The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage

The author of 2013 Newbery Honor winner Three Times Lucky, Sheila Turnage, has a new book set in Tupelo Landing and featuring the world famous Desperado Detective Agency, run by detective Moses (Mo) LoBeau and her sidekick Dale Earnhardt Johnson III.

Mo is a high-powered, rush in where angels fear to tread, dynamo of a sixth grade detective, and her partner Dale, who must be told when not to answer rhetorical questions, “has a flair for the obvious.” Together, they bait a bona-fide ghost girl, search for a still-working still, and talk straight to some very crooked crooks. While Miss Lana and Grandmother Miss Lacy accidentally purchase a haunted and dilapidated inn, Mo and Dale try to interview the ghost for extra credit on their history project. And somehow the new boy in town, Harm Crenshaw, becomes a friend and ally in their interview and detective endeavors.

I’m now anxious to go back and read the first novel featuring Mo and Dale, Three Times Lucky, so I guess that’s as good a recommendation for this one as there could be. The ghost in the novel is a real ghost, so if you don’t believe in ghosts or if you just don’t want them in your children’s books, this one would be a skip. However, I’d recommend swallowing the ghostly visitor, not to mention the ghost cars that I hadn’t mentioned yet, whole, for the sake of the characters and the descriptions.

Here’s a few samples of Mo’s take on life, and love, and detecting, exerpted from the text nearly at random:

“Anna Celeste liked Dale for a few days this summer and then dumped him like a truckload of bad meat. She about broke his heart.”

“‘Rat Face,’ I muttered. I would have said more, but Miss Lana don’t allow cursing. She does allow the creative use of animal names.”

“Friday evening, as I sat in my room contemplating the evils of fractions in general and common denominators in particular, my vintage bedside phone jangled. ‘Mo’s flat, Mo speaking,’ I said. I possess killer telephone skills.”

“When it coms to homework, the only excuse Miss Retzyl takes is Precise Death–death that happens to the Precise Student and not to a relative. If they have known relatives.”

“When the lunch bell finally jangled, I cut Dale from the stampede and edged him toward the hall. I didn’t ask about the test. Dale is to word problems as ship is to the Bermuda Triangle.”

“Usually I have a river of words flowing in me. Now my river ran dry.”

“Before long, we all got good. Lavender looked like a movie star, dancing with Miss Retzyl’s sister, and then with every woman and pre-woman there—including me. ‘You look beautiful, Mo,’ he said, holding out his hand. ‘Dance with me?’
Even the stars smiled.”

Like the samples? You’ll like the book. It’s got what Mo would call “voices smooth as butter and moves sweet as Miss Lana’s blackberry jam.” You won’t want to miss it.

QOTD: Do you like ghost stories? What’s your favorite ghost story?

Jinx by Sage Blackwood

Jinx is your basic, orphaned in the forest, boy hero, who becomes a wizard’s apprentice. Jinx’s curiosity is, of course, sometimes too much for his capabilities. It all reminds me of this scene from Fantasia:

I really enjoyed Jinx. It’s a story with lots of questions–and elements from various old stories:
Who is Jinx? Why and how does he “see” people’s emotions and “hear” the language of the trees in the Urwald (forest)?

Is Simon Magus, the magician to whom Jinx becomes a servant, evil or good? What about his wife, Sophie? Who is she? What is the place she comes from, Samara?

Why can’t Jinx read Dame Glammer the Witch the way he reads others’ thoughts and feelings?

What is the Terror that the trees of the Urwald are afraid of?

What is the curse that binds Jinx’s new friends, Elfwyn and Reven? And how can their respective curses be removed?

Is Jinx also cursed? How?

Who is the Bonemaster? Will he help–or is he even more evil than Simon?

Lots of questions. If you read to the end of the book, you’ll get some answers—and be presented with a new set of puzzles, a perfect set-up for the second book in the planned trilogy, Jinx’s Magic.

Jinx is one of the books nominated for the Cybils Award in the category of Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. The winners of the Cybils will be announced on Friday the 14th, Valentine’s Day.

Andi Unexpected by Amanda Flower

51FJbLEKjeL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Andi Unexpected reminded me of the simple mystery stories I read when I was nine and ten and eleven years old, nothing profound or even memorable, just a good solid mystery story for middle grade kids who like that sort of thing.

After the death of their scientist parents in the jungles of Central America, Andi and her older sister Bethany move in with their Aunt Amelie. While cleaning out the attic, Andi discovers a hidden closet and a mystery. Who is the mysterious Andora, who shares Andi’s name? Why does no one want to talk about her? Why are the local museum director and a history professor from the nearby college so interested in Andora’s story?

I felt as if a few of the plot points were a little rushed or unexplained. Andi says at one point that Andora is her great-aunt, but I wasn’t sure how she knew this bit of geneological information. I never understood how Andi’s parents decided to name her Andora after a mysterious woman that, according to the story, no one really knew by that name. Nevertheless, for fans of The Boxcar Children or series mysteries of that genre and reading level, Andi Unexpected may be just right. It looks as if Andi Unexpected is itself the beginning of a series.