Saturday, September 22, 2012
MMGM: Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
THREE TIMES LUCKY
by Sheila Turnage
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Reviewed from purchased copy.
A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime
Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.
Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.
Another great book and definite Newbery candidate, Three Times Lucky sends the reader on the hunt for a murderer with sixth grader Mo LoBeau and her best friend, Dale. Mo is delighted for summer vacation to start, hoping to spend time with Dale, and her crush, Dale's brother, Lavender as well as helping out at the cafe owned by her unusual adopted family. If she can find her biological mother all the better. But everything changes when a grumpy neighbor turns up dead, in the boat that Dale 'borrowed' for them to go fishing in and Dale turns out to be the last known person to see the man alive. Determined to help her friend, Mo sets out to help solve the mystery regardless of whether Joe Starr, a lawman, wants her help or not.
Mo reminds me greatly of another great middle grade character, Jennifer Holm's May Amelia, with her spunk and determination. I found myself grinning more than once as I read about Mo's ability to insert herself into almost any situation with fervor and good intentions, although not always with good results. Her efforts to find her unknown mother using notes in bottles was creative if ineffectual. Mo slowly comes to realize that perhaps she already has all the family she needs.
The setting is beautifully presented with a map included, something I always appreciate as it helps me visualize places and how they are connected with each other. A story like this requires a strong sense of place and Turnage pulls it off nicely. The cafe especially stands out as a place of great character, well worth visiting.
Plotwise the story moves along at a nice clip with plenty of moments of tension mixed in with the humorous moments. I enjoyed the twists and turns and the subplots involving Mo's adopted family, Miss Lana and the Colonel, as well as the home situation of Dale. I think my favorite part though besides the part where Mo puts her karate skills to use, is the part where Mo sneaks down to the creek hoping to help search the crime scene for clues.
I highly recommend this book, not only as great historical fiction but as an amusing and entertaining look at life in a small community where everyone seems to know everything about everyone else, but where secrets still have room to breathe.