cover image Ghost of the Southern Belle

Ghost of the Southern Belle

Odds Bodkin. Little Brown and Company, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-316-02608-6

A sailor's son serves as a bridge between the supernatural and natural worlds in this suspenseful picture book. Master storyteller Bodkin (The Banshee Train) recreates a salt-air ambiance of centuries past as he writes of fearless Captain LeNoir. Sailors who watch him race his fast ship, the Southern Belle, against other ships in the Northern Atlantic consider LeNoir a madman for his daring. But the story's young narrator believes otherwise. In passing, LeNoir tosses the boy a Chinese silver ball said to embody pure luck. Shortly afterward, on All Hallows' Eve, the Southern Belle crashes, and the ghost ship and her crew begin to haunt the seas near the site. Feeling a connection with LeNoir, the boy devises a plan to put the Southern Belle finally to rest. Bodkin's swift, compelling prose immediately draws readers in. His inventive weaving of historic and geographical details into the text helps set the intriguing scene. Readers can nearly feel a bracing sea breeze blowing off of Fuchs's (Ragtime Tumpie) darkly eerie oil paintings. His dramatic, full-page close-ups of the sailors and tall-masted ships, and especially of the ghost of LeNoir, make a powerful impression. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)