Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Secret Agent #30

TITLE: Amanda Hardy's Tea Party
GENRE: Historical Fiction middle grade

Monday, December 13th, 1773

Amanda Hardy scrunched her nose against the frost-coated window and huffed. Her breath formed a circle and she rubbed the spot so she could peer out. Pinpricks of snow dotted the cobblestone street. To her left, she spotted Papa and John rushing down Belcher’s Lane for the second time that morning. Papa never left his carpentry shop during the day. Something did not seem right.

Outside, many of the Boston townsfolk gathered on the street, their heads tipped together like children telling secrets. Even Mr. Jensen, the baker from two doors down, stood outside his store, pointing towards Griffin’s Wharf. Then he shook his fist. Was it because of the tea ships?

Yesterday, when she and Mama had taken baby James for a walk, they passed the wharf where three ships were anchored, docked there for weeks. Their tall wooden masts reached up towards the sky. The names painted on their hulls were The Dartmouth, The Eleanor and The Beaver – such strange names for ships. Now, from her window, Amanda could see the tops of the masts. Mama told her the ship’s cargo was tea, and parliament wanted the colonists to pay the taxes on it before it was unloaded. That could be why the people on the street seemed angry. Pay a tax on our tea? Tea that we drank everyday? Mama said it was unfair.

And now, all the talk about tea, and Papa and John rushing off here, there and everywhere, not one person remembered her birthday.


  1. This reads like one of Scholastic's "My Story" middle grade novels, with its diary-like entry and strong historical voice. I can't really find anything I would change in this excerpt - it is well-written, full of great imagery, with subtle tension woven through. It feels polished, ready for print. I would put this in the hands of kids, then sneak a read for myself. Fantastic job.

  2. This is well-written, but I'm not really connecting to Amanda. Until we get to the last line, about her birthday, none of the action seems directly related to her. There's also a lot of telling, about the ships, taxes, etc. Even in the line about her birthday, you're telling us she's disappointed, not showing it.

    I wonder if you might be better off starting a little earlier in the day. Show Amanda interacting with her family in some way, so we get a sense of her life before you get to the big historical events.

  3. I love living well-known historical events through the eyes of a child participant!

    A couple of grammar items bothered me--towards rather than toward; the "anchored, docked" sentence could be simplified.

    Ultimately, though, I'm hooked because I want to find out how she deals with being forgotten on her birthday. (Assuming her family is big on birthdays--historically, that wasn't always the case!}

    I hope I get to read more of the story!

  4. Strong beginning! Amanda has a problem that kids can relate to. I would consider moving the birthday issue to the first paragraph, and also losing the word seem. Simply say: Something was not right.

    Good luck!

  5. Strong opening, introduced character, outlined the potential conflict, put the time frame in context (historical).

    Voice was neutral to me; didn't get a strong feel for the MC yet, but you put her in the middle of the story right away, so I assume this will be rectified soon.

    Setting and MC made me think of "Johnny Tremain" one of my all-time favorite historical novels for younger readers. A good thing.

  6. This is a good opening. The setting is nicely established and we can picture being there with her. The line about the odd ship names is a nice touch of humor. We like the last sentence, too, since it brings up the significance of the date, and we feel for her that she’s been forgotten on her birthday. Really like the last sentence, but are concerned that this time period has been done a lot.

  7. This was all set up. All that happens is that a girl looks out the window. Perhaps start with the birthday, and then maybe let Mom and Dad have some conversation about the ships and tea. Then the reader gets to know what's going on historically, and you're also showing how no one is remembering her birthday because they're caught up in the tea issue. ANd you do it all within the context of the story, rather than stopping the story to explain to the reader.

  8. well written, and I would like to read more about this character.