Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #30

TITLE: Pandora
GENRE: Chapter Book

One soft night on Buttermilk Farm, a tiny calf struggled into the world. Farmer Johnson and his hired hand, Verbal, held watch in the barn. Mrs. Johnson soon joined them. She loved all of the cows. She knew every cow by name, even though they all looked remarkably alike.

“I’ll name her Pandora,” said Mrs. Johnson. Something told her this calf would be full of surprises.

From the very beginning, Pandora knew she was different. Some might call it fate. Some might call it destiny. Pandora didn’t know what it was called. She simply knew it was there.

The first thing Pandora heard Farmer Johnson say was, “Well, well, would you look at that?”

Mrs. Johnson said, “Oh, dearie me.”

Verbal said, “What in tarnation?”

The comments from the humans didn’t bother Pandora. Her mother’s reaction did. Pandora’s mother, Buttercup, looked at her new baby. Then she fell over in the straw in an earth-rattling faint. 

Pandora was two days old when Farmer Johnson placed a halter around her head and led her out of the barn. She blinked in the bright spring sunshine. When her vision cleared, Pandora’s heart leaped with joy. She stood in a large pen with dozens of calves, just like her. Or so she thought.

Farmer Johnson removed Pandora’s lead rope. Pandora hurried over to meet the other calves. But to her surprise, they all ran to the far side of the pen. They huddled together in a tight knot, shaking and quaking.


  1. I enjoyed this entry and I want to keep reading to find out what is different about Pandora. I suggest having Mrs. Johnson's name reveal moved after Verbal's reaction since Mrs. Johnson's reaction "Oh, dearie me" occurs before naming Pandora.
    Best of luck!

  2. I'm not a bit chapter book reader so I am not sure if the language is right for this age. It seemed a bit young but it could be fine for this age.

    I thought it was a bit jarring to find out the book is in the POV of the animal. If it is, it should start with the first thing it sees and hears, not the farmer and his family.

    just my thoughts.

  3. I like how it is written but I am not sure who the MC is in this story. Is it the farmer or Mrs. Johnson or is it Pandora? I think kids who read chapter books like reading about kids like themselves.

  4. I like the idea of the book being written from the calf's POV, but make sure that is clear from the beginning.

    The story seems cute and interesting right away; and I already want to know what is so special about Pandora.

    Mostly just work on your POV so your reader doesn't get confused where the story is coming from.

  5. I want to know what Pandora is! I would read more. But I agree with other comments that it should perhaps start from Pandora's POV. I'm trying to think of example of chapter book that does this, but the only thing I could come up with is the middle grade novel War Horse . Michael Morpurgo did a brilliant job of telling the story from the POV of an animal so done right I can see kid loving it.

  6. I'm not sure what age this is for. My own six year old is just getting into chapter books and this seems way over her head, so maybe you are aiming for older level kids?

    I also thought that possibly the name Verbal was a little confusing. Would a child that's just still getting into reading be confused with that as well?

    Anyway, I was curious about Pandora... What was different about her? Is she a distant cousin of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer? ;) Good luck with your project!!

  7. Ooh, I'm so intrigued! Totally hooked at what could be different about Pandora. You've totally set this up, and I do hope you reveal Pandora's unique characteristic soon, to avoid reader frustration. I expect it's in the next paragraph?

    The language is strong--"earth-rattling faint" is my favorite phrase, and although I didn't notice it as I read, I can see the others' point about wanting Pandora's POV in the first paragraph.

  8. If this is for a chapter book - pre-middle grade - the language and length of the sentences seems a bit complex for your target audience.

    I am certainly ingtrigued - think kids would be, too. Rudolph, indeed.

    In the interest of realism: no calves are seperated from their mother when they're only two days old. If the mother wouldn't let the calf nurse they farmers would have to do it themselves. I can't imagine circumstances that would have them put her in with a pen of other calves.

    Bst of luck!

  9. Seems a bit complicated and long for a chapter book opening. Some of the sentences are a bit complex, too for chapter books. Especially for a book from a calf's POV. Seems to me that would appeal to younger kids still used to picture books. Older chapter book readers want to read about kids.
    Not sure whose POV it's from until the very last sentence. You introduce five characters in your first 250 words. That's a lot for a chapter book.
    Could we see Pandora's reaction to the comments? The only reaction we see is 'to her surprise' in the very last paragraph. Show her surprise, don't tell. How does she feel that the humans say things like "Oh, dearie me." instead of 'what a cute calf." And it doesn't faze her at all that her own mother fainted when she looked at Pandora? Give her some personality.
    I'd love to know what about Pandora brought all this on, but in chapter books we need to like the MC. We don't even know Pandora here.
    It's an interesting concept, but I think you need to start with Pandora. Make her likeable. Then, once we care about her, tell us why she's so different. You can introduce the characters and their reactions (and Pandora's reaction to them) as the story progresses.
    Good luck.

  10. I’m interested in what Pandora is, and I’d read farther to find out. I agree with other posters, that if this is meant to be in Pandora’s pov we ought to start there in paragraph one. Also agree that this doesn’t read like a chapter book, which I think of as being for a first or second grade reader. It reads more like middle grade to me.

  11. Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to read and comment. Your feedback was quite helpful.