Three Times Lucky
By Sheila Turnage
Middle Grade fiction, Ages 10 and up
Dial Books, 2012
additional formats: e-book, audio
Newbery Honor *Edgar Award Finalist * E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor *New York Times bestseller
Moses “Mo” LoBeau, Sheila Turnage’s protagonist in the hooting, hilarious, and heartfelt Three Times Lucky, is one of my favorites. A wisteria-vine-variety Girl of Summer. Like the vine we so know and love in the south, Mo is a strong, persistent, fragrant star of the garden. Star of the café, too. Heck, star of the whole darn town where she lives.
Our girl Mo arrived in Tupelo Landing, NC when she was but a babe, set upon the flood waters to ride out a hurricane atop a floating billboard. The Colonel was also out in that storm and wrecked his car just in time to see and save the floating infant, whom he named Moses on the spot. The Colonel and Mo, together with Café proprietor Miss Lana, live together in a small house behind the Café, where they make an eccentric but loving family.
Mo’s life mission is to locate and reunite with her “Upstream Mother,” the one who abandoned her in the hurricane. The whole town assists Mo in this effort by casting message-filled bottles into rivers, creeks, and streams throughout the Carolinas as folks travel around the region. But the mystery of Mo’s maternity isn’t the only puzzle stumping the good folks of Tupelo Landing. Nope. The town curmudgeon, Mr. Jesse, turns up dead, and it seems that Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, have some ‘splaining to do, seeing as how they recently borrowed Mr. Jesse’s boat and returned it in time to collect the $10 reward. (Well, they needed some pocket money because Dale’s big brother and aspiring NASCAR driver, Lavender, who Mo vows to marry one day when she’s older, recruited Dale and Mo to run the flags at his big race. Running flags can make a kid hungry. Race food costs money.) Soon enough, everybody learns that Dale’s foot prints have been identified at the murder scene. To protect her best friend, Mo takes charge of the investigation (unofficially) and discovers vital information. The mystery of Mr. Jesse’s death is just the beginning of the murder, kidnapping, heist, and con that storms through Tupelo Landing.
Sheila Turnage delivers a phenomenal, insightful and really, really funny character in Mo LoBeau. Mo’s a girl who faces down life’s storms (literally!) with the mightiest of weapons: a wry sense of humor, a pencil and a private diary, and a town full of good friends. GA