Every year, Mike Gilbert leaves his mom and stepfather in California to spend the summer in Florida with his dad. In 1973, however, Dr. Gilbert accepted a job teaching invertebrate zoology at a marine lab on Shipwreck Island off the coast from Mobile. Mike figured he'd spend the summer helping his dad in the lab, working on his coin collection, and maybe doing some exploring around the island.
When Mike meets Kyle Daniels, though, the summer takes a more exciting turn. One afternoon when the boys sneak into Fort Henry, a Civil War site, they discover what they think could be a Confederate gold coin. Are the rumors true that the Confederate ship The Skink, which was sunk in nearby waters, was carrying gold from the New Orleans mint? If so, what happened to the coins?
Mike and Kyle aren't the only ones looking for treasure that summer. A salvage team is diving in local waters hoping to find the remains of The Skink, some of the members of the marine lab are acting suspiciously, and townsfolk have their own theories. Even as a Category 4 hurricane races toward the island, no one wants to give up the hunt.
It's no wonder that Sneed B. Collard III has won awards for his middle reader/young adult books. Double Eagle is a well-written and complex story with plenty of action, good characters, and light layer of history. Mike and Kyle are believable as fourteen-year-old boys in the years before the Internet, X-Boxes, iPods, and text messaging. They spend the summer fishing, riding bikes, hanging out, and hoping for adventure.
The bad guys are realistic in the context of the story. They are not over-the-top menacing to the boys, but they are scary enough. Furthermore, the secondary characters aren't obviously good or bad; we can only hope that Mike and Kyle have trusted the right people.
Finally, the mystery of the coin is well set up, with just enough clues to get you thinking but not so obvious that there is nothing to discover by the end of the book. The Civil War background of the story is interesting and is presented slowly from a variety of sources, so the novel never dips into lecture mode.
Although written for nine- to twelve-year-olds, Double Eagle has enough depth to appeal to a wide range of readers.
Be sure learn more about Sneed Collard by reading the terrific guest post he wrote for Beth Fish Reads last Friday and by visiting his website.
Published by Peachtree Publishers, 2010
Challenges: Young Adult, New Author, 2010, 100+
Source: Review copy (see review policy)