At this point, I’ve read three of the nominees for Best Juvenile Mystery for the 2013 Edgars. This is my favorite so far. It’s got an unusual mystery told with memorable characters and an engaging voice.
Author: Sheila Turnage
Age group: Middle Grade
Synopsis: Moses “Mo” LeBeau, who refers to herself as a “rising sixth grader,” has been living with “the Colonel” ever since she washed ashore at Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, during a nasty hurricane. While Mo enjoys helping out at the cafe run by the Colonel and Miss Lana, she really wants to find her “Upstream Mother,” the one who set her in a basket Moses-style eleven years ago. Plans to find her birth mother get sidetracked when the small town’s local grouch ends up murdered, the Colonel disappears, and Miss Lana ends up kidnapped. Mo and her best friend Dale decide to start their own detective agency when a sheriff from a local big city comes in to investigate.
Does it pass the “Homeschool Mom Test“? In a word, yes.
This book gets two important aspects of middle grade literature really right: character and voice. The Colonel can’t remember his past. His hair’s cut in a close crop, his clothes are hung in the closet with military precision, and he refers to Mo as “Soldier.” Mo is working on writing her autobiography. She’s just begun a new spiral notebook titled The Piggly Wiggly Chronicles, Volume 6. She pens letters to her unknown “Upstream Mother,” and attempts to find her by putting messages in bottles and dropping them in rivers anywhere and everywhere she can, with the hope her birth mother will find it.
Bottom line? I’d buy a copy of this for my classroom, and I’d recommend it to kids who like mysteries or spunky girl characters.