Three Times Lucky

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Three Times Lucky
Turnage Three Times Lucky cover.jpeg
Author Sheila Turnage
Country United States
Language English
Genre novel
Publisher The Penguin Group
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 312 pp
ISBN 9780142426050

Three Times Lucky is a 2013 New York Times Best Seller adolescent novel by author Sheila Turnage. Three Times Lucky was a Newbery Medal Honor Book in 2013.[1]


Three Times Lucky is the story of Miss Moses "Mo" LoBeau, a sixth grader living in Tupelo Landing, North Carolina. Eleven years ago she has washed ashore during a hurricane. She is being raised by the Colonel and Miss Lana and together operates a cafe, along with Mo's best friend Dale. Since then, Mo has been sending numerous letters down the river, hoping her "Upstream Mother" would find them and tell her why she let Mo float down the river. The Colonel is one of the town's other mysteries. He lost his memory in a car accident the night of the same hurricane that washed Mo ashore. After Mr. Jesse, a local and main customer of the cafe is found murdered in his boat, Detective Starr is introduced. He isn't welcomed and many of the townspeople are very skeptical about him, especially the Colonel.

But the people of Tupelo are shocked when Dale and Mo go to the Colonel's house to find a packet. Mo takes a quick peek and finds old newspaper clippings. Before they have a chance to leave, Slate enters the house. They head toward the living room and run into Marla, Detective Starr's deputy, who points a gun at them. The kids tie her up and run away to Dale's house. They find Dale's drunk and angry father, Mr. Macon, physically assaulting his mother. As Dale threatens his father with a shotgun, the Colonel barges through the door. They tie up Mr. Macon. He tells them that Miss Lana is being held at Mr. Jesse's house. When the Colonel returns, Mo and Dale tie Slate up. Detective Starr appears at the door and safely has Miss Lana.


  • Miss Moses "Mo" Lobeau--A young girl who was abandoned during a hurricane eleven years ago. She helps run her adoptive parents' cafe while searching for her "Upstream Mother". She also is A witty and wise "rising sixth grader".
  • Mr. Dale Earnhardt Johnson III--Dale is Mo's best friend who "borrows" Mr. Jesse's boat; the same boat that he is found murdered in. He also works with Mo at the cafe.
  • The Colonel--He found Mo floating down the river during a hurricane eleven years ago. He was also in a car accident the same night he found Mo and has lost his memory.
  • Miss Lana--Mo's other guardian, and the Colonel's lover, who is kidnapped by Robert Slate.
  • Mr. Jesse--The frequent cafe patron who is found murdered.
  • Detective Joe Starr-- A lawman who comes into town to investigate Mr. Jesse's murder.
  • Robert Slate--The man who murdered Mr. Jesse and kidnapped the Colonel and Miss Lana.
  • Miss Rose--Dale's mother, who later divorces her husband.
  • Mr. Macon Johnson--Dale's alcoholic and abusive father. He is hired by Robert Slate to hide him and bring him food.
  • Marla--One of Detective Starr's deputies, who turned out to secretly be working with Robert Slate.
  • Lavender--Dale's older brother who left his parents house to live on his own after fighting with his father. Mo has a huge crush on him and hopes to marry him someday. He also drives a race car and has won a lot of races and money at the community racetrack.
  • Miss Retzel--Mo's teacher and Detective Joe Starr's girlfriend.

Critical reception[edit]

Many critics say Three Times Lucky is a one of a kind Southern-style novel. A writer for Kirkus Reviews claims that Sheila Turnage's first adolescent novel is "an engaging, spirit-lifting and unforgettable debut for young readers".[2] With a complex and multi-layered plot and its themes of romance, mystery and secret identities, readers of both genders will enjoy it. But some critics have mixed reviews. They believe it is hard to focus on reading when there too much plot. Throughout the novel, Turnage constantly introduces new characters, plots, and sub-plots which can cause readers to be confused about what the story is actually about. Jonathan Hunt of School Library Journal starts off by saying "the beginning is awfully slow",[3] suggesting that readers will have to plow through the first couple chapters before the novel starts to actually make sense. But Hunt reassures that "the story does pick up steam".[3] Carolyn Phelan of Booklist supports Hunt by saying "the pace quickens considerably as the mystery gains momentum, climaxing in an epic scene".[4]


Three Times Lucky started the series of books called the Mo and Dale Mysteries. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing came out in 2015, The Odds of Getting Even in 2017 and The Law of Finders Keepers in 2018.


  1. ^ "Newbery Medal and Honor Books: 2010s". American Library Association. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  2. ^ "THREE TIMES LUCKY by Sheila Turnage." Kirkus Reviews. Dial, 28 Mar. 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.
  3. ^ a b Hunt, Jonathan. "Three Times Lucky." Heavy Medal. N.p., 21 Oct. 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.
  4. ^ Phelan, Carolyn. "Booklist Online." Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage. Booklist, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.