Signed by Zelda

LIST PRICE $16.99

About The Book

An aspiring handwriting analyst tracks down her missing neighbor in this caper from the author of The Problem with the Puddles.

More than anything, eleven-year-old Lucy wants to be the world’s most famous handwriting expert. “You can learn a lot about a person through how they write their I’s,” she tells her friend, Pigeon—who just so happens to be a talking bird. When Lucy’s neighbor Zelda goes missing and the only clue is a cryptic handwritten note, Lucy is determined to crack the case using her graphology skills. With some help from Nicky, who lives upstairs, and plenty of advice from Pigeon (who just so happens to be very opinionated), can Lucy decipher the whereabouts of her apartment building’s missing resident?

Excerpt

THURSDAY, APRIL 1

3:30 p.m.

West 68th Street, Apartment 8G

Grandma Zelda didn’t answer her doorbell the first time Nicky rang. The second time, he pressed down on the buzzer and counted to a hundred, although he knew that if Grandma Zelda didn’t have her ears in, he could count to a million and she still wouldn’t hear him.

Her note had instructed him to sneak out. She’d be expecting him. Nicky turned the doorknob and heard a gulping sound but wasn’t sure if it came from him or the door. He pushed. The door swung open, but the doorknob remained behind, in Nicky’s hand. “Oh, no,” he whispered to himself. “I hope I don’t get in trouble for this.”

Nicky had a bad habit of getting in trouble. Lately his Time-Out Average (TOA) had spiked to .750, which meant that he did something that earned him a time-out three days out of four. Grandma Zelda was pretty much the only person left that Nicky’s dad allowed him to spend time with. “I suppose you can’t do anything that will land you in too much hot water with someone so old,” his dad had told him.

Grandma Zelda wouldn’t care anyway. She didn’t believe in time-outs. During their afternoons together she fed Nicky slices of his beyond-favorite Zeldaberry pie and helped him make plans for a sail around the world. “If you meet a pirate, ask about his grandmother,” she’d advise. Or she’d tell him a story about the time she once swam under a pirate’s ship and scraped a nugget of gold off the keel. “It’s around here somewhere, if I could only remember where I put it,” she’d say.

Grandma Zelda hadn’t left her apartment in over a year, but she used to lead a life of adventure. Nicky couldn’t picture his tiny gray-haired grandmother doing any of this, but she once rode a camel across the Sinai desert, and twice she jumped out of an airplane and parachuted into Mongolia. Grandma Zelda’s left eye liked to wink when she talked, and she spoke with a Southern drawl, which was unusual for someone who’d grown up in the North. She had so many stories to tell that Nicky figured she kept telling them even when she was alone, even when she was asleep.

Nicky clutched the doorknob and stepped inside Grandma Zelda’s apartment. Her walls were covered with photographs and paintings. She kept every picture that Nicky and his sister, Stella, made for her and hung several of them next to paintings by better-known artists. It never felt messy in her apartment but always seemed busy.

Nicky called out for her. “Grandma Zelda?”

“Grandma?” he called out again after he didn’t get a response. “Grandma. Grandma Zelda?”

He walked into the kitchen. He waved to the pigeon squatting on the windowsill. He checked for Grandma Zelda in the bedroom. He saw her viola d’amore resting on the bed, alone. Nicky looked around the sides of her bed, in case she had fallen off it. He looked under the bed, in case she’d rolled under it.

He looked for her in the bathroom, the shower, and the cabinets.

“Grandma?”

He pushed his way into her two closets, behind her housecoats and dresses.

“Grandma? Grandma Zelda?”

Back in the hallway.

“Grandma Zelda, is this an April Fools’ Day trick?”

“Grandma Zelda?” Nicky called out one final time.

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Kate Feiffer is a writer, a filmmaker, and a mother. She is the author of the picture books No Go Sleep!; President Pennybaker; But I Wanted a Baby Brother!; The Wild, Wild Inside; Which Puppy?; My Mom Is Trying to Ruin My Life; and Double Pink; and of the middle-grade novels Signed by Zelda and The Problem with the Puddles. She lives with her family on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Visit her at KateFeiffer.com.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (April 24, 2012)
  • Length: 240 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442433311
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 750L

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

In a New York City apartment building, two lonely children, a pie-baking grandmother and a talking pigeon connect in this gratifying mystery.
Eleven-year-old Nicky has mostly stayed in his room ever since his mother moved to India two years ago, and his “Time-Out Average” has spiked to .750. One floor below, Indian-American Lucy, also 11, a budding forensic scientist and graphologist interested in the study of handwriting, has just moved to the city. Although she’s been unlucky making new friends and gathering more samples for her handwriting journal, she’s reluctant to get to know Nicky. But when the resident talking pigeon intervenes, Lucy soon finds herself putting her sleuthing skills to the test to help Nicky find his missing Grandma Zelda, who never leaves her apartment (only one floor above). Believing “you are what you write,” Lucy offers witty writing rules (e.g., “Life changes lead to letter changes”), which guide the suspense. Simulated writing samples and actual signatures of such notable individuals from history as Eleanor Roosevelt, Al Capone and, of course, John Hancock, fuel Lucy’s forensic applications. When Nicky’s father becomes a prime suspect, his grandmother’s disappearance also becomes a moral dilemma.
A quick and steady story for readers who like some substance to their mystery but are not quite ready for the complexity of Blue Balliett. (author’s note) (Mystery. 8-12)

– Kirkus Reviews

"I laughed, I gasped, I cheered, and I instantly fell in love with this wonderful story."

– Alan Katz, author,

"Fascinating and FUNNY. (I made 74 smiley faces in the margins by the end). I LOVED this book. Can't wait for the next!" --Coleen Paratore, author of The Wedding Planner's Daughter

Nicky’s mother has taken a permanent vacation to India and his apathetic father puts him in time-out for the slightest offenses, so he sneaks out to spend time with his beloved Grandma Zelda. When she goes missing, he enlists the help of his friend Lucy, handwriting analyst extraordinaire, and a talking pigeon, and they search the city for her. With Pigeon’s help, the children unravel the nefarious dealings of Nicky’s father and the scheme behind Zelda’s disappearance. Told as a rotating arc, this quirky mystery is interspersed with handwriting samples, notes, and Lucy’s Writing Rules #1-11, which add a fun element to the cast of eccentric characters... readers will be drawn into the story and will enjoy the fast-paced action. Feiffer has included a signature test to help savvy readers spot forgeries and an author’s note that is almost as entertaining as the book

– School Library Jourmal

In a New York City apartment building, two lonely children, a pie-baking grandmother and a talking pigeon connect in this gratifying mystery.
Eleven-year-old Nicky has mostly stayed in his room ever since his mother moved to India two years ago, and his “Time-Out Average” has spiked to .750. One floor below, Indian-American Lucy, also 11, a budding forensic scientist and graphologist interested in the study of handwriting, has just moved to the city. Although she’s been unlucky making new friends and gathering more samples for her handwriting journal, she’s reluctant to get to know Nicky. But when the resident talking pigeon intervenes, Lucy soon finds herself putting her sleuthing skills to the test to help Nicky find his missing Grandma Zelda, who never leaves her apartment (only one floor above). Believing “you are what you write,” Lucy offers witty writing rules (e.g., “Life changes lead to letter changes”), which guide the suspense. Simulated writing samples and actual signatures of such notable individuals from history as Eleanor Roosevelt, Al Capone and, of course, John Hancock, fuel Lucy’s forensic applications. When Nicky’s father becomes a prime suspect, his grandmother’s disappearance also becomes a moral dilemma.
A quick and steady story for readers who like some substance to their mystery but are not quite ready for the complexity of Blue Balliett. (author’s note) (Mystery. 8-12) --Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2012

Set in New York City, Feiffer’s (The Problem with Puddles) fantasy-tinged mystery follows two 11-year-olds—Indian-American Lucy, a recent transplant from Savannah, Ga., who “planned on becoming the world’s leading expert on handwriting,” and Nicky, Lucy’s upstairs neighbor, a boy who has no trouble getting into trouble. Along with a talking pigeon, the pair tries to figure out what happened to Nicky’s grandmother, Zelda, who disappears on April Fool’s Day. Initially, Lucy and Nicky spar with each other, but the friendly presence of Pigeon and a cryptic note left behind by Grandma Zelda bring the children together. Handwriting samples, letters, and clues help build tension, and Lucy’s rules about handwriting and character offer humor and insight (“Confused people have confused writing”).
Publishers Weekly

Nicky’s mother has taken a permanent vacation to India and his apathetic father puts him in time-out for the slightest offenses, so he sneaks out to spend time with his beloved Grandma Zelda. When she goes missing, he enlists the help of his friend Lucy, handwriting analyst extraordinaire, and a talking pigeon, and they search the city for her. With Pigeon’s help, the children unravel the nefarious dealings of Nicky’s father and the scheme behind Zelda’s disappearance. Told as a rotating arc, this quirky mystery is interspersed with handwriting samples, notes, and Lucy’s Writing Rules #1-11, which add a fun element to the cast of eccentric characters…. readers will be drawn into the story and will enjoy the fast-paced action. Feiffer has included a signature test to help savvy readers spot forgeries and an author’s note that is almost as entertaining as the book itself.– School Library Journal

Nicky’s mother has taken a permanent vacation to India and his apathetic father puts him in time-out for the slightest offenses, so he sneaks out to spend time with his beloved Grandma Zelda. When she goes missing, he enlists the help of his friend Lucy, handwriting analyst extraordinaire, and a talking pigeon, and they search the city for her. With Pigeon’s help, the children unravel the nefarious dealings of Nicky’s father and the scheme behind Zelda’s disappearance. Told as a rotating arc, this quirky mystery is interspersed with handwriting samples, notes, and Lucy’s Writing Rules #1-11, which add a fun element to the cast of eccentric characters…. readers will be drawn into the story and will enjoy the fast-paced action. Feiffer has included a signature test to help savvy readers spot forgeries and an author’s note that is almost as entertaining as the book itself.– School Library Journal

The plot in this mystery turns on one of the young main characters’ passion for handwriting analysis. Lucy has just reluctantly moved with her parents from Savannah to New York City. Her one consolation is having a new pool of people whose handwriting she can analyze. The family’s new apartment is right below that of Lucy’s classmate Nicky, who drives her crazy with his incessant jumping around upstairs. Nicky has a more pressing concern: his beloved grandma Zelda has suddenly disappeared from their building, leaving behind a note that says, “Help me.” What Nicky doesn’t know is that Lucy intercepted an earlier note sent by Zelda because she loved the writing. Since the story moves forward and backward through time, readers learn the facts out of order, heightening both the mystery and the confusion. There are some serious issues raised in the book: Nicky’s father isn’t a nice guy, and the way he treats Zelda is appalling. But Feiffer keeps the tone light, incorporating a talking pigeon and lots of handwriting analysis tips that readers may find intriguing.

– The Horn Book

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Kate Feiffer