Three Times Lucky

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage tells the story of a young girl, Moses (“Mo”) LeBeau, and her adventures in the small town of Tupelo Landing. A hurricane swept Mo away when she was a baby and she wound up in Tupelo Landing. (Since then, Mo has been searching unsuccessfully for her “Upstream Mother.”) Mo’s current family acts a little odd–she lives with her substitute parents (the Colonel and Miss Lana) behind the town cafe. The Colonel, who lost his memory and found Mo in the hurricane, hates lawyers and often leaves town abruptly. Miss Lana, who loves to dress up, also tends to leave without any notice and never learned to drive. Mo and her best friend Dale plan to have a “normal” summer, fishing in a boat Dale stole from their grouchy neighbor Mr. Jesse. Unfortunately, soon after Dale returns the boat, Mr. Jesse is found dead in it. Consequently, Mo and Dale decide to become the “Desperado Detectives,” and try to solve the mystery along with the real detectives and deputies (who are not so thrilled about having them tag along).

The quirky characters really bring this story to life. I’ve already mentioned the unusual habits of the Colonel and Miss Lana. Mo knows karate, can’t keep her mouth shut, and specializes in peanut butter. (“This morning we’re offering a full line of peanut butter entrees. We got peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and raisins, and a delicate peanut butter/peanut butter combination. These come crunchy or smooth, on Wonder Bread, hand-squished flat on the plate or not, as you prefer.”) Dale, on the other hand, is totally oblivious; he can’t tell the difference between rhetorical questions and actual inquiries, and thus tries to come up with responses to exclamations such as “What is the world coming to?”

The ending disappointed me. When the murderer was revealed at the end, I expected (and even wanted) to feel betrayed and shocked by his/her identity. I wasn’t. In addition, the conlusion of Mo’s search for her “Upstream Mother” did not satisfy me, even though Mo seemed happy with it. The only thing I liked about the ending was finding out the Colonel’s occupation before he lost his memory–that made me laugh.

Three Times Lucky is wonderful and engaging, but has an unsatisafactory climax and resolution. This is a good book, but with a few tweaks it could have been a whole lot better. I would recommend this book to fourth or fifth graders, since it is around their reading level, although an older audience would probably enjoy it as well.


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