About to be shipped off to San Diego while her widower dad goes on his honeymoon, seventh-grader Sherry (short for Sherlock) Holmes Baldwin prepares to put up a fight when she is contacted by her mother's ghost. Killed in the line of duty, her cop mother is flunking out of an afterlife law-enforcement academy, and she needs Sherry's help to crack a case at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. So what if Sherry, a self-proclaimed screwup, is nothing like Nancy Drew? ("Do I look like a strawberry-blond-haired teenage detective?" wisecracking Sherry demands.) Summy keeps the fizz in her effervescent premise for most of this debut novel, using a punchy first-person narration; story lines involving romances, movie stars, rhinos and egotistical chefs; and various eccentricities, including a late grandfather who assumes the form of a wren. Although the plot becomes too convoluted even for screwball comedy, Sherry remains entertaining, and readers will hope for a second caper. Ages 10-up. (Dec.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
With the help of her mother and her grandfather, both of whom happen to be deceased, Sherry Holmes Baldwin is out to stop an evil rhino killer. The seventh grader thought her trip to San Diego to stay with her great-aunt, along with her friend Junie and Junie's cousin, would be filled will sunbathing and shopping. That was until her mother's ghost appeared to her and informed Sherry that she needed help with an important Academy of Spirits assignment. If she fails to stop whoever is plotting to kill rhinos at the Wild Animal Park, she will be banished to an afterlife reserved for Academy failures. Unfortunately, the story is dull. There are characters who are completely irrelevant and who seemingly serve no purpose other than to make this book painfully long. Sherry may have solved the mystery in the end, but Nancy Drew she is not.-Robyn Zaneski, New York Public Library
In life, Sherry and her work-obsessed cop mother weren't much of a team, but when Sherry's deceased mom returns as a spirit several months after her death, Sherry can't deny her request to join forces in her quest to move on in the spirit world. It seems she's in danger of flunking out of the Academy of Spirits, a ghostly institution that trains the departed to watch over the living. Despite being named after Sherlock Holmes, Sherry feels more comfortable hanging out at the mall and generally shies away from mysteries and challenges, but as she gets drawn into her mother's task, Sherry finds that she can persevere under pressure, be incredibly resourceful and even shine in the limelight. The task involves saving a rhino at San Diego's Wild Animal Park that is being targeted for assassination-Sherry's mother's final assignment in Prevent a Crime class. Although so aggressively fluffy and self-consciously chick-lit-y that the narrative at times borders on hokey, Sherry's relationship with her mother's spirit and her own quirky personality elevate this text by adding sincerity and warmth. (Fantasy. 10-13)
Read an Excerpt
I slam my hand down on the paper.
Sucking in a deep breath, I peek under my palm.
A fat red F shimmers before my eyes, its wide arms swaying, mocking me, calling me lame names.
"How'd you do, Sherry?" the always-gets-an-A nerd behind me asks.
Scrunching my paper into a ball, I say, "Just peachy." Then I stand and swing my backpack over my shoulder. "I know more about genetics than I could ever use in this lifetime." Even with an F, I figure this is true.
Nerd asks, "What'd you get on the essay question?"
There was an essay question? It's so time to blow this formaldehyde stink hole. I shuffle down the aisle, the backs of my flip-flops slap-slapping my heels. As I pass the wastepaper basket, I drop my test in.
Then I give a mighty shove to the heavy metal classroom door. With a groan, it swings open onto the breezeway and fresh Phoenix air.
"Ow!" a male voice says.
Uh-oh. That doesn't sound good.
I look behind the door.
Ack. Major tragedy. I just door-whacked Josh Morton, the coolest, cutest eighth grader at Saguaro Middle School. In Arizona. Quite possibly in the entire Southwest. I've only been nonstop crazy about Josh since September, when I spotted him in a very small Speedo at a water polo game.
Hunched over and leaning against the stucco wall, he's holding a hand against his nose and groaning.
"I'm sorry, really sorry, really," I babble. "I just flunked a test and was kind of taking out my frustration on the door."
"Yeah?" He gives me a slight smile--well, more like a big grimace. Then, with a gorgeous shoulder, he gestures toward the door. "Science?"
"Yeah." I shrug. "Like that's even useful."
"I hear you." Behind his hand, Josh sniffs.
"You okay? Can I do anything?" I can't believe I attacked Josh Morton with a door. I can't believe I, a seventh grader, am finally talking to him. Nervously twirling a few strands of hair around my index finger, I add, "I feel horrible."
"I'm okay." He straightens, nodding. "I'm okay."
I take a deep breath and inhale a chlorine + soap scent. I love, love, love it. I absolutely must have some of this Eau de Josh for my locker.
"Sherry, right?" He raises dark eyebrows over deep blue eyes.
"Yup, yup, yup." I sound like the flags at the front of the school, fwapping in the wind against the pole.
"I'm Josh Morton."
Believe me, I so know who you are. "Hi."
I can't come up with anything else to say, but at least I look good in my jeans and my new long-sleeved, open-neck T-shirt that perfectly matches my lavender eye shadow.
He removes his hand from his nose. Then he wrinkles it like an adorable little bunny sniffing the air for lettuce or carrots.
This is the closest I've ever stood to Josh and, therefore, the first time I notice the sprinkling of freckles across his nose. I squint. Yes, if connected carefully, they'd spell out my initials.
"Is something wrong?" He's staring at me.
"Not at all."
Last month's Seventeen listed twenty suggestions for memorable first meetings with a potential boyfriend. Nowhere did they mention a brutal door-whacking encounter, but it seems to be working. I'll write a letter to the editor so they can add it as method number twenty-one.
Suddenly Josh clamps a hand firmly over his nose. With his free hand, he hauls his backpack up from the sidewalk. "Gotta go." Without even a glance at me, he's off and running.
I watch his shaggy hair bounce against the collar of his black Death by Stereo T-shirt, which rides up to reveal the grooviest plaid boxers above sagging jeans. Sigh. There's something about a guy who sags.
Then I see a dotted trail of blood in Josh's wake. Oh no. I follow the spatters to the nurse's office and stop outside the entrance. My stomach sinks like the Titanic.
I crushed the nose of the guy I've been crushing on for six months.
In my living room later that afternoon, I'm nestled in a beanbag chair, scarfing down a Hot Pocket. It's a pretty peaceful moment, with my eight-year-old brother, Sam, gone for practice at the ball field and my dad still at work.
Then I hear the garage door open.
Seconds later, Dad strides in, shoulders back. He has a big smile on his face.
"Sherry, we need to talk."
Ack. What's he doing home early? What do we need to talk about? He couldn't know about the sucky science test. No way the online grades are already posted. And he wouldn't be smiling.
Dad pops CŽline Dion, his fave lame singer, in the CD player, then sits across from me in his La-Z-Boy.
Ack. Eek. "What is it?"
He doesn't answer right away, just keeps grinning wide like a frog.
"Dad! Dad! Are you okay?" Then it hits me. "You won the Powerball! You're giving me a no-limit Visa card and a Corvette with a DVD player for when I can drive in three years. And you'll finally pay for me to get highlights!"
"Sherry"--my name comes out all distorted because of his stretched-out froggy lips--"Paula and I are getting married. On Saturday."
It's like he dumped smelly swamp water over my head. And my Visa card, cool Corvette and foxy highlights.
"Saturday!" I screech. "As in the day after tomorrow? You said it would be this summer at the earliest." And I'd been counting on him coming to his senses by then.
"I know, pumpkin. But, well, there's an unbelievable Internet special for Hawaii," Dad says, "and, like you, Paula has next week off for spring break. So we decided to move things up a bit. I'll tell Sam tonight."
I bury my head in my hands.
Paula, aka The Ruler, is a math teacher at school who really lives up to her nickname. She looks like a ruler--tall and skinny with ramrod-straight posture. And she's a major control freak. I mean, she hands out detentions like candy, and don't even try taking a cell phone into her class. Not to mention her annoying habit of constantly contacting the parents of struggling students. Which is how she hooked up with my dad.
I shudder to think she'll actually be part of my family. She already has too much influence over my dad. Which means she already has too much influence over my life. Basically, The Ruler loves rules. Rules about how many minutes I should read each evening, which TV shows I can watch, how much screen time I get, how much phone time I get, who I can hang out with, when I can get a MySpace. It's frustrating and nauseating and wrong.
And now full-on stepmotherhood is only two days away.
Dad's droning on and on about wedding plans and Internet specials and Hawaii and San Diego and me.
Say what? I lift my head and tune back in to discover he wants to banish me to my great-aunt Margaret's in San Diego, while he and The Ruler hit Kauai's beaches.
I stand. "I'm not going to San Diego." I zap him with a don't-mess-with-me look. "I have plans for spring break, important plans, plans that were planned eons ago."
"You are not ruining my life. I"--and I jab my thumb into my chest--"can do that all on my own."
From the Trade Paperback edition.