For Ages
10 to 99

Sammy Keyes and the Psycho Kitty Queen is a part of the Sammy Keyes collection.

Sammy's mom comes to town with a birthday bombshell...

"A strong female character looking for more than just a boyfriend. Highly recommended." --Children's Literature

It's Sammy's birthday, which should be a good thing, right? Not when her mom lets her cat out and now he's missing. Not when Sammy finds three dead cats while she's looking for him. And not when a psycho cat lady blames Sammy because one of the dead cats belonged to her.

Add a suspicious pro-wrestler named El Gato, a public cat-fight with her arch-enemy Heather, and a bombshell of a secret from her mom, and you've got a recipe for Sammy's worst birthday ever.  

Better luck next year, Sammy.

An Excerpt fromSammy Keyes and the Psycho Kitty Queen


I have to admit that it didn't start with my mother. It started on Hudson's porch. Hudson Graham is my favorite old guy in the whole wide world because he's got great stories, great advice, and he knows how to listen.

He's also got the coolest porch you'd ever want to hang out on, and when Hudson's home, it's usually equipped with iced tea and cake.

"Sammy!" he said when he saw me turn up his walkway on my skateboard. "How are you?"

"Starved!" I grabbed my board and trotted up the steps, eyeing the crumbs on his plate. In a flash I knew it had been a piece of his mega-maple upside-down cake.

He took one look at my face and laughed. "Your grandmother let you out of the house without breakfast?"

"She was preoccupied. And besides, I wasn't hungry then--now I am!"

"Why don't I fix you some eggs and toast. Then cake."

"Aw, come on, Hudson. It's Saturday." I plopped down in the chair beside him.

He looked doubtful. "Somehow I don't think your grandmother would approve. And you know I've been working hard to get out of her doghouse..."

"Forget the doghouse. If she asks, I'll just tell her it was an early piece of birthday cake."

"Birthday cake? When's your birthday?"


"Tomorrow?" He jumped out of his chair. "Why didn't you mention it before?"

I shrugged. "I don't really like my birthday, that's why."

"You don't like it?" He was hovering over me. "Why not? Kids your age love their birthday!"

I kicked my feet up on his railing. "Well, let's see...

When I turned twelve my mother celebrated by taking me to McDonald's, which is where she broke it to me that she'd be leaving me with Grams while she went off to Hollywood. Then, when I turned thirteen, she didn't even bother to call or send me a card or anything. She finally called two days later gushing excuses, but it was pretty obvious she just forgot."

"Yes, but Sammy, I thought you had gotten past resenting your mother."

"I know, I know," I sighed. "I guess I just have negative associations when it comes to my birthday." I swung my feet down and laughed. "So could you help me get over it? I want some cake!"

He laughed. "Coming right up."

I followed him inside, saying, "Actually, Grams always tries to surprise me with a really nice cake on my birthday. She goes all out and is totally secretive about what she's concocting. I'll bet that's what she's doing right now."

Hudson handed over a giant piece of mega-maple cake. "So you're double dipping, huh?"

I laughed. "I'm entitled, don't you think? I mean, given the circumstances and all."

He chuckled and opened the fridge. "Can I at least insist on milk?"


When we were seated back outside, he said, "So catch me up. What's going on at school? And with Heather! You haven't said anything about her in a while."

"That's because there's absolutely nothing going on with Heather." I laughed and took a bite of cake. "Can you believe it?"

Actually, I was finding it hard to believe myself. Ever since my first day of junior high, Heather Acosta has worked hard to make my life miserable. That rabid redhead has done everything from jab me in the butt with a sewing pin to frame me for vandalism. But for the last couple of weeks, there's been nothing.

Well, nothing serious, anyway. I don't count glaring and sneering and catcalls. That's just junior high stuff that everyone goes through. I'm talking diabolical, evil, twisted plots to take over the world. Or at least the school. Elections aren't for another month, but she's already angling to be elected William Rose Junior

High's "Most Popular Seventh Grader," or "Class Cutie," or whatever other stupid category she can con the rest of the seventh graders into believing she should win.

Too bad they don't have a "Most Likely to Psycho."

I'd vote for her in a hot second.

Hudson shook me from my thoughts, saying, "Two months until summer vacation. Is that what you're thinking about?"

I laughed. "Actually, I wasn't."

"Aren't all kids in countdown mode by now?"

"It's only the first week of April!"

He gave a knowing nod. "Ah. Maybe I'm confusing the kids with the teachers."

I said, "Huh?" but then he said, "So what else have you been up to?" and I remembered what I had come to tell him about. "Oh!" I said, swigging down some milk. "Holly and I have been checking out Slammin' Dave's. Hudson, I've got a whole new perspective on pro wrestling."

He raised a bushy white eyebrow. "You do, do you?" Then he grumbled, "I still can't believe that Bargain Books is now a pro wrestling shop--"

"Slammin' Dave's is not a shop, Hudson, it's a school."

I almost added that having wrestling dudes across the street from where I lived was a whole lot safer than having a bookstore, seeing how the guy who used to own Bargain Books got hauled off to jail for theft, attempted murder, and arson, but I didn't. I just said, "And Slammin' Dave takes his school very seriously."

Hudson grinned. "Can I deduce from your apparent knowledge base that you've been spying on him?"

"I wouldn't call it spying," I said through a mouthful of cake. "Just, you know, watching."

"Through binoculars?"

"No! You can't see anything from the apartment. I just go down to the school and look."

"Doesn't that place have heavy black curtains covering the windows?"


He grinned at me. "So they let you just stand in the doorway and watch?"

"Hudson, quit it!"

He laughed. "I just want you to be able to admit it, that's all."

"All right, all right," I grumbled, scraping up cake crumbs with the back of my fork. "I've been snooping, okay? You happy?"

"Through cracks in the curtains?"

"Yeah," I muttered. "Or the back door. They prop it open for ventilation."

"Mm-hmm," he said.

"There's nothing illegal about it, it's just interesting."

"Interesting? How so?"

"Well, you've got all these beefy guys in these totally cheesy wrestling suits doing flips and body slams and rope dives. It's like they're catapulting cattle in there."

"And you find catapulting cattle interesting?"

I laughed. "Well, yeah." I leaned toward him and said, "There's this one guy who started showing up last week. He wears an orange-and-black-striped caveman suit and a hooded cat mask. It covers his whole face. His whole head. I mean, once in a while some of the guys will wrestle in full-on costumes, but this guy wears his mask all the time. He shows up in it, he wrestles in it...he never takes it off."


"So does he sleep with it on? Does he eat with it on? Does he take a shower in the thing?" I leaned back.

"What doesn't he do in his mask, that's what I want to know."

Hudson laughed, then said, "Sammy, it's just part of his character."

"His character?"

"You know, pro wrestlers create personas--the character they play in the ring. Like Mark Calloway was The Undertaker, Robert Remus was Sergeant Slaughter,

Terry Bollea was Hulk Hogan--"

"Wait a minute! How do you know these guys' real names?"

He shrugged. "I've been around for seventy-two years. I'm bound to have picked up a thing or two."

Now, when he said that, it hit me that Hudson had been seventy-two for a really long time. So I was about to ask him, "When's your birthday?" only just then something catches my eye. Something pink off to my left. Behind some bushes. Along the far side of Hudson's porch. So instead I whisper, "What was that?"

"What was what?" Hudson whispers back.

I stand up and tiptoe the length of Hudson's porch. And when I sneak a step down the side stairs and peek around the bushes, I choke out, "Aaarrh!" and jump back. Right on the other side of Hudson's bushes is one of the scariest sights I've ever seen.

Under the Cover