From the Sammy Keyes Mysteries series , Vol. 18

A celebratory cruise leads to mischief and mystery for Sammy as she embarks upon a memorable journey.

In this second-to-last title in the long-running series, Sammy is in the midst of transition. In addition to her BFF Marissa’s impending move and her grandmother’s second marriage, Sammy has just begun establishing a relationship with her recently discovered father, Darren, who happens to be a famous musician. In honor of Sammy’s 14th birthday—and in an endeavor to further their relationship—Darren invites Sammy and Marissa to accompany him on a cruise where his band will be performing. Nautical life quickly becomes complicated for the irrepressible sleuth. After meeting JT and Kip, members of the wealthy Kensington family, Sammy and Marissa inadvertently become embroiled in their family drama. When the Kensington family matriarch goes missing midcruise, Sammy joins Kip in his quest to discover what happened to his grandmother. Van Draanen provides a satisfyingly convoluted mystery for Sammy—and readers—to unravel. Secret codes, greedy heirs and ambiguous clues test Sammy’s sleuthing mettle. However, at the center of this tale is the emotional journey Sammy takes as she navigates her fledgling relationship with her father. Their emerging bond reveals a new emotional dimension to the savvy teen. Van Draanen’s latest tale combines a fresh adventure and diverting mystery with a heartfelt storyline that enriches the series. (Mystery. 10-14)


Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-87054-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when...


Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.

Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light.

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16504-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.


The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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