Sunderland author's debut book - complete with Mackem twist - takes on Gruffalo author

As far as David versus Goliath challenges go, this takes some beating.

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 4:45 pm

Sunderland author David Crosby, a former Sunderland Echo journalist, was delighted when debut picture book Pirates vs. Monsters – complete with a Mackem twist – was shortlisted for the prestigious Bishops Stortford Picture Book Award.

But David, who also previously worked for South Tyneside Council, was shocked to learn that his eight rival publications included The Hospital Dog by former Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson, of Room on the Broom and The Gruffalo fame, with a public vote set to decide the winner.

David, 40, from Ryhope, said: “Julia’s sold more than £10 million worth of books in the UK every year for the last 10 years in a row, so you could say I’m up against it.

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Sunderland author David Crosby with a copy of his new Pirates vs. Monsters picture book.

“It’s a bit like Carlisle United drawing Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup.

“If I was to win this it would be an historic giant-killing. But anything is possible.

“Anyone can vote and the organisers are actively inviting schools to take part as well.

"So if you’re a school in Sunderland, please contact them to get involved so children have enough time to read the shortlisted books before they cast their votes.”

The front cove of Pirates vs. Monsters

Pirates vs. Monsters tells the story of three pirates down the pub bragging about the ingenious methods they’ve used to get the better of three fearsome monsters.

The grog is flowing and it gradually becomes clear they may not be being entirely honest.

The book has already enjoyed positive reviews from children’s book bloggers with one describing it as “an absolute stonker” and another saying it left her four-year-old “in stitches”.

David, who is media manager at Stockton Borough Council, said: “There are lots of books out there addressing serious issues but I just set out to write a funny, unconventional book with a ripping story that’ll hopefully give kids a good laugh.

“I think that’s important with everything that’s going on in the world at the minute.

“There’s even a Mackem-inspired monster in it called The Hockler.

"No prizes for guessing its preferred method of attack. Yes, it’s a fearsome flying beast with an uncanny knack of spitting globs of poison in pirates’ eyes.

“The illustrator, Lee Cosgrove, has done a marvellous job, creating atmospheric and eerie scenes with mist, candle-lit taverns, pompous pirates, and monsters that are fierce but child-friendly.

“I’m not sure where the idea for the story came from but when I was a boy I loved Sinbad films with Ray Harryhausen monsters and the Monkey Island games on the Amiga.”

David, a former Southmoor and St Paul’s C of E Primary School pupil, now has a second book in the offing with a publication date set to be confirmed in 2021.

Voting, which was previously restricted to primary schools in Bishops Stortford, is open nationwide until January 22 next year before the winner is announced in February.

For full details the award and how to vote, visit

Pirates vs. Monsters, published by Maverick Publishing, is out now priced £7.99 in paperback. It is available in Waterstones, in The Bridges, Sunderland.

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