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Captain Book to sail no more

After stealing away the attention of youngsters across San Diego for nearly two decades, Captain Book will conclude his performances for good later this month.

The pirate character, played by Morris Pike of Encinitas, has been a fixture in San Diego pre-school and elementary classrooms since 2001.

Pike developed the character — dressed completely as a pirate with an eye patch, parrot and spy glass and accompanied by crewmates — as a way to give back and inspire children.

“I think kids are fascinated by pirates, no matter what,” he said, ahead of a performance at Hope Elementary School in Carlsbad on June 9. “I thought that’s an icon they can identify with and enjoy. At the time we started, Johnny Depp was at the height of his popularity with Pirates of the Caribbean.”

The Captain Book show includes magic, sing-alongs and references to popular media and historical figures like Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, Spongebob Squarepants and Helen Keller.

Captain Book also inspires children to read with his catchphrase: “We read, we read, we read-duh!”

Over the years, Pike, as Captain Book and in partnership with the Encinitas Kiwanis, has donated more than 120,000 books, which were purchased through programs like Scholastic and First Book.

The books are delivered on his “pirate ship,” the Good Ship Literacy. The truck is a former rescue vehicle that can carry about 2,000 books.

The truck is reaching the end of its life of being allowed on California highways, Pike explained. This, and Pike’s age of 84, have prompted his decision to retire the character.

“My body is telling me that I need to give up some things a little bit,” said the retired teacher who performs as Captain Book multiple times a week. “I spent so much energy in that show that it’s getting really tough for a guy my age.”

Pike said he’s going to miss spending time with Captain Book, who has been his “buddy for 16 years.”

He said seeing the children’s smiling faces, despite not really being able to hear them, are among his favorite memories.

“Even with my hearing aid, it’s hard for me to understand children,” he said. “They’ll come up to me, ask all kinds of questions and I just nod and smile. Their eyes tell the story. When I’m doing my show, the shining looks on the children’s faces are just priceless. My memories will be of those eyes taking in everything I’m saying and more.”

Captain Book’s last performance will take place June 29 at a school in San Diego. The truck will be donated to a Kiwanis club in Salem, Ore. for a similar show.

Pike said it’s possible Captain Book could return for rare performances in the future.

For more information, visit www.captainbook.org/.


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