'The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing' by Sheila Turnage proves that sequels (the first book was "Three Times Lucky") are not hard to do when you have a fine author who offers lots of imagination, a great setting, and strong characters. It's like going back home to visit with Mo (Moses) and Dale (her best friend) in their very small southern town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina.
It is perhaps not surprising that Turnage turned to ghosts in this second book. Before beginning the middle grade series, Turnage wrote a nonfiction book on ghosts of the Southeast. Well, that must have given her plenty of ideas on how to add a ghost to Mo and Dale's second adventure.
In the first book they solve a murder mystery while navigating the thorny path marked by the vagaries of social snobbishness. Both Mo and Dale are easy targets for cruel peers. Mo was found floating down the river after a bad storm. She has never found her parents although she loves Miss Lana and The Colonel (her unusual guardians) deeply. Dale's family -- especially his father -- feels like jail is a second home. His mother, Miss Rose, finally divorces his abusive father who is now in jail. Mo is in love with his older brother, Lavender.
This book begins with the end of summer vacation. There is a lot of excitement in Tupelo Landing because the old inn, which has been closed for decades, is being sold. In an unexpected turn of events, Miss Lana and Grandmother Miss Lacey end up buying the inn. It's after the sale that they find out (in the small print) that the inn comes with a ghost.
It's up to Mo and Dale (who is terrified of ghosts) and a new character, Harm, to solve the mystery of the ghost. The many characters who live in Tupelo Landing are still there and add to some of the zaniness of the story. Red Baker, the moonshiner, is also part of the mystery.
It's when Mo and Dale decide that for their history project they will interview the ghost that things get really interesting. Their joint endeavor, the Desperado Detectives, is ready to figure out who the ghost is and why she is hanging around.
The story is touching, humorous, and just plain fun. It's filled with examples of the best of human nature and some of the worst. It's about forgiveness, determination, and love. And most of all, it's about friendship.
Turnage's first book, "Three Times Lucky," received a Newbery Honor in 2013 and was named an Edgar Award Finalist for best juvenile mystery of the year. It was a New York Times Bestseller and was also named an EB White Read-Aloud Honor Book and SIBA’s Best Young Adult novel of 2013. "Three Times Lucky" was also selected a best book of the year by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Bookpage, Newsday, and The Wall Street Journal.
"The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing" continues the fine writing of "Three Times Lucky.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Kathy Dawson, for review purposes.
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