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Meet the Authors and Illustrators
Wendelin Van Draanen

Book List

WVD: Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief
Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief

WVD: Sammy Keyes and the Wild Things
Sammy Keyes and the Wild Things

WVD: Shredderman: Secret Identity
Shredderman: Secret Identity

WVD: Shredderman: Enemy Spy
Shredderman: Enemy Spy

WVD: Flipped
Flipped


How I Survived Being a Girl

Wendelin Van Draanen - Author

Wendelin Van Draanen is the award-winning author of the Sammy Keyes mystery series, as well as the Shredderman series, How I Survived Being a Girl, and Flipped.  She lives in California with her husband and two sons where they have weekly, rock-n-roll jam sessions as a family.

Interview

RIF: Have you always liked your first name?

Wendelin Van Draanen: I've always liked my name because it is unique. I didn't have to share it with anyone in school.

RIF: What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

WVD: I always say I love the 3Rs: reading, running, and rock-n—roll! I love to read mystery novels. I enjoy running with my two Whippet-breed dogs, Bongos and Jazz.  And I love to play rock-n-roll music with my family. We have jam sessions once or twice a week: my youngest son and husband play the drums, my oldest son plays lead guitar, and I sing and play the electric guitar. 

RIF: What was your favorite mystery series as a child?

WVD: I loved the Hardy Boys. My parents would buy me Nancy Drew and my brothers would get the Hardy Boys. I preferred reading my brother’s books, because I was a real tomboy and so I identified more with the Hardy Boys than Nancy Drew.

RIF: When and why did you start writing?

WVD: I didn’t enjoy writing as a kid but I discovered the wonderful world of writing fiction as an adult.  Fiction is therapeutic for me because, for example, I can have bad guys in my stories and bring them to justice, which doesn’t always happen in the real world. 

RIF: What do you like most about writing?

WVD: I love it when I crack myself up while writing a story.  I just love it when I get to a scene that’s very funny and I make myself laugh out loud. 

RIF: Why did you decide to write a mystery book?

WVD: When I was a teacher, I noticed my students were still reading books I read as a child, like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.  I thought there should be more current books that reflect the world kids live in today. 

Also, I wanted to write the type of book I enjoyed reading as a kid, a book with suspense, humor, and lots of action.  The mystery genre allowed me to do all three!

RIF: What are some key elements of a good mystery story? 

WVD: In my opinion, a good mystery has cliffhanger chapter endings, a fair depositing of clues by the author, and a main character that is not perfect.

RIF: You used to be a math teacher.  Do you think math skills are important skills for a mystery detective to have? 

WVD: Definitely!  Solving a mystery is like solving a puzzle.  With math you are often solving for x (e.g. 13 + 15 = x).  It is the same way with mysteries.  A mystery detective is trying to piece things together in order to solve x, that missing piece that will crack the case. 

RIF: You were a tomboy as a child.  Do you think that influences your writing (e.g. that your main character goes by the name Sammy not Samantha)?

WVD: Absolutely!  It’s good for girls to break the rules of being a girl.  There’s no fun in being too girly too early.  I think girls should go out and explore their environment and get to know the world just as boys are encouraged to do.

RIF: Speaking of boys, you have two sons.  Are they are your test audience?

WVD: Yes, they love being able to read a book before anyone else does.  And they’re very helpful, especially when it comes to the boy characters in my stories.  They’ll let me know if certain dialogue doesn’t sound like something a real boy would say.

RIF: What advice would you give to kids who want to write a mystery story?

WVD: First, come up with a main character (or sleuth) that you can identify with and that you like.  Second, make sure the main character’s life is complicated.  There should be things going wrong in his or her life because that’s where you’ll be able to derive subplots that will help keep the momentum of the story going.  In Sammy’s case, she has a school life, a home life, and the fact that she’s living illegally in a senior citizens-only apartment building.  All of these create good suspense, which is an important element in a mystery story.

RIF: Do you have any other advice for kids?

WVD: Yes, never give up. I wrote the first four Sammy Keyes books before one was published.

Also, dream big and work hard.  But remember, it’s the hard part that makes your dreams come true. 


Do you think you have what it takes to be Sammy Keyes and solve a mystery?  Then read the police report and examine the evidence in the Sammy Keyes Casebook . 

Want to hear Wendelin singing and playing the electric guitar?  Listen to the song, Sammy Keyes.

 

Learn more about each of these authors and illustrators:
 

 
  Author

Author

 
  Illustrator

Illustrator

 

 
- - -
 

  illustrator

Allen Say

 
  Author

Arthur Dorros

 
  Illustrator

Ashley Bryan

 
  Author

Barbara Park

 
  Illustrator

Beverly Cleary

 
  illustrator

Bryan Collier

 
  Author

Candace Fleming

 
 

Carmen Rubin

 
  illustrator

Chris Van Allsburg

 
  Author

Cornelia Funke

 
  Author

Dav Pilkey

 
  illustrator

David Kirk

 
  Author

Eoin Colfer

 
  Illustrator

Eric Carle

 
 

Fred Bowen

 
  Author

Gail Carson Levine

 
  Illustrator

Graeme Base

 
  illustrator

Henry Cole

 
  Author

Jack Prelutsky

 
  illustrator

Jerry Pinkney

 
  Author

Jerry Spinelli

 
  Author

Joseph Bruchac

 
  Author

Karen Cushman

 
  Author

Kate DiCamillo

 
  Author

Kathleen Karr

 
 

Laurie Halse Anderson

 
  Author

Lemony Snicket

 
  Author

Lemony Snicket - part 2

 
  illustrator

Lulu Delacre

 
  illustrator

Mark Teague

 
  Author

Mary Pope Osborne

 
  Author

Megan McDonald

 
  Author

Mem Fox

 
  Author

Michelle Y. Green

 
  illustrator

Mo Willems

 
  Author

Nikki Grimes

 
  illustrator

Nina Laden

 
  Author

Pam Muñoz Ryan

 
  Illustrator

Pat Cummings

 
 

R.A. Montgomery

 
  Author

R.L. Stine

 
  Author

R.L. Stine - Part II

 
  illustrator

Rosemary Wells

 
  Author

Sharon Creech

 
  Author

Stan Lee

 
  Illustrator

Tony DiTerlizzi

 
  Author

Wendelin Van Draanen

 
  Author

William Sleator

 
 


For Grown-Ups:

 
 

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