Tag Archives: Dial Books

Review: Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Three Times LuckyThree Times Lucky
Sheila Turnage
Dial Books
Published May 10, 2012

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Mo LoBeau, rising sixth grader in the tiny town of Tupelo Landing, turns detective when a local man turns up murdered. Mo and her best friend Dale figure they can locate the killer before that nosy outsider detective has time to finish his lunch at the café. After all, Mo already has experience searching for things, most particularly her “Upstream Mother” who set Mo on a raft and sent her down the river to the Colonel and Miss Lana as a baby. Mo and Dale follow clue after clue in the murder investigation, even as a hurricane barrels toward them. When Mo’s guardians disappear, she realizes she must find the killer before he adds the people she loves most to his body count.

I’ve had this book on my bookshelf for a ridiculously long time, and I’m only sorry I didn’t read it sooner. I absolutely loved it. Three Times Lucky is all the things you want in a Southern Story: interesting food, quirky characters, an adorable small town, and an unforgettable narrator. I loved the entire cast of characters. The mystery unraveled at a perfect pace. The story was equal parts humor and heart. The setting felt like a place you would recognize the minute you stepped out of your car.

This is a perfect read for middle or late elementary-aged readers. It would make a great story to read aloud or listen to on a family vacation. Definitely a must-read and one of my favorites this year.

Recommended for Ages 8 up.

Cultural Elements
Tupelo Landing, the setting of the story, is a small very Southern town peppered with quirky Southern people. The cast reminded me a little bit of the townspeople in To Kill a Mockingbird or Lucky Strikes.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None. Mo does note that Dale swears, and comments that the way things are going, she might start anytime, but no curse words are printed in the story.

Romance/Sexual Content
Mo adores Dale’s older brother Lavender and teases him about marrying her someday. He and his buddy spend some time with twin girls, but Dale and Mo seem pretty oblivious to anything that really happens between them.

Spiritual Content
The local pastor agrees to hold a funeral at the church for a man even though he never attended services there. Brief references to prayer.

Mo writes letters to her Upstream Mother—the woman she believes gave birth to her and then set her on a raft and placed her in the river, where the Colonel later found her.

Violent Content
When Dale’s father gets drunk, he gets violent, and hits Dale and his mother. Mo knows about it because she sees the fallout, but she doesn’t witness it happen. At one point she does witness Dale’s dad threatening to hurt him.

Mo stumbles onto a murder weapon (the victim died of blunt force trauma.) Later, as they search for a kidnapping victim, Mo and Dale discover a bloody handprint.

Drug Content
Dale’s dad gets drunk on multiple occasions. At one point Mo and Dale see him driving and worry that he may be driving drunk.

Review: See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

See You in the Cosmos
Jack Cheng
Dial Books
Published February 28, 2017

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

From Goodreads

11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.

My Review

See You in the Cosmos is told as if it’s the transcripts of Alex’s iPod recordings. I loved the unique format and the rambling voice Alex had, but it also meant for lots of long paragraphs which made the pages a little harder for me to read. Struggling readers might have trouble with this, too.

At the beginning of the story, 11-year-old Alex takes a train by himself to a convention where he hopes to launch his rocket. I loved his bravery and how innocent he was in taking off on this journey like it was nothing (his maturity and independence definitely reminded me of Willow from Counting by 7s.) But as I read the story, I was so nervous about his trip. I have an 11-year-old, and kept thinking about how terrified I’d be for her to be riding trains across the country and traveling with strangers. Obviously Alex finds great friends along his journey, and his trust in the world pays off in that way. I struggled—he did not.

I thought the reveal of the family situation (don’t want to give it away) pulled a lot of things together. Just as I started thinking, wait, this isn’t right, the pieces fell into place and Alex learned what was really going on. The one character I really didn’t connect with was his brother. I thought he did some odd things that really didn’t add up.

I loved the fact that Alex was so interested in rockets, but I wished there was more about those mechanics and his plans in the story. Most of the focus ends up being about his hopes in extraterrestrial life and his relationships with his family and community, which were also enjoyable themes. If you liked Counting by 7s, add See You in the Cosmos to your list.

Recommended for Ages 10 up.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
“Bleep” appears instead of any profanity.

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Alex meets a new friend who is Buddhist and has taken a vow of silence. He communicates through writing on a small chalk board.

Violent Content
One young man punches another in a fight over a girl. Alex is injured in an accident and hospitalized.

Drug Content
Alex’s friends (who are much older) drink alcohol. Later, one of them listens to the recording Alex made while they were drinking. She hears herself in the background talking and feels embarrassed about her behavior. She expresses regret for drinking in front of Alex.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.