Kelsey can't resist collecting secrets in her spy notebookjust like her hero, Harriet the Spy. When she learns Leo has been hiding something from the group, she writes his secret in her notebook as well. But Kelsey accidentally brings her Notebook of Secrets to school and loses it. Everything she's collected about classmates, friends, and family could be released into the world! When she receives a ransom note, she tries to solve the mystery on her own but soon realizes she needs everyone in the CCSC to rescue the notebook, help a homesick 130-year-old Aldabra tortoise, and unmask a thief. A surprise ending changes Kelsey's life in a way she never imagined.
About the Author
Linda Joy Singleton is the author of thirty-five books for children and young adults, including YALSA-honored The Seer series and the Dead Girl Walking trilogy. She lives in California.
Read an Excerpt
Follow That Suspect!
My brother gets a phone call during breakfast. A guilty look crosses his face, and I know he has a secret.
"Got to go!" Kyle shoves his phone into his pocket as he jumps up from the table.
"But I'm making you another crepe Benedict." Dad frowns at Kyle. Chef Dad takes his cooking very seriously.
"Give it to Kelsey." My brother is already dumping his dirty plate and silverware in the sink. "A friend needs my help."
I study my brother, suspicious. Since we lost our house and moved into this apartment, all Kyle does is apply for college scholarships and study, study, study. He has zero social life.
"What friend?" I ask him.
"My buddy Jake really needs my help with, um, some heavy lifting. You remember him from our old neighborhood?"
Oh, I remember him all right. I also remember the distinctive ringtone Kyle assigned to Jake's number — a blaring disaster alert. But the ringtone I just heard was music. Either Kyle changed the ringtone or he's lying. I sense a big whopper of a lie. I don't know who called Kyle, but it wasn't his buddy Jake.
So I do what any spy would do.
I follow him.
Unfortunately I only take a few steps before Dad's voice stops me.
"Kelsey, are you leaving too?" He sounds hurt. "Aren't you going to finish your crepe?"
Drats. I've insulted Dad's culinary pride. Before Café Belmond closed, he was known as the best baker in Sun Flower. Now he can't find a job and is home way too much.
"The crepe was delicious," I say. "It's just that I have to —"
My brain goes blank. I have to ...
Seriously, a good spy needs to create a believable story in a split-second. And Dad is staring at me the same way I just stared at Kyle: full-on suspicious. I can't use school as an excuse because it's Saturday. I can't say I'm full because I didn't finish eating my crepe. The only reason Kyle got away so easily was because he'd already devoured four crepes.
"I'm late for a meeting at Becca's house." This isn't a lie. Leo sent a message saying he solved a mystery. (What mystery? I have no idea — it's a mystery to me!) He asked Becca and me to meet him at noon at the Skunk Shack. That's more than two hours from now, but a half-truth is more believable than a total lie.
"What sort of meeting?" Dad asks.
This is where belonging to a top-secret club gets tricky because I can't tell Dad about the Curious Cat Spy Club. Becca, Leo, and I started the CCSC to care for three rescued kittens. While our families know we're friends, they don't know we help animals by finding lost pets and solving mysteries.
But I can talk about the Sparklers, a school volunteer group that Becca belongs to. I touch the silver crescent-moon necklace that the Sparklers loaned me since I'm helping them plan a booth for the Humane Society fund-raiser.
"Becca and I are meeting to discuss ideas for the Sparkler booth," I tell Dad.
"She can wait until you finish your breakfast." He gestures to my plate. "Another ten minutes won't matter."
But in ten minutes Kyle could be gone.
When all else fails, resort to bodily functions.
"I have to go ..." I shift anxiously and glance down. "You know ... go."
"Oh." He nods, understanding. "Well, don't let me keep you."
Before he can say any more, I'm out of the kitchen.
I don't go farther than my brother's room, where I hear hurried footsteps and banging drawers. When the footsteps move my way, I dash across the hall and duck into the bathroom.
Cracking the door open, I spy on Kyle. Slowly, his door opens. He looks furtively up and down the hall, then steps out holding a large, white rectangular box.
What's in the box? It can't be very heavy or breakable since he tucks it under one arm before hurrying down the hall.
He's definitely up to something sneaky, and I'm going to find out what it is.
I wait until he's out of sight then rush into my room. I push a stool to the closet and climb up to grab the hidden green backpack. Slipping my spy pack over my shoulders, I race out of the apartment in pursuit of my brother.
A chilly wind, much too cold for early April in California, slaps my face and tosses my long hair into tangles. Should I go back for my jacket? No time. A glance over the second-floor railing shows Kyle at the bike rack strapping the large box onto his bike.
He jumps on his bike and rides off.
I run downstairs and hop on my bike to follow my brother.
My suspicions are confirmed when he doesn't make a right toward our old neighborhood where Jake lives, but a left toward downtown Sun Flower.
It's easy keeping up with Kyle, especially after he pulls over to adjust the straps holding the box to his bike. Also, he's big on obeying rules so he stops at every intersection, even when there's no stop sign.
Kyle is such a Percy, I think, remembering the sleepover when I played a game matching family members to Harry Potter characters with friends from my old neighborhood. My twin sisters are obviously the Patel twins. Dad with his cooking passion and high emotions is Mrs. Weasley. I couldn't decide on Mom since she's an animal lover like Hagrid and obsessed with gardening like Professor Sprout. But Kyle is definitely arrogant overachiever Percy.
I chose Luna for myself, but as I bike past familiar homes and businesses, I feel more like a character from my favorite book, Harriet the Spy.
I love the scenes when Harriet bikes on her spy route, jotting down what her neighbors are doing in her notebook. I keep a notebook too, not about what people are doing, but the secrets they hide. Becca knows I collect secrets, but I've never shown my notebook of secrets to her or anyone. Like Harriet's, my notebook is for my eyes only.
At a stop sign, my brother glances over his shoulder. Quickly, I duck behind a parked truck. Whew! He almost saw me. To be safe, I stay about a block behind him, keeping him in sight but not close enough to be noticed.
We're pedaling now through downtown Sun Flower, which isn't very big, just a few blocks of businesses. Kyle makes a left into a U-shaped mini mall. I pick up my speed, but when I roll into the parking lot, Kyle is gone.
Where did he go?
Straddling my bike seat, I peer up and down the mini mall. The entrance and exit open on this street, so Kyle has to be here. But I don't see him or his bike. Did he go into one of the businesses? Paul's Pawn Shop, Legal Eagle Associates, Friendly's Café, and Prehistoric Pizza are dark with closed signs. The only business open this early on a weekend is the sheriff's office.
I met Sheriff Fischer when the CCSC rescued stolen pets and helped a lost zorse. Sheriff Fischer is cool and doesn't talk down to kids. He's also a friend of Becca's mother. I don't see his official car in the parking lot, so he's probably out on patrol. There's no reason for Kyle to go into the sheriff's office. But the other businesses are closed, so where did he go?
Biting my lip, I can't decide what to do — until I spot a shadowed alley hidden between the pawnshop and the pizza place. Pedaling over, I stare into the dank-smelling tunnel of darkness. It's empty except for scattered trash and garbage cans. I unzip my spy pack and take out my flash cap. The tiny but powerful beam lights my way as I ride through the alley to a street behind the mall. There's no sign of my brother, only a few parked semis and vacant lots on a dead-end street.
Did Kyle know I was following him and purposely lose me?
He's long gone by now — and I didn't discover his secret.
It's too early to meet the club at the Skunk Shack, but I don't want to bike all the way back home. I'm close to Leo's house, and if I go there, we can ride to Becca's together. He might show me his latest robotic inventions. Leo's mechanical dragon drone and key spider are amazing. Also, I'm curious about the mystery he says he solved.
Coasting my bike into Leo's driveway is like leaving spring for winter. Everything is snowy white: the house, rocks decorating the yard, and lacy window curtains. His mother is obsessed with cleanliness, requiring guests to take off their shoes and use a sanitizer dispenser by the door. I wipe my sweaty hands on my jeans, smooth back my tangled honey-brown curls, and push the doorbell.
No one answers. But I know Mrs. Polanski is home because her car, a white Sorento, is parked in the driveway. I press the doorbell again.
And I wait.
A career as a spy requires a lot of waiting. Surveillance is just another word for waiting, and it takes a lot of patience. Piecing together clues and gathering evidence takes time too. But sometimes I get impatient.
If I had a cell phone, I could text Leo to find out where he is. But my parents can't afford phones for all four kids — and the youngest (me) is last in line.
As I try the doorbell again, I press my ear against the door to make sure the bell works. Yup, the muffled ding-dong echoes through the house. Yet no one shows up.
Sighing, I head back to my bike.
I'm grabbing my handlebars when the wind carries the sound of voices. Curious, I look around but don't see anyone. I cup my ear, listening. The voices come from the backyard.
Decorative flower-shaped pavers wind toward the backyard gate. Crouching down, I peek through a gap in the gate. Leo's mother is sipping tea with another woman at a white wicker table. The other woman has blond hair piled high on her head and wide blue eyes set in an oval face like Leo's mother. I suspect they're sisters.
"So tell me about the surprise," the other woman says, lifting her porcelain teacup to her frosted red lips.
Surprise? The word draws my curiosity like a magnet, and of course, I listen. It's what I do best.
"Leo has no idea." Mrs. Polanski chuckles.
"It'll be hard to keep anything from my clever nephew." My suspicion was right. She's Leo's aunt.
"Not this time," Mrs. Polanski says confidently. "Although Leo usually figures out my plans before I've made them. Like last summer when I tried to surprise him with a weekend at the beach, but somehow he knew and had covered himself with sunscreen. And when I told him we were going to Lake Tahoe a few months ago, he already had his ski clothes packed. It's hard to surprise a smart kid like Leo. But he'll never guess what I'm planning for his birthday."
Leo is having a birthday? I think, startled. Leo never once mentioned his birthday. I don't even know the date.
A blond curl dangles from Leo's aunt's hair tower as she leans closer. "What are you planning?"
Mrs. Polanski grins. "A surprise birthday bash."
"With other children?" Leo's aunt sounds shocked. "But Leopold is such a loner."
"Not anymore. He's made some friends at school," Mrs. Polanski says proudly. "I worried when his only friends were robots."
"That's wonderful he has some little friends," the aunt says.
Little friends? I roll my eyes. Seriously, does she think we're still in kindergarten?
"I worry about him though," Mrs. Polanski adds, frowning. "Celebrating his birthday is risky. What if his friends discover his secret?"
Logical, scientific, honest Leo has a secret? Something to do with birthdays? Could he have an allergy to birthday cake? A phobia of balloons? A tragically sick twin who's hidden away from the world?
"I don't know what to do." Mrs. Polanski pushes away her teacup. "Keeping the pretense was easy when Leo didn't have friends. But now something as simple as a cake or a birthday card could expose the lie."
"He should tell his friends the truth."
"I've begged him to." Mrs. Polanski sighs. "But Leo refuses."
Her sister shrugs. "It's just a number."
"A number is a big deal in middle school." Mrs. Polanski wrings her hands. "But I don't want to risk Leo being hurt. So at his birthday party, I'll put thirteen candles on the cake. Leo's friends must never know he's only turning twelve."
I stagger away from the gate, so shocked I trip over a paver stone. I don't feel any pain, only numbness as I pick myself up and jump on my bike. Even if Leo is home, I can't talk to him right now. The words I just heard don't compute.
How can brilliant Leo — our club's covert technology strategist — be two years younger than me? Eleven years old!
To be fair, I turned thirteen in March so he's probably only a year and a couple months younger. But OMG — he's the age I was in elementary school. How can he act so mature and spout off knowledge like a miniature teacher when he's barely in double digits?
Calm down and think this through, I tell myself as I pedal away.
It's not like being younger is a crime. I can even guess how this happened. Leo is supersmart, which really impresses teachers, so he must have skipped a grade. All this time, I thought Leo was short for his age like me. But he's the average height for a sixth grader.
I don't consciously decide to go to Becca's house, but that's where my bike is headed. I have to tell Becca. No, I can't tell her. That wouldn't be fair to Leo. Yet how can I keep something this huge from Becca?
There's a saying that people who eavesdrop hear terrible things about themselves. But hearing something shocking about a friend is worse. Protecting one friend means lying to another. I understand how Leo's mother feels, torn between truth and lies. We're stuck in the same boat and floating without paddles.
I wish I could unknow Leo's secret.
When I roll through the entry gate into Wild Oaks Sanctuary, a flock of peacocks crossing the road shriek and flutter shimmery feathers, then fly into the trees. It's still too early to meet at the Skunk Shack so I ride up to Becca's house. I hope she's inside and not helping her mother care for rescued animals somewhere on their fifty-six-acre sanctuary. Becca could be in the pasture, the barn, or one of the many animal enclosures.
Before I even step on the porch, the front door opens and Becca bursts out. "Kelsey! What a great surprise!"
Surprise. Not my favorite word right now. I cringe but Becca doesn't seem to notice. "Is it okay to come early?" I ask.
"Way okay!" She grasps my arm and pulls me into her house. "You're rescuing me from a severe case of boredom. Mom's out to brunch with a friend and won't be back for hours. Let's go hang out in my room." Becca's face lights up with a smile so genuine that I want to tell her everything.
"I found out something," I say, trying to sound mysterious. "It's about —"
"Watch out!" Becca interrupts as an orange streak races through her legs and into the kitchen.
"Hey, that's my kitten!" I stare toward the kitchen where I hear scampering paws. "What's Honey running from?"
I get my answer when a whirl of black whooshes by my ankles.
"And there goes my kitten in pursuit." Becca laughs.
"Why are Honey and Chris running loose in the house? I thought they were staying in the back room."
"Like that lasted long. Mom and I are softies," Becca admits. "They meowed until Mom and I let them in the kitchen, then the living room, and now they have the run of the house — literally. Hey, don't climb on the table!"
Becca rushes off in pursuit of Chris who is chasing Honey. It's like watching an animal channel sitcom, and I burst out laughing.
When Honey darts in my direction, I grab her and cradle my sweet fur-baby in my arms. Her purr rumbles like kitty music. Becca finally catches Chris, and we take our kittens into her bedroom.
Every time I enter Becca's room, I feel like I'm upside down. Bookcases aren't on the floor but hung high on the wall near the ceiling. Pictures and drawings cover the ceiling like wallpaper. Only Becca's bed, a dresser, and a chair are on the floor. A rolling ladder leans near a high bulletin board covered with notes and photos. Becca designed her room so it's animal proof because she shares it with a menagerie, and teachers are skeptical of excuses like, "A goat ate my textbook." Since the nights have been warmer, the goat prefers the pasture, but two dogs jump off the bed to greet us.
My kitten isn't used to dogs yet and hisses. But the dogs are too busy tail-wagging to notice. She'll have to get used to them, because my family has a fabulous golden-whip (golden retriever plus whippet) named Handsome. Unfortunately, due to the no-pets rule in our apartment, Handsome is living with my grandmother for now. But I hope we'll be living together again eventually.
Becca flops on her bed, patting the larger dog with one hand and plopping the smaller dog on her lap. She turns to me. "So what were you saying? You found out something?"
"Did I ever! I'm still in shock." I pull up the chair and sink onto the hard seat. "It doesn't really matter ... It's just hard to believe that he ..." I shake my head.
"Go on," Becca urges with a flick of her hand. "Who did what?"
The words are like grenades ready to explode if I don't say them. But my mouth dries up. Leo's secret isn't mine to share. As much as I want to tell Becca, it feels wrong. She's staring at me, leaning forward like she's poised to catch whatever I toss at her. I have to tell her something.
"It's about ... about my brother." I shift my thoughts in a new direction. "He was acting suspicious at breakfast and carrying a mysterious box, so I followed him."
Excerpted from "Kelsey the Spy"
Copyright © 2016 Linda Joy Singleton.
Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Follow That Suspect!,
Chapter 2: Suspicions,
Chapter 3: The Long Secret,
Chapter 4: Mystery Solved,
Chapter 5: Albert,
Chapter 6: Notebook of Secrets,
Chapter 7: Fit-Pic,
Chapter 8: What I Found,
Chapter 9: Secret's Out,
Chapter 10: Keep Away,
Chapter 11: A New Mystery,
Chapter 12: Shell-Shocked,
Chapter 13: Donut Danger,
Chapter 14: Puzzling,
Chapter 15: The Corning Comic,
Chapter 16: Blocked,
Chapter 17: Dino Tales,
Chapter 18: Tortoise Trouble,
Chapter 19: Cryptic Clue,
Chapter 20: Sweet Celebration,
Chapter 21: ChipTastic,
Chapter 22: Accusations,
Chapter 23: Follow That Smell!,
Chapter 24: Cliffhanger,
Chapter 25: Tortoise Tom,
Chapter 26: Unmasked,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Looking for a cute middle-grade mystery? Look no further than Kelsey the Spy. This adorable book is a perfect blend of the immature maturity and curiosity most of us experienced sitting those years. Though I didn’t always like Kelsey her character is a typical preteen and will appeal to many in that stage. The mystery is interesting and I didn’t want to put it down. Though this is the third in the series I didn’t feel that I was missing anything because I hadn’t read the others. More… Author: Linda Joy Singleton Source: Netgalley Publisher & Date: April 1st 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company Genre: Middle-Grade Mystery ISBN: 0807513806 (ISBN13: 9780807513804) Pages: 288 Grade: B+ Ages: Author Suggested 9-12 | Though I believe younger readers will enjoy this too! Setting: Sun Flower Series: The Curious Cat Spy Club