Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

three times luckyEleven years ago, a hurricane blew through the small town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina.  However, the storm brought with it more than the usual high speed winds and raging tides: during this particular hurricane a baby girl lashed to a broken signboard washed ashore.  But since her unusual entrance, Moses ‘Mo’ LeBeau has lived a fairly uneventful life under the care of the eccentric Colonel–who has no memory before the night Mo washed ashore– and the dramatic Miss Lana in their cafe.  However, when murder and a visit from a out of town lawman disrupt the predictable pattern of life in Tupelo Landing, Mo and her best friend Dale are on the case.  However, her amateur detecting will push Mo to investigate the mysteries of her past –and to join in a deadly race to discover the truth in time to save her family.    

As I wrote when I sped through this novel during the 48 Hour Book Challenge last month, Three Times Lucky is a perfect example of a middle grade gem!

The story is a balanced combination of exciting mystery, quirky small town tale, and a classic search for identity.  I’m always on the look out for new mysteries–especially mysteries with smart, young investigators like Mo.   And while this might be a little on the young side for my older middle schoolers demanding new mysteries, I would definitely hand it off to a few of my incoming seventh graders this fall and highly recommend it for fifth and sixth graders.   And while the traditional mystery (a highly thrilling combination murder-kidnapping-robbery caper) is full of satisfying twists and turns, it is Mo’s determination to solve the mystery of her past and identity that makes this novel stand out. The two investigations intertwine and overlap in exciting and surprising ways before leading to shared, satisfying conclusions.

Of course, a mystery with such focus on the protagonist’s personal journey could not succeed without a compelling lead character and Mo LeBeau fulfills that requirement with ease.  I absolutely adored Mo from the very first page; she is a whip-smart, hilarious, and incredibly sympathetic narrator & protagonist.  Her voice is fresh and authentic, capable of making you burst into laughter one moment and become choked up with emotion the next.  Additionally, the supporting cast of characters could easily have become flat stereotypes of the traditional ‘quirky Southern townspeople’ but Turnage carefully reveals their human complexity as events unfold.

Overall, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage is an utter delight to read and in Mo LeBeau, Turnage has created a character that will live in readers’ memories and hearts for years to come.

5/5 STARS for excellent character development, a strong & unique narrative voice, and an engaging plot!

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