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Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao

Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao

by Helaine Becker
  • english-from-canada
  • historical
  • people-places

A one-of-a-kind picture book rediscovering the incredible story of Zheng Yi Sao, the real-life pirate queen who took control of her life — and the South China seas — in the early 19th century.

The most powerful pirate in history was a woman born into poverty in Guangzhou, China. She led an incredible, adventurous life for a woman in this time period — she married a pirate, quite possibly after being kidnapped, on the condition that she would get an equal share of his business. Years later when he passed away, she took command of the entire fleet.

Incredibly, the Pirate Queen went on to build a fleet of over 1,800 ships and 70,000 men. On land and sea, her power rivaled the emperor’s himself — but eventually, the Pirate Queen even negotiated her retirement and freedom!

Zheng Yi Sao’s powerful story is told in lyrical prose by award-winning author Helaine Becker. Liz Wong’s colorful, engaging illustrations illuminate this inspiring woman in history. An author’s note provides historical context and outlines the challenges of researching a figure about whom little is known.


Helaine Becker, author

Helaine Becker is an award-winning author who has written over eighty books for children. Her picture books include You Can Read, illustrated by Mark Hoffmann; Sloth at the Zoom, illustrated by Orbie; and Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk. She has also written non-fiction, chapter books and poetry. She is a two-time recipient of the Lane Anderson Award and a winner of the Silver Birch Award and the Bank Street College of Education Cook Prize.

Liz Wong, illustrator

Liz Wong was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she spent her early childhood painting and clambering about in mango trees. She holds a BFA in art and a BA in anthropology from the University of Washington.

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Groundwood Books



rights available: World, excl. North America

Additional Information

age range: 6 - 9

number of pages: 36

publication date: 03/01/2020

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: complete manuscript