Signed by Zelda by Kate Feiffer

This book is for all those fans of graphology, the study of handwriting. If you have one in your life, Signed by Zelda is the book. Lucy, the female protagonist of the story, is nearly obsessed with handwriting. She gathers handwriting samples wherever she goes. She looks up samples of famous signatures on the internet. She knows how to tell if a signature is a forgery. She even knows how to forge signatures herself, but she’s still working on being able to replicate John Hancock’s signature.

However, the book is only partly about Lucy and her interest in graphology. It’s also about Nicky, the boy who lives in the apartment above Lucy’s and is always in time-out, sent there by his shouting and uncaring dad. (Mom absconded to India.) And it’s about Pigeon, a talking, pie-eating pigeon, and Grandma Zelda, who’s Nicky’s sometimes forgetful but excellent pie-making grandmother. Grandma Zelda’s specialty is Zeldaberry pies (recipe in the back of the book).

When Grandma Zelda disappears, Nicky, Lucy and Pigeon band together to find her. This final third of the book is both the best and the weakest part of the story. It’s best because we finally get to see the three friends working together to solve a problem, the disappearance of Grandma Zelda. But it’s the weakest because Nicky’s dad, the person responsible for Grandma’s vanishing, was just too bad for his eventual “redemption” to be believable. He’s bad, bad, bad, all through the book; then he apologizes and everything is fine. (Not a spoiler. It’s pretty obvious throughout the book who the bad guy is and what his nefarious plan is.)

Signed by Zelda is quirky, sort of a stretch on the believability scale, and a delight for anyone who’s a fan of handwriting analysis–or pigeons. Lucy even has rules, called LUCY’S WRITING RULES:

LWR #1: Watch your back around paper stabbers.
LWR #2: Confused people have confused writing.
LWR #3: Real friends write with real letters.
LWR #4: You are your I.
LWR #5: Every signature has a secret.

Context is everything, and you would probably have to read the book to get the full significance of Lucy’s Writing Rules. I just wonder what Lucy would make of my signature?

'Signature' photo (c) 2008, Jim Hammer - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

5 thoughts on “Signed by Zelda by Kate Feiffer

  1. For good readers that age. It’s not a beginning reader, definitely a chapter book. But the bad dad does abandon his mom (Grandma Zelda) in the park and try to steal her apartment to sell it. Everything turns out OK in the end, which is the unbelievable part. Would you forgive your dad for abandoning grandma in the park after just a simple apology?

  2. I totally had the same reaction after finishing this one. Though I kind of thought the talking pigeon was unnecessary; it would have been better as a straight MG without the grandma part. Maybe some other mystery for Lucy and Nicky to solve?

  3. Thanks, Sherry. No, I think that is a bit over-the-top, too, and I wonder if that bit might be distressing for my somewhat sensitive girls. I struggle to find books for them, especially my 8 year old, that are still age-appropriate but interesting and challenging enough for her.

  4. Pingback: 55 More Bits of Wisdom and Advice from Literary (Mostly Cybils) Sources » Semicolon

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