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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, written by Sheila Turnage. Kathy Dawson Books, Penguin. 2014. $18.99 ages 10 and up

""What was that, Dale?" I said I'll sing," Dale said. "And play my guitar if I learn it good enough. If anybody wants me to." "I do," said Sal. "Then it's settled," Miss Lana said. "This is just what we need to help us focus." "She's right," Dale told his brother. "Stress focuses you right up until it sucks your brain dry. Standardized testing taught me that."

I think that I should tell you right up front that I am eternally grateful that I read both books about Tupelo Landing this summer. In this follow-up to Three Times Lucky, I was ever thrilled to be back with these amazing characters in their quirky, lovely town.

Mo and Dale are still in charge of the Desperado Detective Agency; they don't have a lot of work. When an old inn is sold at auction to an inattentive Miss Lana, their next case presents itself in the form of a ghost. Who is she? Why is she there? Coincidentally, their homework assignment is to interview someone from the past. Extra credit will be given to whoever interviews the town's oldest member. They determine the ghost to be the subject of that homework because 'ain't nobody older than dead'. As they begin to do their research, they make some interesting discoveries and uncover a number of secrets. Those secrets must be revealed in order to solve the mystery that the ghost has put in their path.

It was wonderful to slip right back into the lives of those friends I had met so recently. Once again, I found myself savoring the writing talent of Ms. Turnage. Once again, I read with highlighter in hand and 'messed up' a novel with bright orange markings. I read the passages out loud to myself again and again, even reading them to my grown children in daily calls to Winnipeg and Victoria. They laughed with me, and indulged my enchantment with each of the wonderful characters.

Mo's voice is so strong and entirely fresh and original. Please indulge me as my kids did:

"Few people know it, but waitressing is like deep cover - with tips."

"Miss Lana's built tall and slender. I'm built more like a roller derby queen, but that could change at any minute. Puberty happens."

About the subject for their interview, their teacher suggests family as a resource. Mo is quick to let the audience know that she and Dale lack in that area:

"Dale stopped breathing. Dale and me both run short on elders. Mine live somewhere Upstream. His are mostly Up the River."

Are you willing me to stop? Okay, only one more:

"The problem with having a temper is you find out what you're going to say at the exact same minute everybody else does."

Please...just this:

"Dale always claimed two speeds for forgiving: fast or never. I suspect he's developing a new gear just for his daddy. One that grinds slow. Real slow."

You need to read this to your students and children, then put it on your 'keeper' shelf. That's where my copy is, and I will be very careful about lending it. I want to read it to my new grandbaby when he or she is old enough to hear it, and we will find wonder in it together!

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