Alexander and Cleopatra Dodge never knew their real parents; their Irish mother died giving birth to the redheaded twins 1848, and a mysterious stranger delivered them to the doorstep of their mother's jilted lover, Mr Dodge, a jack of all trades living in New York. Dodge, an honorable sort, vowed to raise them as his own.
But when we next meet Alex and Cleo, they're on their own, their father missing, and they've joined the Black Hand gang as burglars. When Alex is caught robbing a local merchant, Cleo goes back to rescue her beloved twin and the two of them are caught by the police. Facing unimaginable horrors in the New York "justice" system, they turn traitor to the Black Hand gang — a move that spells certain doom — and skip town. They have a plan: a sorrowing millionaire in San Francisco is looking for his long lost redheaded twin sons, missing since they were babies, and they know if Cleo cuts her hair, they could pass — for long enough to clean out the old man and skip out.
But it's not going to be easy. First they meet another pair of redheaded twins who had the same idea, and then, after a brawl, they are separated. One twin from each set gets away clean, the other pair is dragooned into service on a ship bound around the horn.
So begins the first volume of an adventure story that manages to pack in every imaginable form of delightful and exciting peril: pirates, jungles, forbidden love, jaguars, treasure maps, psychotic stalkers, criminal conspiracies, and even mermaids.
Larson is setting up a story that is just as exciting and fun as you could ask for, and her artist collaborator, Rebecca Mock — who makes her book debut here — gives it all a clean, contemporary feel that kids will love (as will grownups). I can't wait to read this one to my daughter.
Compass South (Four Points) [Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock/First Second]