The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage

Lynn:  The second case for the Desperado Detective Agency snuck up on Mo and Dale “dressed in the happy-go-lucky colors and excitement of an auction.”  Miss Lana goes off to the auction of the decrepit Old Tupelo Inn to buy an umbrella stand and comes home having bought the entire property – complete with its ghost!  Readers who loved the eccentric inhabitants of Tupelo Landing in Turnage’s Newbery Honor winner, Three Times Lucky (Penguin/Kathy Dawson 2013) will happily find Mo LoBeau in fine form, still bossing her partner Dale around, sticking her nose into everyone’s business (for their own good), taking orders at the cafe and writing letters to her Upstream Mother.  I loved Mo in the first book and but I think I enjoyed The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing (Penguin/Kathy Dawson 2014) even more.

Mo and Dale are rising 6th graders now and if ghosts and shaky real estate deals weren’t enough to manage with, their Tupeloteacher, Miss Retzyl, assigns them a written history of their community based on interviews with the town elders!  Dale is adjusting to his daddy being in prison, a snarky new boy moves into town and a moonshiner complicates everything.  Mo and Dale volunteer to interview the ghost at the Old Tupelo Inn and we’re off on a new adventure.  Mo narrates again and her turns of phrases crack me up.  Turnage does a wonderful job with dialog.  Mo is brash, outrageously confident and in-your-face with all the subtly of a buzz saw, all the while revealing far more than she realizes.  I feel as if I’ve known these engaging characters always.

The mystery comes together nicely with all the pieces fitting in place as the Desperadoes triumph again  – with a lot of help from their friends.  I loved being back in Tupelo Landing.  Don’t miss this great second episode with Attila, Grandmother Miss Lucy, moonshiners, Duesenbergs, ghosts and drunken mules.  Here’s hoping for many more!

Cindy: We recommended Three Times Lucky as a read aloud and it was also named as an E. B. White Read-Aloud Honor book. This installment will fare just as well. English language arts teachers will cheer the lessons to be had as Mo tries to teach Dale about figurative vs. literal language, how to distinguish when a question is meant to be answered or is a rhetorical question, and other subtleties of language. Passing History isn’t easy either when you select a ghost for your living history interview.

Interviewing a ghost is not an easy task, but as usual, Mo tells Dale she has a plan.

“Don’t worry, I got a plan.”
“Am I in it?” (Dale)
“Of course you’re in it.”
“Then I’m worried.”

When Nellie the ghost is late for the history project interview, Mo is nonplussed.

“We’ll give her an hour,”…”Eternity could be in a different time zone.”

Moses LoBeau, is wise for her age and as a result some of her observations will be especially appreciated by adult readers (like Richard Peck’s humorous historical fiction). For instance, when Mo is worrying about the case and can’t sleep:

Miss Lana says insomnia is life’s invitation to overachieve.

or

Nobody knows for sure if Sal actually files taxes. Dale and me suspect she fills out the forms for fun, same as Miss Lana does Sudoku.

But there’s plenty of kid in Mo, too. When suck up Attila sees her teacher at the cafe she announces that she can’t wait for school to start tomorrow. And Mo?

School. Tomorrow.
The words thudded into my heart like dull wooden stakes.

I’ve just started my summer break, so those words are not welcome here, either, but when school does start back up I’ll be ready to book talk this gem to my 6th graders. Like, Mo, though, I can wait a bit. I need a glass of sweet tea and a nap on the veranda.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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