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Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls Paperback – June 12, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—When Sammy and her friends cut through the graveyard on Halloween, they encounter a boy running away from a mustard-colored car. In the excitement, they wind up with the boy's bag, which has two skulls in it. As they begin to investigate, the friends come face to face with knife-wielding maniacs, corrupt morticians, grave robbers, missing people, and a caretaker who's vanished. What's going on in Santa Martina? Are the disappearances and the skulls linked? Narrator Tara Sands's distinct intonations are engaging. Her unique narrative style complements the author's humorous writing style. The interwoven plotlines are brought together expertly to create a fun page turner. VERDICT This is a terrific listen for avid and reluctant readers who enjoy humorous mystery and adventure.—Jessica Moody, Olympus Jr. High, Holladay, UT --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Praise for the Sammy Keyes series:
“Van Draanen offers such an explosive combination of high-stakes sleuthing, hilarity, and breathlessly paced action that it’s impossible to turn the pages fast enough.” —Kirkus Reviews
“There’s no stopping Sammy.”—Publishers Weekly
“An intelligent, gutsy, flawed, and utterly likable heroine.”—Booklist
"Move over, Nancy Drew—a new sleuth is on the scene.”—Girls’ Life
"Think a combination of Carl Hiaasen’s Flush and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books and you’ll be right on target.” —School Library Journal
“A high-quality, high-amp mystery series.” —The Horn Book
“This funny, clever series is NOT for kids only. I challenge the most seasoned mystery reader to guess ‘who done it.’” —Cozies, Capers, and Crimes
“Sammy Keyes comes armed with attitude.” —Orlando Sentinel
“Sammy doesn’t find mysteries to solve—they find her.” —Arizona Republic
“Humor, romance and adventure; this story is an absolute blast.” —Chicago Tribune
“If you haven’t met Sammy Keyes yet, now is the time.” —Children’s Literature
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Sammy and the gang stop short when they spot a beast-like creature dashing through the gravestones. The creepy figure turns and starts racing right at them, so they hide behind tombstones. When it sees the "zombies" behind the gravestones, the intruder tries to run away. Instead, he trips over Billy. Now Sammy can see that, instead of a beast with wings, it's a man wearing a poncho, and there's another man with a shovel chasing him. The man in the poncho (Sammy dubs him El Zarape in honor of his serape) drops his trick-or-treat sack and runs away. Billy, claiming he's not too proud to keep El Zarape's candy if he doesn't want it, carries the stranger's bag as they head for the nearest gate.
However, their cemetery adventures are not at an end. They see an old car driving through the graveyard. Sammy voices her fears that it's the ominous "Shovel Man," unleashing many bad (yet hilarious) jokes and puns from Casey and Billy. In order to get out of the cemetery, the group must climb over the vehicle while it's rolling through the gate. Sammy happens to see the driver's face, and he doesn't just look angry at the kids climbing over his car, he looks literally murderous.
As frightening as their encounters in the graveyard have been, it's nothing compared to Sammy's next encounter with her nemesis, Heather (aka Casey's sister)...but then, that's nothing new. Sammy is distracted from Hurricane Heather when she spies police cars parked across the street and realizes someone attacked the guy who had been loudly preaching on the corner. Sammy's friend, Officer Borsch, is on the scene; he tells Sammy that Preacher Man claims a cop beat him up. This arouses Sammy's suspicions since she knows someone who dressed up like a policeman for Halloween.
It's been quite the exciting Halloween so far, but what happens next rattles the entire group. Back at Hudson's, they are sorting through their trick-or-treat loot when Billy empties the sack the poncho-wearing stranger dropped. Out roll two skulls. At first they decide that the skulls are --- obviously! of course! --- fake. But it isn't long before Sammy discovers that they're actually real. Coincidentally, three people have gone missing from their town within a month. Hmm.
While Sammy wrestles with secrets she must keep from people she cares about, she discovers that strangers are following her. In the meantime, she follows clues to the skull mystery through the strangest places, including a funeral parlor. Her relationship with Casey adds the perfect mellow complement to the plot --- just a tracery of romance that is quite realistic and never distracting.
Mystery lovers of all ages will devour SAMMY KEYES AND THE NIGHT OF SKULLS, as well as the previous books in the series. Sammy is likely to remind readers of Sue Grafton's sassy, plain-spoken sleuth Kinsey Millhone (who really should be Sammy's long-lost aunt; how perfect would that be?). Author Wendelin Van Draanen gives us an intriguing mystery, well-paced plot, and likable three-dimensional characters. She also doesn't flinch from provocative sub-plots with plenty of substance. Among other issues, Sammy comes face to face with her own heebie-jeebies about death, adding thought-provoking layers to a thoroughly enjoyable page-turner filled with both tricks and treats.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon
The story entertains its readers with quirky, relatable characters the reader cares about; quick-paced plot; witty language, and believable dialogue. The author deals with death and the beliefs and traditions of different cultures toward it in a sensitive, informative manner.
Van Draanen has served up another winner with this latest ghoulish adventure in her Sammy Keyes series.