‘Three Times Lucky’ by Sheila Turnage is a fabulous middle grade read


Rating: 5 stars

“Three Times Lucky” by Sheila Turnage is a story so full of fabulous characters that when the last page is read and the book closed, the reader will feel almost lonely.

Mo (short for Moses) and her best friend, Dale, and the many quirky characters who reside in Tupelo Landing (population 148) come to feel like friends.

Mo has a problem. She doesn’t know who her mother is. Mo was found as a baby, floating down a creek during a hurricane (hence her name, Moses).

Luckily for Mo, she lives with the Colonel and Miss Lana, a wonderfully colorful couple who will charm and amuse readers with their clever conversation and unexpected actions.

Turnage does love her mysteries, and she adds mystery upon mystery in this story that unfolds as slowly as syrup running down a warm pancake — although Miss Lana calls them “crepes” in her cafe.

Mr. Jesse, a neighbor, is killed and Mo and Dale decide to track down the killer. Finding the killer becomes rather more important when Miss Lana and the Colonel disappear.

Does it have to do with a recent bank robbery? Will Mo find out who her upstream mother is? Where did Colonel come from? And will there be a happy ending?

All these questions and more will be answered by reading this charming and clever story. Turnage’s writing is overflowing with simile and metaphor. Her imagery is keen: “I hear whispers the way a knife-thrower’s assistant hears knives.”

Her characters show strength while at the same time having all-too-human flaws. While Mo has her issues being literally a foundling, Dale struggles with an abusive alcoholic father, and Mo’s archenemy deals with a nagging cruel mother. When Mo is drowning in self-pity, he points out that he’s sick of hearing about her “Upstream Mother.”

‘“You think you’re the only person that ever got thrown away?” he said. “You think Anna Celeste doesn’t get thrown away every time her mother looks razor blades at her? You think I don’t get thrown away every time Daddy…”’ The unspoken words Dale doesn’t utter are “beats me and my mother when he’s drunk?”

This is a great book for children from fourth grade through seventh grade. It’s also a great read aloud. Students will love learning about Southern terminology as well as Southern cooking (fried baloney sandwiches and sweet tea).

Visit Sheila Turnage online for more information about this delightful author.

Please note: This review is based on an advance readers copy provided by the publisher, Dial Books for Young Readers, for review purposes.