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  • Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls
  • Written by Wendelin Van Draanen
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Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls

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Written by Wendelin Van DraanenAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Wendelin Van Draanen

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On Sale: October 11, 2011
Pages: 320 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89735-1
Published by : Knopf Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

"The most winning junior detective ever in teen lit. (Take that, Nancy Drew!)" —Midwest Children's Book Review

After being chased by a man wielding a shovel, scared silly by a mummy, and attacked by Heather Acosta, Sammy and her pals decide they've had their fill of monsters and head home to eat some candy. But along with bubble gum and chocolate bars, they discover something frightening in their trick-or-treating bags. Something that's definitely not sweet!

Before they know it, Sammy and her friends are following suspicious gravediggers, ghoulish embalmers, and shady undertakers. And somebody is following them . . .

The Sammy Keyes mysteries are fast-paced, funny, thoroughly modern, and true whodunits. Each mystery is exciting and dramatic, but it's the drama in Sammy's personal life that keeps readers coming back to see what happens next with her love interest Casey, her soap-star mother, and her mysterious father.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

ONE

Hudson Graham may be seventy-three, but he's the coolest old guy you'd ever want to meet. I mean, how many "seniors" will offer up their house to a bunch of teenagers to use as their Halloween headquarters? Most old people zip up their homes, shut off their lights, and hide in a back room until Halloween is over. They don't even hand out candy, let alone lend out stuff to help you transform into scar-faced zombies.

Dressing up as a zombie was new for me. I usually go as the Marsh Monster, with ratty green hair and marshy-looking clothes, but this year Casey and Billy were going trick-or-treating with Marissa and Holly and me, and they wanted to use super creepy makeup and blood capsules and fake scars and stuff, so just painting myself green seemed pretty lame in comparison. And after I jumped on the scar-faced zombie wagon, Marissa and Holly got on board, too.

Our friend Dot didn't want anything to do with our little death brigade. She said she was going to "reprise" her bumblebee costume from last year and take her little sisters around their neighborhood instead, but I think she just didn't want to risk another Halloween like last year.

Anyway, Holly, Marissa, Billy, Casey, and I all met at Hudson's house and had a blast painting and spraying and plastering scars onto each other. It got uuuuuugly! And even uglier when we put in our fake rotten teeth!

"You look hideous, darling!" Billy says to Marissa in a Count Dracula accent.

"And you're revolting!" Marissa says back with a laugh.

Then Hudson comes in with some old, worn flannels and a pair of scissors. "Seems you could use some tatters to go with those faces."

"Are you serious?" Casey asks him.

"Rip away," he says with a laugh.

So we put on the shirts, then we tear and tatter and, you know, destroy them, which really does a lot to complete our zombie look.

"Very gruesome," Hudson says as he lets us out. "You look like you're straight from the grave."

Billy hunches over like Quasimodo as we go down the porch steps, then makes a horrifying sound in his throat and says, "Let's go, my pretties!"

So off we go, racing from house to house, collecting candy in our pillowcases, and it didn't take long for Billy to really start hamming it up.

"Aaaaah," he'd gurgle when someone answered the door. "I think I'm . . . dyyyyyyyyying!" Then he'd grab his throat and stagger around, finally collapsing onto the porch. "Caaaaaaandy!" he'd gasp, holding up his sack. "Save me!"

The person who answered the door would always laugh, then give all of us two or three pieces instead of just one.

"You're the master at this," Casey tells him after about the sixth performance.

"And you, my pretty, are my slave!"

Casey laughs, "Dude, there's no way I'm your pretty."

"My pretty ugly, then!" Billy rasps. "But still my slave."

So we're all laughing and chasing after Billy as he scurries back onto the sidewalk, but we quit laughing quick when we find ourselves doing a domino-style bump-up into a cop.

It's pretty shadowy right there, so it takes a second for me to realize that it's not a real cop--it's just a guy in costume. And then it hits me that this fake cop is none other than Danny Urbanski.

Now, let's just say that Danny Urbanski doesn't need to dress up for Halloween. Anyone with two eyes can see that he's a snake. Trouble is, Marissa's two eyes don't focus where Danny's concerned. She's had a crush on him forever, and even though she knows he's a slithering sneak, she still can't seem to shake him.

"Dude!" Billy says to him. "A cop?"

Danny laughs. "Best way to stay out of trouble, man." He checks us all over. "You, on the other hand, are dead meat!" Then he laughs really hard at his own joke.

I hate the way Danny laughs. It's one of those forced, kind of hacking laughs that sounds like a lawn mower that won't start.

Ha-ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha.

Like he needs a new spark plug.

Anyway, Danny and Casey used to be really good friends, but not anymore. And I think Danny knows that Holly and I aren't exactly his biggest fans, so it was kinda awkward standing there in the middle of the sidewalk. Especially since Marissa was mortified to be looking so drop-dead ugly.

"Hide me!" she whimpers, then slouches behind me and Holly.

But Danny knows that Marissa and I are usually together, so he sort of leans around and says, "Marissa?"

Marissa spits her nasty yellow teeth into her hand and smiles at him. But all those white teeth flashing through warts and scars and peeling skin looks weird.

Like, extra creepy.

Danny laughs again. "Hey, beautiful. Wanna be my ghoulfriend?"

Now, he says this all, you know, suave-like, but there's also a hint of sarcasm to it and it's hard to tell--is he making fun of her? Or is he actually saying, You want to hang out with me tonight?

Or maybe this is his snarky way of apologizing for sucking face with that nasty Heather Acosta and flirting with every hot girl who walks by.

With Danny you just can't tell.

Anyway, Marissa obviously doesn't know what to say because she just stares until Casey comes to the rescue, asking him, "So who you hangin' with tonight?"

"I'm meeting up with Nick and some of the guys at the haunted house on Feere Street." Then he kinda throws a smirk at the rest of us and says to Casey, "I can't believe you're trick-or-treating, man."

What's totally implied in this is, I can't believe you're hanging out with these babies. See, even though we went to the same junior high, Danny and Casey are both freshmen in high school now. Billy would be, too, only he got held back a year, so he's stuck in eighth grade with us.

And I'm sure Casey's at least a little embarrassed by Danny's comment, but he doesn't show it. Instead he moves past Danny saying, "Hey, if I'm ever too cool for free candy, I really will be a walking dead man."

Danny lets out another one of his stupid fake laughs, then says, "Whatever, man. I'm heading over to the haunted house," and he takes a few steps before calling over his shoulder, "There'll be people from high school there."


From the Hardcover edition.
Wendelin Van Draanen

About Wendelin Van Draanen

Wendelin Van Draanen - Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls
Books have always been a part of Wendelin Van Draanen’s life. Her mother taught her to read at an early age, and she has fond memories of story time with her father, when she and her brothers would cuddle up around him and listen to him read stories.
 
Growing up, Van Draanen was a tomboy who loved to be outside chasing down adventure. She did not decide that she wanted to be an author until she was an adult. When she tried her hand at writing a screenplay about a family tragedy, she found the process quite cathartic and from that experience, turned to writing novels for adults. She soon stumbled upon the joys of writing for children.
 
Feedback from her readers is Van Draanen’s greatest reward for writing. “One girl came up to me and told me I changed her life. It doesn't get any better than that,” she said. Van Draanen hopes to leave her readers with a sense that they have the ability to steer their own destiny—that individuality is a strength, and that where there's a will, there's most certainly a way.
 
Her first book was published in 1997, and since then her titles have won many awards. Now in its sixteenth installment, the Sammy Keyes Mysteries have been nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Children’s Mystery five times, with Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief bringing home the statue. Additionally, she has won the Christopher medal for Shredderman: Secret Identity, the California Young Reader Medal for Flipped, and the Schneider Family Book Award for The Running Dream. Her books have been translated into many foreign languages, Shredderman became a Nickelodeon made-for-TV movie, and Flipped was released as a feature film, directed by Rob Reiner. She lives in California with her husband and two sons. Her hobbies include the “Three R’s”: Reading, Running and Rock ’n’ Roll. 
 
Fun Facts
Born January 6 in Chicago, IL 
 
Previous Jobs
Forklift driver, coach (sports), musician, high school math and computer science teacher 
 
Inspiration for writing
The past, the future, and the struggle for a happy ending!
 
Favorites
. . . food: sushi
. . . clothes to wear: Sneakers, shorts, and sweatshirts
. . . colors: Emerald green with a splash of midnight blue

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