{Review} COMPASS SOUTH by Hope Larson

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(Pages 8-11, US paperback edition)

In high school, my favorite books were all by Tamora Pierce, beginning with her adventures about Alanna, the daring girl who switched places with her twin brother, disguised herself as a boy, and went off to learn how to be a knight while he went to the convent to study magic. Ever since, I've had a soft spot for books where the girl disguises herself as a boy and goes on to do great things. This past year at BEA, I was talking with the publicist at First Second Books, Macmillan's graphic novel arm. She told me about a really cool graphic novel series, Four Points by Hope Larson. I was sold when she mentioned pirate ships, twins, and a girl disguised as a boy!

The first book in the series, COMPASS SOUTH, introduces us to Alexander and Cleopatra Dodge (Great names, right!?). Their father disappeared about ten months prior, and never would have abandoned them. He'd left on a dangerous mission and is presumed to be dead. To survive, the twins join the Black Hook Gang, and are soon arrested for burglary. The arresting officer offers them a deal: IF they rat on the gang, he'll help them skip town and have a clean start. The twins agree, and when they see an ad in the paper advertising a reward for lost twin boys--red-headed boys--that their father hasn't seen in years, they come up with a plan. Cleo will disguise herself as a boy and the two will go to San Francisco and swindle the rich man out of some money in order to survive. Only, they're not the only ones with the idea! They meet up with two other red-headed boys who are hoping to pretend to be the man's sons in order to finally have a family again. On top of all that, the gang leader, Luther, wants revenge because the twins ratted on him and is following them across the country. When Cleo and Alexander get separated in New Orleans and wind up on two very different ships, they're not sure whether they'll find one another again.

There's all kinds of adventure and mayhem in these graphic novels. There's mystery and intrigue, too, as pirates come into play. The twins unknowingly have something he wants desperately and will stop at nothing to get the objects he needs in order to find his treasure.

There's also a great focus on family. I love that the twins are opposing genders, because too many books only focus on the relationship between identical twins. The book looks to the future, too: What do Alexander and Cleopatra have once they arrive in San Francisco? How will they survive? Alexander's time on the ship changes him and makes him want to captain his own boat one day. He could spend a lifetime at sea. But what about Cleo? The book is set in 1860, a time when it's much harder for girls to go off on adventures and achieve their dreams.

COMPASS SOUTH was a really quick read with a surprising ending, and I was really happy to be able to dive into the sequel, KNIFE'S EDGE, right away! Both books are available now, and they're clean enough for all ages to enjoy!


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: G ( kissing )
Language: --
Violence: PG ( sword fighting injuries; a bar brawl )
Other: --
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I love all the action on the cover from the get-go, plus the way these two kids are clearly twins! And there are pirate ships!!! This cover very clearly shows what the book is about!
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Author: Betsy Cornwell
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Square Fish / Macmillan
Received: For Review


It’s 1860 in New York City. When 12-year-old twins Alexander and Cleopatra’s father disappears, they join the Black Hook Gang and are caught by the police pulling off a heist. They agree to reveal the identity of the gang in exchange for tickets to New Orleans. But once there, Alex is shanghaied to work on a ship that is heading for San Francisco via Cape Horn. Cleo stows away on a steamer to New Granada where she hopes to catch a train to San Francisco to find her brother. Neither Alexander nor Cleo realizes the real danger they are in — they are being followed by pirates who think they hold the key to treasure. How they outwit the pirates and find each other makes for a fast-paced, breathtaking adventure.