“Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf” by Wendelin van Draanen

Quick Statistics

  • “Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf” by Wendelin van Draanen
  • Middle Grade Mystery
  • Read as an ebook/listened to the audiobook
  • 4/5 stars
  • Finished February 7, 2018

Official Synopsis

And this new adventure is Wendelin Van Draanen’s most complex and compelling yet It’s Christmastime in Sammy’s hometown of Santa Martina, but some people are being very, very naughty. Pranksters dressed as wise men sabotage the Christmas Parade. In the ensuing chaos, some thugs dognap a prize Pomeranian. Then the Pom’s owner blackmails Sammy into finding the dog so she won’t have to pay the ransom. Sammy doesn’t have to check her list twice to know that these people belong in the naughty column But in the course of her search for the doggone dog, Sammy also comes across some characters who are harder to figure: a runaway elf, an embittered old biddy, a puffed-up policeman, and a sneaky Secret Santa. Still, someone’s got that dog and whoever it is had better watch out–’cause Sammy Keyes is nosing around…and she’s willing to be pretty naughty herself to make sure the bad guys pay. “From the Hardcover edition.”

My Thoughts/Summary

As you probably know by this blog, I love Sammy Keyes. I grew up with the books and I wanted to do a reread of the books because I wanted to see if they held up, and the good news is that they do. Also, the audiobooks are still just as phenomenal as they were when I was a kid. This story picks up around Christmas time, and Sammy has been dragged into helping out Meg and Vera with the Pup Parade, and while she’s showing Marique, a prize-winning Pomeranian, she escapes, and goes missing. Sammy gets blackmailed by her owner who seems to have dirt on everyone to solve the crime. Although, in this book, the crime seems to take a backseat to some bigger issues.

One of the things that I love about how van Draanen writes is that she talks about big issues, like in this, we find a discussion of loss and death, and what that looks like for kids. She deals with something that is so hard, and so big, but does it in a way that is just phenomenally accessible it blows my mind. Sammy meets Elyssa, who continually runs away from where she’s supposed to be. She’s younger than Sammy, and Sammy decides to kind of take on a mentor role with her. It’s revealed later in the book that Elyssa’s dad was a police officer who was killed, and Officer Borsch was there. We get a beautiful scene in a graveyard with Elyssa and Sammy who are just two kids trying to make sense of what losing someone looks like. We also have Mrs. Graybill in this book with her final appearance, and we see Sammy experience the complexities of grief.

This book is so extremely well done, just like all of these books are. Sammy is so realistic, and I think we can all see some of ourselves in her. I can’t recommend this series enough, and this book is a hidden gem in all of them.

Follow-Up Links

(this post does contain affiliate links that help me keep the site going. please consider purchasing using these links if you’re interested in this book! thanks so much xo r)

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