Today, October 2010

      This is the delightfully entertaining story of a fierce little woman who lives alone on the end of a jetty. She leads an idyllic life, knitting socks to sell to the fishermen, swimming in summer, fishing from her house in winter and sometimes playing bagpipes to the seagulls.

      Then one day her tranquil life is shattered by a persistent and wicked pirate who wants her to let him into her house. Why could he possibly want to enter her house? And what will happen if and when he enters?

      The result is a fun and non-stereotypical love story featuring a strong female character and a pirate, so will no doubt appeal to both boys and girls over three. It especially makes good bed-time reading. The story also shows that you can’t always judge a book by its cover and sometimes people can be completely different from what you expect when you first meet them. The illustrations perfectly capture the story and the feelings of both the pirate and the little woman, making the story really come alive.

    21. Story Time Books for Kids, October 2010

      This is another Joy Cowley story, from 1984, now with brand new and wonderful illustrations by Sarah Davis. The woman is indeed fierce, the pirate suitably wicked, but both their stances soften enough so that by the end of the story the little woman is playing a lullaby on her bagpipes sitting on the roof of the enlarged house on the jetty, above the reformed and married pirate and three children, ‘so that they won’t be afraid of the dark.’ Both text and illustrations are wonderfully quirky, with enough material between the lines and in the pictures to enlarge the story even further. Another classic epic story in 32 pages, and it is wonderful to see it back in print in such a beautiful edition. It also perfectly fits the Gecko ethos of ‘curiously good books’ with heart.

    22. Author Joy Cowley

      `I’m in love with this book! Everything about it is utterly beautiful: the design, the
      colours, the characters… [Illustrator Sarah Davis] has turned it into a classic that people will hug for generations.

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