Signed by Zelda
Signed by Zelda
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Annotation: An eleven-year-old aspiring handwriting analyst, a solitary boy, and a talking pigeon solve the mystery of Nicky's missing grandmother.
Catalog Number: #5172216
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition Date: c2012
Pages: 233 p.
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-442-43331-0
ISBN 13: 978-1-442-43331-1
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2011043905
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
Lucy, who has a passion for handwriting analysis, has just moved to New York from Savannah. Classmate Nicky lives in her apartment building, and the mystery begins when his beloved grandma suddenly disappears, leaving a note that says, "Help me." Feiffer keeps the tone light, incorporating a talking pigeon and lots of handwriting analysis tips that readers may find intriguing.
Kirkus 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)
Publishers Weekly
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-). With the exception of Grandma Zelda, adult characters don-t get much attention; Nicky-s father-s villainy is hard to take seriously, and the book-s parents and teachers largely come across as clueless. Concluding sections include a recipe for Grandma Zelda-s Zeldaberry pie and additional information about handwriting, which should pique the interest of budding graphologists like Lucy. Ages 8-12. (May)

School Library Journal
Gr 5-7 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 11, which add a fun element to the cast of eccentric characters. Though some aspects of the plot are predictable and character development is slight, 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. Rebecca Gueorguiev, New York Public Library
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Horn Book (8/1/12)
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal (5/1/12)
Word Count: 34,426
Reading Level: 4.8
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.8 / points: 5.0 / quiz: 151579 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.6 / points:10.0 / quiz:Q57036
Lexile: 750L

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.


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.

Excerpted from Signed by Zelda by Kate Feiffer
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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?

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