Cover image for Sammy Keyes and the runaway elf
Sammy Keyes and the runaway elf
Van Draanen, Wendelin.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1999.
Physical Description:
186 pages : illustrations 22 cm
After a dog she is watching disappears from a city parade and the owner receives a ransom note, thirteen-year-old Sammy must use her detective skills to solve the mystery.
Reading Level:
710 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.4 7.0 34513.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.1 12 Quiz: 22385 Guided reading level: T.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
X Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area

On Order



For use in schools and libraries only. When pranksters sabotage a Christmas parade and steal a prize Pomeranian, 13-year-old Sammy must use her detective skills to solve the mystery.

Author Notes

Wendelin Van Draanen was born on January 6, 1965 in Chicago, Illinois. She is the daughter of chemists who emigrated from Holland. She worked as a math teacher and then as a computer science teacher before becoming an author. Wendelin Van Draanen began her writing career with a screenplay and soon switched to adult novels and then children's books. She is best known for her Sammy Keyes series of novels, which she started writing in 1997, featuring a teenage detective named Samantha Keyes. Her popular Sammy Keyes series had been nominated four times for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Children's Mystery and won with "Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief". Her Shredderman series also yielded a Christopher Medal for Secret Identity. She has also written several novels such as: How I Survived Being a Girl and Flipped.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. Readers of Van Draanen's previous books know that 13-year-old Samantha Keyes is good but not a goody-goody. She has a lot more personality than most junior detectives in novels for this age group, and her varied adventures are usually more complicated and less predictable. That's certainly true in this story, which is set during the Christmas season. Rich Mrs. Landvogt's dog has been kidnapped, little Elyssa Keltner keeps running away from home, Gram's unpleasant neighbor has disappeared, and Sam's obnoxious classmate is up to her old tricks. Of course, Sammy make sense of it all, learning a thing or two about forgiveness in the bargain--which she applies when her estranged mother comes home for the holidays. There's a bit too much going on, and it may take children unfamiliar with the series a few pages to get up to speed with the characters. But Van Draanen manages to pull things together in an entertaining way, at the same time delivering some nicely drawn secondary characters and a fitting theme that is seasonal but not intrusive. --Stephanie Zvirin

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-Sammy Keyes tries to help out a friend and ends up in a mystery that must be solved or she could lose her home in the book by Wendelin Van Draanen (Knopf, 2001). A prize dog is missing and its owner, who blackmails most of the town, forces Sammy to find the dog. At the same time, Sammy must find out why a little girl keeps running away, discover what happened in her grandmother's nosy neighbor that turned her into a mean old woman, and find a way to get even with her school enemy, Heather. Even with this many subplots, the action moves clearly and swiftly, with each tying into the main lesson of the story forgiveness is as good for the forgiver as for the forgiven. This is the fourth adventure in the series, but stands well on its own. Sammy is a strong heroine who has a hard life. The narrator, actress Tara Sands, gives all the characters their own voices, and makes it seem like 13-year-old Sammy is telling the story. A good choice for libraries looking for mysteries for middle school girls.-Ann West LaPrise, Huron School District, New Boston, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.