cover image School Ship Tobermory

School Ship Tobermory

Alexander McCall Smith, illus. by Iain McIntosh. Delacorte, $15.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-399-55261-8

A schooner that serves as a boarding school is the inviting setting for this breezy series opener from bestselling author Smith. Twelve-year-old twins Ben and Fee MacTavish, who board the Tobermory on the Scottish Isle of Mull, have spent ample time on their parents’ research submarine, but they have never been on a sailing ship; readers learn nautical lingo and the basics of seafaring along with the good-natured siblings. The story’s central mystery involves a sailboat moored nearby, purportedly carrying a team making a pirate movie. After some students are recruited as extras for the film, they realize that something fishy is going on, and their sleuthing uncovers the crew’s true, nefarious mission. Playful characterization grounds Smith’s story as he introduces an international cast that includes bullies Hardtack and Shark, a friendly Australian girl, a Scots stowaway on the run from abusive relatives, and a sea-savvy American boy who becomes Ben’s first real friend. Featuring crosshatched and silhouetted images, McIntosh’s woodcut-like spot illustrations, which include some comics-style sequences, fit right in with the setting, evoking vintage nautical prints. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)