I’d like to tell you that when I get a chance to read something just for myself that I always choose something highly intellectual and deeply meaningful; in reality, though, I almost always choose a fun mystery. My son enjoys mysteries, too, especially The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators series, but many of the mysteries written for kids tend to be more formulaic and short on real character development. I was so excited to come across Sheila Turnage’s Three Times Lucky recently. It’s an interesting mystery that also has wonderfully developed characters, too, and both my ten year old son and five year old daughter were talking about the book and its characters long after we finished reading the story.
The main character of this Newbery Honor book is rising sixth grader Moses “Mo” LoBeau, a feisty girl who lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, where she was discovered as a newborn in the aftermath of a hurricane. Mo lives with her guardians, Miss Lana and the Colonel, and spends her time either with her best friend, Dale, or serving the town’s eccentric citizens at the cafe. One day, though, one of the locals, Mr. Jesse, is found murdered, and Mo and Dale set out to find the killer. They encounter quite a few problems as they work their case, but eventually they are successful. Along with the mystery of Mr. Jesse’s murder, Turnage also explores the mysteries of Mo’s “Upstream Mother”–her term for her birth mother–and the Colonel’s unknown past.
Our library has Three Times Lucky shelved in the teen section, though both of my younger children really enjoyed the story without any editing on my part. (You may want to check out the Plugged In review for details on language, etc.) Dale’s father is an abusive alcoholic, so that may cause some issues for some readers, along with Mo’s loss of her birth mother. I think both of these potentially sticky issues were handled with a good mix of grace and justice, though, and for most upper elementary readers, the story should be fine. The characters are so interesting that even after we finished the book my kids were talking about who they pictured in their minds for each character and how much they liked the story. They were very excited when I told them there is a sequel, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, and I hope there will be even more stories to come with Mo and Dale and all of their neighbors!