Welcome to Tupelo Landing, N.C., which is fast becoming the Yoknapatawpha County of children’s literature. We first met smart, spunky Mo LoBeau, her guardians Miss Lana and the Colonel and their sharply drawn neighbors and friends in Sheila Turnage’s “Three Times Lucky,” winner of a Newbery Honor last year. In this sequel, Miss Lana and the town’s oldest resident, Grandmother Miss Lacy, impulsively buy and begin to renovate a derelict inn. Soon they’ve stirred up its ghostly inhabitant. Mo and her best buddy, Dale, delve into the hauntings, and in the process investigate a cemetery, a secret still and Dale’s imprisoned dad. This is marvelous storytelling, shot through with suspense and humor. At its center festers a long-hidden crime that affects Grandmother Miss Lacy and a snarky new classmate. Turnage eschews the “Sugars” and “Honey Chiles” of stereotypical Southern speech for an authentic style marked by easy rhythms, lively verbs and metaphors as crisp and tangy as homemade pickles. With just a few deft words, she evokes setting (a couch the “color of tired baloney”) and character (a cranky elder with a “lemony face” and “a bitter bun”). At the end, Miss Lana mentions that telling a secret can change the heart — and so, I might add, can reading this rich, rollicking novel.

Mary Quattlebaum


By Sheila Turnage

Kathy Dawson. $16.99.
Ages 10 and up

”The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing” by Sheila Turnage. (Kathy Dawson/Kathy Dawson)