Wednesday, March 10, 2010

48 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Thief with Bad Manners
GENRE: chapter book

Teacher says I have this problem. She says, "Melanie Noble, you hang the wrong way on the monkey bars."

But I like hanging the wrong way. So that the world looks all upside down. Only teacher says that’s not good to do. But that's just during special times, I think. Like when a teacher is looking. Or when I’m wearing a skirt. Or when the bell rings. Those are all special times, so I get yelled at.
But this very moment was not a special time. Because no teachers were looking. And the bell hadn’t even rung yet. So there I was, hanging the wrong way on the monkey bars.

And that was when I first saw that strange boy. He just popped right onto the edge of the playground. Right between those two big trees. Like real-life magic.

But that couldn’t be real. The sun was tricking my eyes. Teacher had warned us about that. When people have too much sun, they see loose nations. Which means fake things. So this strange boy had just been standing behind the tree. Or something.

I jumped down from the monkey bars. And then I walked right over to that boy. Mostly to get a better look.

This strange boy didn’t even go to my school, I think. He looked the right age. But I’d never seen him before. Not once in my entire whole life!And his shoes were weird. Like black boxes with white lines on the side.


  1. Take this with a grain of salt since I know nothing about chapter books.

    Is it possible to hang the wrong way on monkey bars? I had a difficult time getting past that. You hang from your hands or upside down from your knees. Is there another way?

    The girl has a good voice.

  2. I like the quirky voice of the narrator and would read on, but this didn't overly wow me.

  3. I agree. The voice is strong...which is one of the hardest things to learn, I think.

    I don't think you can hang the wrong way on the monkey bars. However, perhaps you can change it to something about it being improper for a girl to do. Or teacher might tell her if she hangs like that too long all the blood will rush to her head (adding to the list of "warnings" teacher likes to give).

    I am interested in the strange boy...that's a good hook.

    Sounds more middle grade than chapter book to me...but I am not an expert. Might be something to check into.

  4. I loved the voice. LOVED IT. The personality shone from this character. Excellent job.

  5. Sounds interesting.

    I had to read the phrase "loose nations" again to figure out what that meant. Maybe it should be one word? But then again, I'm an adult and not a child.

    I also didn't get the line about his shoes! But the MC's voice sounds just like a kid to me.

  6. Great voice.

    I agree with the others about "hanging the wrong way on the monkey bars."

    Also, I may be in the minority here, but I didn't get loose nations until I read the comment above!

    Maybe it could be loosanations or something to that effect.

    It does seem more MG in my opinion. Overall, I would read more to find out about the boy. It sounds like something my students would like to read especially if it has ghosts! :)

  7. Like Tiffany, I didn't get loose nations either. Or the monkey bars, doesn't everyone hang upside down on them? But I agree that the voice really shines. And I'm curious about the boy.

  8. I love this voice! Very nice. But like someone else said, this sounds more MG than CB. I'm curious about the boy and the shoes. I would certainly read more.

  9. I had no problem with the hanging the wrong way from the monkey bars idea. I can just picture a teacher with a refined notion of what's proper for a young lady saying hanging upside down is hanging the wrong way.

    The "loose nations" phrase was amusing. I got it immediately, but found myself wondering if that play on words would go right over a kid's head. But I guess in the Junie B Jones books, there are lots phrases the MC get wrong to amusing effect.

    Anyway, I enjoyed this and would love to read further!

  10. Love it and agree with above--hanging the wrong way is something the teacher would say about manners. Great voice, intriguing story, very well done.

  11. The voice of your main character reminds me--in a good way-- of Junie B. Jones (esp. the "I think" tag). I find the mysterious boy intriguing, and my children did, as well. The only part that glitched me was the description of the shoes, because I wondered if I just didn't get it. If it's a joke, it didn't work for me. If it's not important, I would omit it, because it distracted me. I thought the loose nations was funny -- and so did my 7-year-old when I read it to him. Strong opening.

  12. Gail said...
    Great beginning! Good voice! Like your metaphors. I'm hooked. I want to keep reading.

  13. I agree. Great voice. It kind of reads like Judy Blume. As a mother, I am hooked.

  14. I loved the voice. This is a chapter book for very young readers and I think the voice is perfect. I loved that the she likes hanging the wrong way. Little kids speak this way, especially if wearing a skirt.

    I’m intrigued by the strange boy and I’m wondering if it’s a ghost. Well done.

  15. Agree: wonderful voice, intriguing magical element. Liked the concept of special times, feels real.

    I didn't mind hanging the "wrong way." Kids will get that. The "boxy" shoe description created an odd visual; if you further it may work.

  16. Lovely voice and it triggered the illustrator in me.
    I'd ask for more because this has huge potential. It's light and tripping, yet you built intrigue into wanting to know more.
    No instant rejection button for me.

  17. I haven't read a chapter book in ages, but I do read MG, and I would say this doesn't sound MG. It sounds younger, to me, which would make me think chapter book.

    I did think the voice sounded even younger, though, like a four or five year old.

    The sentences are nice and short, mostly subject predicate and easy to read.

    Other than that, I don't know chapter books well enough to comment further.

  18. I liked it. I had no issue with hanging the wrong way on the monkey bars-to me I just immediately thought of a non-comformist girl and there a lot of wonderful examples of those in literature. I didn't have a problem with loose nations except for the fact that perhaps it might be a little low brow-I think the girl comes across as intelligent and unless she is under 6yo the confusion re the words undermines my impression of her.

  19. The voice in this one is a lot of fun. But it also doesn't seem very obviously a chapter book at this point. In this case, I would read on, because you've piqued my interested, but a lot would depend on word count and genre. Chapter books are fun, but also a really tough market. They need to be just right.