The mystery genre is so popular with adults, you’d figure there would be more of it written for modern children. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were so big way back when. What happened? But it could be that kids mysteries are making a comeback. In YA at least, there is a recent shift from paranormal and dystopian to thriller.
Let’s talk about a special mystery series that I love love love!
For a quality series that occupies a place all its own on the bookshelves, one that will appeal to girls and boys alike — and their moms and dads — look no further than Sammy Keyes ! These terrific tales will do more than just entertain; they’ll help kids find their place in the world.
The Sammy Keyes Series by Wendelin Van Draanen
I can’t tell you how much I love the Sammy Keyes series. Wendelin Van Draanen has created one of my most beloved fictional friends. This long-lived middle grade mystery series is coming to completion this fall when the 18th and final volume releases on September 9th.
The series follows Samantha “Sammy” Keyes through the tumultuous years known as junior high. Sammy is a thoroughly modern girl, and therein lies much of her appeal. She’s no prim and proper Nancy Drew. Sammy’s got moxie. She’s a sassy, free-spirited, high top-wearing, impulsive skater girl — with a penchant for getting into scrapes — who always finds herself in the middle of sticky, and sometimes dangerous, situations. More curious than even that famous fictional simian, Sammy is never satisfied until she’s uncovered the truth.
With the exception of book 18, these stories are narrated by Sammy, and her voice is all her own — clever, candid, and incredibly funny (though sometimes not intentionally so), and, thankfully, authentically youthful. Van Draanen assembles a strong supporting cast of characters, including Sammy’s Grams, Grams’ friend Hudson (the coolest old guy ever), her best friend Marissa, her arch-nemesis Heather Acosta, and others you’ll come to love (or love to hate!).
If you decide to try a Sammy Keyes volume, do it right! Start with book 1, Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, and work your way through the series chronologically. (See Wikipedia for help.) Rather than taking Sammy on random episodic adventures, the series is linear, and it’s a real treat to watch Sammy learn and grow. You’ll find that, though the mysteries will keep your interest, it’s Sammy’s life experiences that will grab your heart. Sadly, the books come to an end without following her to high school, but Van Draanen will tie things up nicely and answer some important questions before closing Sammy’s last chapter.
Reading a Sammy Keyes book has become as comfortable to me as Sammy’s trusty, love-worn high tops. I’ve only read the first eight (I love the series too much to rush through it), and I can already tell you I’m going to cry when it’s time to say goodbye to Sammy. For now, when I need a friend and a laugh, I grab each successive book off the shelf and hangout with my unflappable friend.
— Dawn Teresa
As a footnote, I wanted to include this photo I saw on Pinterest (original credit unknown). Though her shoes aren’t high tops, this young girl just feels like a real-life Sammy Keyes!