Sheila Turnage's Three Times Lucky is an excellent pre-teen mystery story.
Eleven-year-old Mo LoBeau and her friend Dale Earnhardt Johnson start a detective agency.
They investigate the murder of a ne'er-do-well man in their hometown Tupelo Landing, North Carolina.
Mo herself is an orphan. A Tupelo Landing resident found the infant Mo tied to a broken billboard washed up during a hurricane.
The Colonel and Miss Lana, two more left-out sorts, take Mo in. The three of them run the only restaurant in Tupelo Landing, a town of exactly 148.
The Colonel named Mo “Moses” because she came from the water. Then he gave her his last name LoBeau.
As it turns out, the murder ties in to the Colonel's past life. He too is an outcast. He hit his head in an automobile accident and remembers nothing of his past.
The story comes to involve a stolen half million dollars and how that half million got to Tupelo Landing. But if this story sounds tame, don't be deceived.
Dale's father beats Dale and his mother.
Mo wants desperately to find her mother. She collects empty bottles to put notes in. Then she asks traveling friends to toss those bottles into far away streams. She hopes her “real” mother will find one of her notes and call her.
The book's climax comes amdist hurricane winds and violence too.
Some have said the story is too violent for pre-teen readers. I don't agree. Some pre-teens (way too many) face violence in their homes. Many endure bullying (another theme in Three Times Lucky). And others see violence in games and movies. Very popular young adult books like the Harry Potter books or A Wrinkle in Time are violent.
Turnage fills her story with humor and hope. In a sense, Mo finds her mother. Dale begins to work out the problems in his life. And they both do it with strength and courage.
At the beginning of the book, Mo tells you why she thinks she is three times lucky. By the end, she knows how true that is and more so.
The Amazon page for this book tells me that Three Times Lucky was a Newbery honor winner, and Edgar Award finalist, and an E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor book.
I learned about the book from a fellow blogger. I'm glad I did.
QUOTATIONS FROM THREE TIMES LUCKY--
When Dale sings, even the wind stops to listen.
The Colonel told Mo--
“We're born over and over, day by day. When you feel lost, let the stars sing you to sleep. You'll always wake up new.”
Dale can choose not to worry like he chooses not to wear socks.
I never forgive. I like revenge too much.
“We can't change the past, Soldier. We can only be grateful for the life of a new day, and move on”
--The Colonel to Mo.
“Without strife, we had nothing.”
--Mo describing her relationship with an uppity classmate.