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Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes

Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes

4.7 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

Sammy's softball team is in contention for the Junior Slugger's Cup, and all she wants to do is hunker down behind the home plate and catch strikes. But Heather Acosta brings new meaning to the term "foul ball" as


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

Sammy's softball team is in contention for the Junior Slugger's Cup, and all she wants to do is hunker down behind the home plate and catch strikes. But Heather Acosta brings new meaning to the term "foul ball" as she schemes to get Sammy kicked off the team.

Then Sammy is thrown a wild pitch by a frantic girl at the mall. The girl asks Sammy to watch her bag and dashes off before Sammy discovers that the bag she's left holding contains a baby! When the girl doesn't return, Sammy decides to go find her. A heart-pounding search ensues, and leads to some situations that are definitely not covered in the softball playbook.

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 Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Wendalin Van Draanen's teenage sleuth, Sammy Keyes, is up to her crackerjack detective work again, but this time, she's taken her investigation to life-threatening levels. When another teenager frantically hands Sammy her baby at the mall and then vanishes, the young gumshoe gets a quick lesson in motherhood and takes up the challenge of finding the mother. The trouble? A menacing creep Sammy's dubbed Snake Eyes, who was trailing the girl and who has all the markings of a gangster. Along with looking at possible suspension because of Heather Acosta's softball team sabotaging, Sammy realizes that in order to save the unknown girl's life, she must travel into gang territory and go eyeball-to-eyeball with the man who could determine her own fate.
Publishers Weekly
In the seventh addition to the popular Sammy Keyes series, the intrepid detective lays her life on the line when she hunts down her latest suspect, a reptilian-looking fellow. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
While at the arcade, a woman leaves a bag at the feet of Sammy Keyes, starting her on yet another mystery. This time, Sammy finds herself not only trying to crack the case but also trying to care for a baby. Her foe is a gangster named Snake Eyes, whose eyes are indeed as cold as ice. To make matters worse, a new neighbor has discovered that she is living with her grandmother, some girls at school are scheming to get her kicked out of the softball finals, and she just might have a crush on her archrival's brother. It is a lot for one girl to take on, but Sammy handles it with the help of her best friend, her grandmother, and a local police officer, although not without occasionally straining a relationship here and there. Sammy is a flawed but likeable heroine who finds herself in a lot of trouble while learning about serious issues, such as local gang culture. Although there are several subplots to keep track of, they are handled with style and some humor while managing to keep readers turning the pages. Readers will be engaged by Sammy and relate to her struggles in school. Although part of a series, this novel can stand on its own. Nevertheless it might take readers a while to figure out the living situation between Sammy and her grandmother, but all is made clear in the end. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, Knopf, 192p,
— Karen Jensen
Children's Literature
Sammy Keyes' previous escapades haven't prepared her for this! There she is, at the mall with her friend Marissa, a place she doesn't even want to be, and some girl hands her a shopping bag with a towel covering the contents. The girl is being stalked by a guy with "hatred for eyes" and "steel for a mouth." When the girl slips away, the man comes right up to Sammy and she notices his tattoo of a cobra with eyes like dice. Sammy is afraid to look in the bag until after he leaves and then she and Marissa are astounded to find a baby hidden under the towel. Sammy has a complicated life already because she lives in a senior residence where kids aren't allowed, so she has to sneak in and out of her grandmother's apartment. Now she has to sneak a baby in until she can figure out what to do. Sammy becomes embroiled in a plot with the abandoned baby, the teenaged mom and a vicious gang leader. Although it's difficult to believe that her grandmother would let her keep a stranger's baby, even for a short time, the story will keep kids turning the pages as Sammy rushes from one adventure to the next at breakneck speed. 2002, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House,
— Carolyn Mott Ford
Mystery lovers will enjoy this new episode in the Sammy Keyes series. Sammy gets into trouble once again when she accepts a package from a girl in danger. In the package is a baby! When mom doesn't come back like she promised, Sammy has to figure out what to do. This is one mystery that may cost Sammy her life; she is not the only one looking for mom. A gang member is also looking for her and finds Sammy instead. Sammy calls him Snake Eyes because of the tattoo he has on his arm. The secondary story line continues the rivalry with Heather. The softball championship game is coming up and Sammy is framed for defacing the other school's property. Taken off the team unfairly, Sammy needs to prove her innocence. She won't get it done in time to play in the game, but Heather finally gets her comeuppance. Finding the baby's mother is harder and more dangerous because after Sammy finds Lela, Snake Eyes finds Sammy and locks her up with Lela. They manage to escape through an ingenious plan involving a water heater and Quikcrete. While Sammy is not my favorite kind of heroine; she gets herself into trouble, all the while telling you she knows she shouldn't be doing what she's doing; my students love her. KLIATT Codes: J; Recommended for junior high school students. 2002, Random House, Dell, Yearling, 277p.,
— Stacey Conrad
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-The unconventional girl detective is back in her seventh adventure. The upcoming Junior Sluggers' Cup tournament is all Sammy's friend Marissa will talk about, so Sammy suggests they go to the arcade to take her mind off it. While there, Sammy is literally left holding the bag as a stranger, who is frantically trying to hide from a scary-looking man, asks her to watch a bundle. Inside, the junior sleuth finds a baby. After a difficult night, she turns the infant over to her friend Officer Borsch. However, she now feels that she must find out who and where the baby's mother is before she is hurt (or worse) by the man with "hatred for eyes" and "steel for a mouth." The search takes Sammy and Marissa into the gang-infested parts of Santa Martina. In addition to this problem, Sammy's nemesis, Heather Acosta, is pulling her usual nasty tricks while at home trouble is brewing in the form of Mrs. Wedgewood, Sammy's grandmother's new neighbor. Sammy's search for the baby's mother rises to a frantic pace as she and Marissa risk their lives and the tournament to solve this latest case. A must for all Sammy Keyes fans, this book also stands alone and will make readers dash back to the library to read the first six.-Yapha Nussbaum Mason, Brentwood Lower School, Los Angeles Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The navel-ring generation's Nancy Drew gears up for another all-out dash into peril that begins at a video arcade in the mall, and almost ends in a boarded-up basement, looking down the barrel of a gun. There's not a dull moment to be found here. A new neighbor noses out Sammy's illegal residence in her grandma's seniors-only apartment, old adversary Heather Acosta gets her and her friends kicked off the softball team just before a major tournament, a frantic teenager passes her a bag with a baby hidden inside. Moreover, a chilling punk "hatred for eyes. Steel for a mouth," and a snake tattoo is relentlessly stalking her. Thanks to some sturdy friends, and a winning combination of guile and good intentions, Sammy ultimately comes out on top. But first she learns more than she ever wanted to know about baby care in one endless overnight, and then drags reluctant but doughty sidekick Marissa into gang territory for a series of scary encounters that lead to a wild, daring rescue. Readers unfamiliar with Sammy's earlier escapades may stumble over some continuing plot threads, but along with a cast of thoroughly likable, or thoroughly despicable, characters, each of whom gets exactly what he or she merits, Van Draanen offers such an explosive combination of high-stakes sleuthing, hilarity, and breathlessly paced action that it's impossible to turn the pages fast enough. (Fiction. 12-15)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sammy Keyes Series
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
650L (what's this?)
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


I don't generally hang out at the mall. It's full of biting shoes, shrinking clothes, and useless knickknacks. It's also crawling with poseur kids who think it's their private stage for rehearsing public coolness. Please. I get enough of that in junior high.

But the Santa Martina mall also has a video arcade, and if you know anything about my best friend, Marissa, you know that video games are the only thing that'll make her quit talking about softball. And since we're in the middle of gearing up for the Junior Sluggers' Cup tournament, softball is all Marissa's had on her mind. For weeks. She's working up plays, she's practicing after practice, she's even talked Coach Rothhammer out of her home phone number so she can run ideas by her in the middle of the night. You have to know Ms. Rothhammer to understand the significance of this--nobody's got her number, and I mean nobody. She teaches P.E. and eighth-grade science, and she's got a reputation for being really strict and really private. Like, is she married? We don't know. Does she have kids? Dogs? Horses? Flower beds? Nobody knows. I'll bet Vice Principal Caan doesn't even know, that's how good she is at being private.

What I do know about Ms. Rothhammer is that she's the one person who wants to bring home the Junior Sluggers' Cup as much as Marissa does. Probably for different reasons--like, I know Ms. Rothhammer couldn't care less about us winning the school a party day. More likely it has to do with showing up Mr. Vince, who told her she'd never get her hands on the cup. Of course, that was last November, after our team beat his team in our school's playoffs, so maybe she's forgotten all about that.

Then again, maybe not.

Anyway, the point is, Marissa McKenze has been the Softball Czar for weeks, and the past few days it's been driving me batty. And maybe I should've just said, "Marissa, enough! There's life beyond softball!" but I do live in Santa Martina, a town where everyone from Heather Acosta, Princess Prevaricator, to Mayor Hibbs, Sultan of City Hall, is into the game. So much so that people play year-round. Rain or shine, mud or flood, people play.

So instead of telling Marissa something she'd never buy into anyhow, what I said was "Hey, you want to go to the mall and play some video games?" And since I'm never the one to suggest it, she said, "Are you kidding?" and off we went.

Now, I'm not big on playing myself. I don't have the quarters to spare. So while Marissa's seriously invested in the skill of electro-badguy annihilation, I'm more an observer than anything else. Sure, I'll play a few games just to keep her happy, but pretty much I'm a peanut gallery of one.

Good as she is, though, I get bored and wind up looking around at other stuff. People, mostly. And let me tell you, there are some pretty strange people in the arcade. I'm not talking about the kids, either. They just strut around, cussing and stuff, acting like they'll take you down if you look at them wrong. Like they could actually catch you with the way they wear their pants halfway down their butts.

No, the adults are strange. It's men, mostly, and mostly they look the same--scraggly hair, faded band T-shirts, dirty jeans, and work boots. They come in alone, park themselves at the gun games, and shoot. They don't look at anyone or anything else, they just shoot. And good luck cutting in if you want a turn. I've seen kids try it, and let me tell you, it's dangerous.

Anyway, there I was, at four in the afternoon, surrounded by the noise of electro-fire, checking out the arcade clientele, when this girl with a big red-and-white Sears bag backs right into me. Hard.

Does she say, Sorry? Or, Excuse me? Or even turn around and look at me?


She whimpers, "Jesus! Oh, Jesus!" and drags that bag in close, between her feet. Her eyes are glued to the arcade entrance, and she's shaking. First it's just sort of a shiver, then a rumble; then she starts having her very own internal earthquake.

"What's the matter?" I ask her, but she still doesn't turn around to look at me. She just paws through her Sears bag and rearranges a yellow towel that's on top, then weaves the bag's cord handles together, shaking the whole time.

I look between the two video games we're standing in front of so I can get a clear shot of the entrance, but all I see is a bunch of people milling around outside.

This girl is melting down about something, though, so I say to her, "Are you all right?"

"No! Oh Jesus, no!" She turns to me, her eyes full of terror. "What am I going to do? He'll kill me! He'll kill us both!"

"Who?" And I'm thinking, Whoa, now! Why would he want to kill me?

She doesn't answer. She just stays behind cover while she checks out the entrance.

"Do you want me to call the police?"

"No!" She turns back to me, looking even more scared than she had before. "No!"


"Whatever you do..." Her shaking goes up a notch. "Oh Jesus, there he is!"


"Right over there!" she says, looking out into the halls of the mall. Only there are about thirty people roaming around out there. "Oh Jesus, what am I going to do? What am I going to do?"

"If you're that scared, why don't you let me call the police?"

She whirls around and says, "No! You hear me! They mess everything up. They put him away and now he's out! He's gonna kill me!"

"But if he's going to kill you..."

"Oh Jesus, here he comes." She looks around frantically. "Is there a back door to this place?"

I shake my head.

"How am I going to get out of here?" She goes back to looking outside, practically shaking herself to death.

Then I see him. I can just tell. It's the way he's walking. Slow, but, I don't know...tight. Like every step is for a reason and nothing better get in his way.

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 Search for Snake Eyes 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My absolute fave Sammy Keyes book. I've read it over a billion times! A must read book! For about my age of thirteen and older :)
Michelle Oneill More than 1 year ago
This is probly my favorite sammy keyes book!!! A MUST READ!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was AWESOME!! I couldn't stop reading it!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am addicted to these books. If you want a great novel or mystery pick up a Sammy Keys today! It gets you HOOKED! And no, there is no bad one...they are all good...I don't have a favorite...it's too hard to choose!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down! The suspence was killing me to find out what happened--snake eyes, pepe and the girl made Sammy look like a hero!
Guest More than 1 year ago
WOW!!!! You have done it again Sammy Keys!!! You amaze me every time!!! Keep it up!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not good enough for a whole five stars, but it was pretty good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My son, who is 11, and I love this series of books. This one tackles some difficult social issues, teen pregnancy and gangs, all in the context of a mystery. The young heroine has some life challenges of her own which makes her pluckiness all the more admirable. She does take some risks you wouldn't want your own child taking, but I found it gave my son and I a chance to talk about the risky choices and alternate choices a real person could make to be safe and still do help a person in trouble like the heroine strives to do. We can't wait to read every book in the series. Sometimes after he's fallen asleep, I just have to read ahead!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not the best book of the seiries but deffenatly interesting
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a must read so much suspense.about Snake Eyes and Lena (sorry 4 spoiler) a great book!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think sammy is actually a real hard core detective! In this mystery she gets herself into seriously dangerous situation like almost getting shot! The author did help us readers to understand how some peoples lives are in certain places though. I truely admire sammy because if l were in her place l wouldnt ever have half the courage and selflessness as sammy keyes always does. I wish her luck on her mysteries to come! (Even though l know she wont need it;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has got to be the best Sammy Keyes book yet. I love Sammy Keyes, I've read all of them.The story keeps you wondering what will happen next. I recommened this for everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
These are my favorite books of all time. I have read the whole series over three times. If i heard right there is supposed to be another book coming out this summer. Eeeeeeekkkkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am sooooooooooooo excited!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nella i can still chat with u on the nook i am going to the libary
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spongy36 More than 1 year ago
Was the best book so far!! I could not believe the ending! Im not telling... :)
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