Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception

Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception

4.9 37
by Wendelin Van Draanen

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

The artsy crowd thinks Sammy Keyes has a lot of nerve showing up at a fancy reception in high-tops. But when she tackles a robber who's brandishing a gun with one hand and pulling paintings from the wall with the


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

The artsy crowd thinks Sammy Keyes has a lot of nerve showing up at a fancy reception in high-tops. But when she tackles a robber who's brandishing a gun with one hand and pulling paintings from the wall with the other, they're glad she has nerve. Or are they?

Sammy may have stopped one criminal, but the real crime at this show has yet to be discovered. The real crime is more subtle, more artful, than anything Sammy's ever seen. Who knew art could be so dangerous?

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wendelin Van Draanen's Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception marks the eighth title about the spunky detective. To fulfill an assignment, the sleuth attends an art opening. When a bandit crashes the event and yanks paintings from the wall, Sammy attacks. But the real detective work begins when Sammy seeks the truth about a so-called painter. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Feisty seventh grader Sammy Keyes is sleuthing again—this time solving a crime in the art world. At a local art gallery reception that she attends with her grandmother and their 72-year-old friend, Hudson, a robber ties to steal one of the artist's paintings. Realizing the robber is armed only with a water pistol, Sammy comes to the rescue. The would-be robber escapes, but when the artist does not want the police to investigate, Sammy—and her Grams—become suspicious. Hudson's interest in the artist whose work was the robber's target only upsets Grams and further motivates her and Sammy to uncover the truth. In addition to the mystery, Sammy wrestles with her school relationships, including with nemesis Heather and Heather's older brother, Casey, the boy Sammy likes, and seeks to understand the meaning of art and friendship. Sammy is a delightful character, full of sass and energy and unafraid to speak her mind, whether to a rude artist or her best friend, Marissa. The complicated mystery plot keeps readers guessing and the ending satisfies on multiple levels. Another book in the series, Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, won the Edgar Allan Poe award for best children's mystery fiction. 2005 (orig. 2003), Dell Yearling/Random House, Ages 10 up.
—Valerie O. Patterson
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 2003: This is the eighth book about Sammy Keyes, the middle-school sleuth who lives with her grandmother while her mother pursues a film career in Hollywood. For an art project, Sammy goes to an art gallery to try to understand what art is, accompanied by her grandmother and 72-year-old Hudson. A relationship seems to be forming between Grams and Hudson, but then Hudson develops a crush on one of the artists featured in the exhibit, making Grams furious. It is this artist who becomes the focus of the mystery of the book. How can such a selfish, small-minded person be capable of producing such wonderful paintings? Meanwhile, Sammy's social life at school is changing. The menace Heather still makes Sammy's life miserable, but Heather's brother Dan seems especially interested in Sammy—and this is confusing. There is a Renaissance Faire, and a play. Throughout, the story offers what we expect from a Sammy Keyes mystery: smart young people who are independent thinkers. Grams' character is developed more thoroughly in this story, and we can see where Sammy gets some of her strength and intelligence. The thorough discussion of what makes art meaningful is quite an achievement. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Random House, Dell Yearling, 272p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Claire Rosser
Irrepressible, spunky heroine Sammy is back solving the mystery of an art gallery theft in this eighth title of the Sammy Keyes series. Sammy's school assignment is to interview a professional artist and learn what art is about. She attends an art gallery premier with her grandmother and older friend, Hudson, but the event is interrupted when a bandit attempts to steal local artist Diane's paintings from the wall. Sammy foils the robbery and then pairs up with her grandmother to discover why the thief would want only this particular artist's work. They discover that the art world is full of petty, competitive people and that Diane might not be as blameless as first believed. Their investigation is further complicated by other characters who have hidden motives. Propelled by numerous plot twists, sneaky characters, and intrigue, this story does not have as much adventure and daring as other series titles. The danger does not seem convincing, and the potential villains do not appear wicked. More an insightful study in character, this installment features the gutsy Sammy relentlessly investigating, analyzing, and using the little information she has discovered to successfully solve the mystery. The middle school subplot of cat fighting between Sammy and her nemesis, Heather, and Sammy's crush on Casey provide a realistic backdrop and will involve readers. Sammy is still a funny, smart, and independent character who will keep readers cheering and waiting for her next adventure. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2003, Knopf, 272p,
— Eileen Kuhl
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Wendelin Van Draanen's eighth title in the Sammy Keyes series (Knopf/Borzoi, 2003) finds the middle-school detective solving the mystery of an art gallery theft. Sammy is attending a gallery event with her grandmother and elderly friend, Hudson, when she foils an attempted robbery. She finds an unlikely ally in her grandmother, who is more fully developed in this story. Grams and Hudson seem to be developing a relationship until Hudson becomes mesmerized by the victimized artist. Although she is distracted by bother her grandmother's love life and her own, Sammy eventually unravels the mystery. She discovers that the art world is not unlike junior high school with its own share of intrigue, backstabbing, and confusion. Tara Sands does an excellent job of narrating the story, infusing Sammy with just enough attitude for a seventh grader. Mystery fans will enjoy the plot and interesting cast of characters.-Katherine Devine, Westminster Academy, Elizabeth, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Shenanigans take a back seat to affairs of the heart in this teenaged Sherlock's eighth outing. Assigned to find and analyze "art" at either a local gallery or an upcoming Renaissance Faire, Sammy tries both, and stumbles into a tangle of vicious intrigue, inflated egos, hidden motives, and general bad behavior-not unlike junior high school, where Sammy continues to be whipsawed by encounters with archenemy Heather Acosta and her friendly, disturbingly attractive brother Casey. Having foiled an attempted robbery at the gallery that looks more and more like a setup, Sammy smells something fishy-and finds an unlikely ally in her grandma, with whom she lives illegally in a seniors-only apartment, and whose budding romance with Sammy's septuagenarian confidante Hudson seems headed for the rocks after a charming artist turns his head. Despite robberies, shocking revelations, mysterious strangers, and pumped-up language ("Anyhow, I blasted over to art class, and the minute I blew through the door . . . "), Sammy's preoccupation with Gram's love life and getting her own feelings for Casey in order, along with ruminations about good art vs. bad, orient this episode more toward character and personal issues than its suspenseful, danger-laden precursors. Still, thoughtful readers will understand from Sammy's anguish, when she sees a work of art that had moved her profoundly destroyed by its larcenous owner, that there are moral felonies at least as wicked as the more conventional legal kind. (Fiction. 11-15)
From the Publisher
“Sammy Keyes is the hottest sleuth to appear in children’s books since Nancy Drew.”–The Boston Globe

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sammy Keyes Series
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


March is windy in Santa Martina. And my theory is, it does something wicked to the air. Maybe it whooshes up devil dust and pixie pollen, I don't know. What I do know is, if you're a quiet, in-your-seat-when-you're-supposed-to-be kind of person in February, by the middle of March you'll be antsy. Hyper. Like all you want is to get outside and tear it up in nature's big gust bowl.

Which I guess is why I wasn't completely flattened when Marissa charged me out of nowhere between classes, practically swung around my neck, and cried, "Guess what!"

It's the kind of thing you learn to expect in the middle of March.

So I just hitched my backpack back on my shoulder and said, "What?"

"Danny wants to meet me at the Faire!" she says, whirling around with her arms spread wide.

"The Renaissance Faire?" I ask her, because Ms. Pilson's been talking it up all week in English class, saying it'll "tune our tympanic membranes" for some play her Drama Club is putting on next week.

Hop-hop, hippity-hop Marissa goes, like a manic March hare. "Yeah! Can you believe it? Can you even believe it?"

Well, no, I couldn't. Danny's one of those cool dudes, you know? The kind who walks cool and talks cool and even puts his jacket on cool. And since Marissa's a sucker for guys who put their jackets on cool, well, she's been sizzling for Danny Urbanski since elementary school. But since he's an eighth grader and we're only in seventh, I just figured it would never happen. Even if he did like Marissa. It would be too, you know, uncool to go out with a seventh grader.

I guess my eyebrows were stretched up pretty good, because Marissa giggles like you wouldn't believe, then runs off, saying, "Maybe Casey will ask you!"

I yell after her, "Shut up! He's Psycho-Heather's brother, remember?"

She just laughs over her shoulder and waves, and that's when I realize I'd yelled really loud. I mean, kids all around are looking at me, and I can tell--like lightning to a rod, this is going to find its way back to Heather.

I hurried off to class thinking, when, when am I ever going to learn to watch what I say? Especially at school, where gossip is king, and Heather Acosta is queen.

At least that's what she's angling for. Right now she's more like the evil step-princess or something, wearing her crown jewels all up and down her earlobes. But there's no doubt about it--that girl wants to reign supreme.

Anyhow, I blasted over to art class, and the minute I blew through the door, I could tell that our teacher Miss Kuzkowski had been outside, mixing it up with nature.

Now, Miss Kuzkowski is not real tidy looking to begin with. I think her hands are permanently stained with paint--especially her cuticles and under her nails. And even though she wears a smock and a beret when she's showing off, mixing up colors on her fancy wooden palette, she still manages to get paint in her hair and on her clothes, too.

But today she looked even messier than usual. Her hair was ratted around everywhere and falling over one eye--it was wild! She was all out of breath, too, rosy-cheeked and smiling. "Hi, guys!" she says when the tardy bell rings. "Glorious day, isn't it?"

Everyone peels off their backpacks and sort of eyes each other.

She notices some green paint on the heel of her hand and starts rubbing it away as she says, "Guys, I've been thinking . . ."

Half the class groans, because we know that when Miss Kuzkowski thinks, the rest of us suffer.

"Hang on! You're going to like what I have to say." She gives up on the paint and straightens her posture. Her hair, though, is still totally shock-waved. "I do think our section on art history was a good idea, only I've decided you're bored by it because you're not experiencing it. You don't feel it, ergo, you don't get it."

No one argued with that. For days she'd been putting us to sleep with endless names of painters and their different styles. You know--Gothic and Renaissance and neoclassicism and impressionism and post-impressionism and who-knows-what-else-ism. It was worse than regular history with Mr. Holgartner, and that's saying something.

It was also the opposite of what I'd wanted when I'd signed up for art. I was looking for a class where I could do something, not just sit like a brick, taking notes.

Anyway, Miss Kuzkowski's up front, pacing away, saying, "So I've decided . . . I've got to give you an assignment that will make you experience art. Feel art." She whips the hair out of her eyes, then clamps on to her podium with both hands and says, "Talking about art is like talking about the weather. What makes it come alive is actually experiencing it."

Tony Rozwell interrupts her with, "Does that mean we're finally gonna get a new project?"

"Yes," she says, shooting a finger up in the air. "But first I want you to walk with art, be with art, listen to your heart and spend time feeling art."

"Are you talking like at a gallery or something?" Emma Links next to me asks.

"Yes! Now, I know Santa Martina doesn't exactly have a fine art museum, but there is a gallery, and there just so happens to be an artist reception at--"


It was the loudest burp I'd ever heard. I swear the windows shook. Snap went twenty-seven heads. Gasp went twenty-seven mouths. And when we spotted little Trinity Jackson at the back table with her hand over her mouth and her cheeks on fire, twenty-seven kids all busted up.

Miss Kuzkowski stares at us a minute as we try to quit laughing, then she closes her eyes, shakes her head, and says, "Scratch that idea."

"Scratch what idea, Miz K?" Tony asks her.

"Never mind," she grumbles. "I don't need you embarrassing me in front of people I admire." Then she takes a big breath, and it's like she's putting the winds of March right back in her sails. "My other idea is probably much more in keeping with your level of appreciation anyway."

We all look at her like, Well?

"My other idea is that you should all go to the Renaissance Faire this weekend."

"The Renaissance Faire?" Matilda Grey asks.

"Yes!" She was definitely reinflating. She starts breezing around the room, saying, "Have you guys ever been? It's fabulous! The food, the atmosphere, the entertainment . . . you could have fun and learn about art."

"How art?" Emma asks her.

"There's an amazing amount of art, and the fabulous thing for you is, a lot of the artists are right there, in the booths! Think of the questions you could ask . . . think of the insight you could gain . . ."

"Think of the money you could lose," Tony says. "Last year it was like ten bucks to get in."

"Well, that's true," Miss Kuzkowski says. "So of course I can't make you go. But I would highly recommend it as a fun way to do your assignment."

We all look at her like, What assignment?

She smiles at us. A wicked, oh-it's-so-much-fun-to-torture-you smile. "Go to the Faire or check out a gallery. Choose an artist and either research them or interview them. Your marks will be higher for an interview with details about their process. Classify the art, then tell me how it affects you and why you like it or don't like it."

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

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.

Wendelin Van Draanen is the winner of the 1999 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Children’s Mystery Book for Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief and lives with her husband and two sons in California.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
deathhound More than 1 year ago
man i wish i had this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it it deserves 6 stars.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just grabbed this book at my school's library because they said to borrow a booke for SSR. I thought this book would be boring but, I LOVED IT! Im goingn to try reading every single book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A goodstory that is funny intriging andshocking
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is funny and it pulls you in from the very beginning. The end is sort of shocking and sad though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I luv sammy keyes! I recommend this book to everyone! I want to get hightops right now just like sammy! Also I think that she kind of deserves a better life, but then she wouldnt have the awesome life that she has now!:)
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The art of deception is a little more boring than the rest of the sammy keyes series. Nonetheless, I thought it was a great unpredictable mystery. But then again, this book isn't the best of Wendlin Van Drannen. You may want to take a look at others before reading this one. It is a wonderul book with a suspense that keeps you reading. A treat for sammy keyes fans!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the ART OF DECEPTION!!!! I couldn't put it down!!! It was so good! Sammy Keyes are the best!! I loved the whole mystery and the situation between Sammy and Casey( her archenemy's brother! It's the best book ever!!