Middle grade is one of the most charming age-group genres out there. I love that middle grade is unencumbered by love triangles. I love that kids get to be more than cardboard stand ins. Further, I like how fresh the middle grade section feels. While I usually stick to my fantasy fare, I found myself utterly won over by the contemporary Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. There are a myriad of elements that made Three Times Lucky really work for me.
When Moses ‘Mo’ LoBeau was a baby, an awful hurricane hit her town and her mother sent her downstream in a basket where she ends up in Tupelo Landing. Mo lives with the Colonel and Miss Lana. An enterprising sixth grader, Mo helps out at the Colonel’s Cafe with best friend Dale. When a detective rolls up into town investigating a murder, Dale becomes a suspect. It is up to the two, Mo and Dale, to clear his name and find the real murderer. Obviously there is more to the plot of Three Times Lucky, but I firmly believe the best parts are discovered on your own and not for me to regurgitate it to you.
Mo LoBeau is totally legit for a kid. She drives a hard bargain when it comes to selling food at the cafe and is quite the salesperson. Yet, she’s got this softness and vulnerability when it comes to the identity of what she deems to be her upstream mother. Mo consistently sends messages or rather, letters in bottles to her upstream mother hoping that one day she will learn who her real mom is. As an adult, it’s a little heartbreaking to read, but ahhhh ultimately, ultimately I can’t tell you anything! Anyways, the side of Mo that I like BEST is her courageous side. She’s tough as nails when it comes down to it and does not back down. Further, Mo has a kind streak to her rather than a mean streak and she is not afraid to speak out against injustice. She’s the sort of heroine I love reading about.
Perhaps the most charming element of Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage is the small town setting. Tupelo’s Landing has diverse residents with STRONG PERSONALITIES. From Lavender, Dale’s older brother who is a race car driver and mechanic (also Mo is in love with him) to the mean girl Anna Celeste Simpson who is totally stuck up to beautiful Miss Rose (Dale’s mom), Tupelo’s Landing is peppered with awesome. The residents come together in a pinch and watch out for each other. Plus, the town is set right on the coast. Yet, the residents aren’t millionaires or anything, just humble hardworking folk. It’s a total Southern town, or at least what I would imagine a Southern coastal town to be.
As for the audiobook production, I thought it was well done. The late Michal Friedman narrated the whole 7 hours and 57 minutes of the unabridged Three Times Lucky. Friedman changes her voices for each of the characters, yet maintains a North Carolina twang throughout the whole audio. I loved her voicing of Mo, she did earnest kid so well. Penguin Audio has produced quite the charming audiobook. I think if you like middle grade, mysteries and the South, you’ll like Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.
Disclosure: Received for review.
Other reviews of Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage:
Story Snoops – “would make a great read aloud”
The Scribbler In The Rye – “Mo’s voice is so unique, so touching, and so hilarious”
Book Nut – “There’s a little something for everyone here”