three times lucky

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Mo LoBeau arrived in the small North Carolina town of Tupelo Landing as an infant riding on a hurricane wave.  She was discovered by the Colonel, a man also trapped in the storm who completely lost his memory.  Now at age 11, Mo helps the Colonel and Miss Lana run the café that is attached to their home.  It’s a quiet life, punctuated by the hope of her long-lost mother finding one of the bottles that Mo sends off upstream.  Then the law comes to town and things get interesting.  A murder was committed in a nearby town, then someone is murdered right in Tupelo Landing!  Mo and her best friend, Dale, form a detective agency and try to stay a step ahead of the police as they investigate the murder, try to clear Dale’s name, and worry that the Colonel may be mixed up in things too.  All Mo knows is that it is up to her to continue to trust the people she loves so fiercely and to prove their innocence. 

I must admit that I sighed a bit when I discovered that this was another book set in a small town in the south.  I knew that it would be filled with interesting small town characters, probably have a spunky heroine, and expected that it would be pretty formulaic as well.  It does have interesting small town characters, but also ones that resemble modern society.  As much as this is a story of a family that is created out of love alone, it is also the story of what a small town community can be.  Yes, Mo is spunky.  She is also smart, savvy and wonderfully inventive.  And while the story starts out in a familiar way, it quickly turns into a book that is a fun, fast-paced read.

The story is not as light-hearted as it might seem on the surface.  Dale lives with his mother in fear of his drunken father returning and beating him.  There are families that are divided in other ways, including money.  And without giving anything away, there are twists that are surprising in a children’s book.

Turnage’s writing is filled with humor.  She creates memorable characters, dancing quickly with stereotypes and then reaching beyond them to something that means much more.  She is not afraid of real danger in her book and she is also not shy about deep love.  It is a book about family, community, bravery and friendship. 

This is one to read on a slow summer day, preferably one threatening a nice fat thunderstorm.  Now if someone can just find me a real café like Miss Lana’s I’m all set.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.