The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage is a fun juvenile novel about a duo of sixth graders who are the Desperado Detective Agency. The first thing that struck me was these ain’t no sixth graders. I used to teach them way back, and they don’t talk like this, act like this, or use this sophisticated language. What the hey. This is going to be fun in a made up world of sixth graders made by a good adult writer helping us wish we were like this when we were in sixth grade.
Mo and Dale are the agency. Mo is an orphan and Dale lives with his mom and his dad is in jail. They work at a diner, so they are in the middle of all the gossip in this 147 person town and they get tips.
Yikes the pedantic pedagogue in me is going to emerge. In Chapter Eighteen, Dale exclaims he hates English. No problem, Mo comes to the rescue. He asks, “What is an analogy again?” Mo replies that Miss Retzyl, their sixth grade teacher calls them, ‘double-barrel comparisons.’ YIKES!! Then Mo goes through a couple of examples without much explanation. A huge missed teaching moment by our author who dares to venture into a teaching moment so unprepared as to do damage and to continue the mystery of analogies and teaching. Here the author should have had Mo refer to her notes from class to explain to poor Dale what an analogy was. For example she should have explained the basic concept of how they are about relationships. What is the relationship of the first pair so you can solve the second pair. What is the relationship between the two in the first pair? Opposites, degree, type, characteristic, synonym, part/whole, tool/worker, action/object, item/purpose. Mo could have helped Dale with analogies and helped the young reader in a teachable moment. Alas it was lost by our author. For more on analogies check out a page I used. There are great links to more pages on analogies for the enquiring student, especially this one. I found most students hated English because it was a mystery. Demystify the stuff and bingo you have a lover of English. Dale is still in the dark about analogies, since Mo is doing it for him. Dale needs to do them and understand why. The pitiful one he creates is not believable, it is an accident, because he doesn’t know why it is an analogy. End of rant.
No, actually not end of rant. This book sucks. The reviews suck. To compare this to To Kill a Mockingbird is a travesty. This book is immature. When I taught this grade level in the late 70’s, my students read Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha. American education has been so dumbed down a book like this exists and seems to have a following, YIKES!!! Harper Lee should be rolling in her grave and screaming.
I’m retired and thankful for that. This is the kind of crap NCTE would herald as new wave. This author won a Newbery Honor, YIKES!!!!