• Happy birthday D. J. Chaconas (A Hat for Lilly), Avner Katz (The Little Pickpocket), Jonathan London (Froggy series), and Peter SĂ­s (The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain).
  • It’s the birth date of Wanda Gag (1893–1946), Millions of Cats, and Ezra Jack Keats (1916–1983), The Snowy Day.
  • In 1824 the United States War Department creates the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney.
  • It’s Johnny Appleseed Day. Read Johnny Appleseed Steven Kellogg, Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh, illustrated by Kathy Jakobsen Hallquist, and Johnny Appleseed by David L. Harrison, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka.

The game’s afoot! This weekend in Cape May, New Jersey, one of my favorite events of the year, Sherlock Holmes Weekend, takes place. Anyone lucky enough to attend can don Victorian garb and stalk gas-lit streets to solve an intriguing mystery. I myself always want to go, if only to wear one of those great Victorian hats. In honor of Sherlock Holmes Weekend, let’s look at a 2012 mystery, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, a Newbery Honor Book.

In her first novel for young readers, the author launches the story in a compelling fashion:  “Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt. Almost before the dust had settled, Mr. Jesse turned up dead and life in Tupelo Landing turned upside down.”

This voice of Moses LoBeau carries the readers off on a fast-paced, page-turning adventure. Always an optimist, Mo has been anticipating a glorious summer. She looks forward to karate practice and helping out at the local café in Tupelo Landing, North Carolina. But things don’t turn out as anyone anticipated after one of the café customers is found dead.

Mo had actually thought she could focus her summer on a mystery of her own. After a hurricane eleven years ago, she was rescued as a baby from the water and raised by Colonel LoBeau and his girlfriend Miss Lana. But Mo would like to find her real mother and sends out messages in bottles with the hope that her missing parent will surface.

Both plots converge in a totally satisfying mystery—one with a great narrative voice, quirky and eccentric characters, and a lot of humor. Mo and her best friend Dale Earnhardt Johnson III not only set out to solve the murder case but also create a detective agency, Desperado Detectives, of their own. Lots of red herrings, suspicious doings, and confusing events get thrown into a story that will challenge even the best mystery sleuths. Well-written mysteries have always been hard to come by for ten- to fourteen-year-olds, and Three Times Lucky combines craft with intrigue.

If, like me, you can’t be at Cape May this weekend, share Three Times Lucky with the children in your life. I myself can’t wait for the next book about Mo LoBeau and Tupelo.

Here’s a passage from Three Times Lucky:

I stood up straight, the way Miss Lana taught me, and draped a paper napkin over my arm. “This morning we are offering a full line of peanut butter entrees,” I said. “We’ve 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 a plate or not, as you prefer. The special today is our famous peanut butter and banana sandwich. It comes on Wonder Bread, cut diagonal on the plate, with crust or without. What can I start you with?”

“The special,” he said.

“An excellent choice. Hand-squished or fluffy?”


Originally posted March 11, 2013. Updated for .

Tags: Award Winning, Newbery
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Three Times Lucky


  1. I really loved this. Read with my 5th grade girly a few months ago and we both adored Mo and the crazy collection of characters in Tupelo Landing. From Lavender, her BFF’s older brother that Mo pines for, to the ladies in the diner and her own patchwork family, you can’t help but want to know them all. Throw in a murder mystery and it just works really well.

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Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.

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