Compass South by Hope Larson, illustrated by Rebecca Mock

Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

 Summary:  12-year-old twins Alexander and Cleopatra are on their own in 1860’s New York City after their father disappears.  They join a gang, but a robbery gone wrong leads their arrest.  When they tell the police where the gang leader is hiding, they need to leave town in a hurry.  On their way to New Orleans, they see a newspaper article offering a reward for information about a pair of red-haired twin boys from San Francisco.  The two redheads see a chance to make some money, so Cleo cuts their hair, and they change their destination.  On their way, they meet up with another pair of redheaded twins who have the same idea.  Fate intervenes once again, and each set of twins is split up, with one from each pair ending up on two different boats.  Alex and Edwin are put to work on board their ship, while Cleo (traveling under the name of Patrick) and Silas are stowaways on theirs.  The book alternates between the two, with non-stop adventures all the way.  There are vicious pirates, a hungry puma, an angry gang leader out for revenge, and even a couple of ill-fated romances.  Alex and Cleo discover they have the tools to look for hidden treasure, but the actual search will have to wait for the sequel, Knife’s Edge.  224 pages; grades 4-8.

Pros:  Newcomer Rebecca Mock has created a graphic masterpiece with a roller-coaster ride adventure story from Hope Larson.  Kids will find it hard to put this down, but will want to take their time to study the detailed illustrations.

Cons:  Having two pairs of identical twins in a graphic novel led to occasional confusion about whose story was being told.

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