cover image Compass South

Compass South

Hope Larson, illus. by Rebecca Mock. FSG/Ferguson, $17.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-374-30043-2

Hot-tempered Alex and thoughtful Cleo are pretty sure that their father is dead. Armed only with the watch and knife he left them, the Dodge twins are on their own in an antebellum world of crime and double-dealing. If they can get to San Francisco, they plan to pass as a pair of lost redheaded twins for whom a reward has been offered. To their astonishment, they meet Silas and Edwin, an older set of redheaded twins doing the same thing. (“We expected to meet all kinds of people,” Cleo tells them, “but never ourselves.”) Separated, Alex and Edwin round Cape Horn on a ship, while Cleo and Silas travel through Panama. Larson’s (Who Is AC?) concoction of tried-and-true adventure elements—stowaways, pirate raids, jungle tribes—hangs together convincingly, and scene-stealers such as Tarboro, a free black man who’s a brilliant swordsman and the story’s true hero, provide moral ballast. Illustrator Mock, making her debut, adeptly captures the changing relationships between the twins—especially the gender-bending awkwardness that accompanies Cleo’s stint as a boy. A sequel is promised (so the knife and watch can reveal their secrets). Ages 10–12. (June)