March 13, 2017

Cybils Finalist Review: COMPASS SOUTH

Synopsis: Hope Larson! How much do I love her? This new work brings her talents together with illustrations by Rebecca Mock, with the usual enjoyable result. It's not surprising this one ended up as a 2016 Cybils finalist, what with all the starred reviews, NYT bestseller status, and whatnot. Here's the jacket copy:
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 kidnapped and made 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 adventure.

Observations: Who doesn't love a rollicking pirate adventure that hits all the right notes? A thug seeking revenge from their previous life back in New York, stowaways, a tragic star-crossed love, a tromp through the jungle, a treasure map, twins and disguises, and ultimately, the discovery of friends and family.
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The story and dialogue here were really well written and appropriate to a story that's full of action and emotion. The focus on bonds of family and friendship above all—and the idea that shared adventure and experience can strengthen those bonds—was a good theme. It also stands alone well, though a sequel seems to be on the way. There were diverse characters, too, who were allowed to have their own stories rather than being simply props.

I really enjoyed the art on this one, too--the authors did an admirable job of differentiating the two sets of twins (although I was still occasionally confused) and the style was loose and fluid and appropriate to a tale of adventure. Action scenes were well done and clearly rendered.

Conclusion: This one was a finalist for Elementary and Middle Grade Graphic Novels, and it fits that age group really well, but it would absolutely appeal to older readers, too; it's just really well done.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library. You can find COMPASS SOUTH by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

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