Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #11

TITLE: Pandora
GENRE: Chapter Book

Spring was the busiest time of year at Buttermilk Farm. That's when the calves were born. This particular spring, calves were arriving day and night.

One balmy night, a tiny calf struggled into the world. Farmer Johnson and his hired hand, Verbal, were in the barn. Mrs. Johnson was there, too. She loved all of the cows. She even named them. She knew every cow by name, even though they all looked remarkably alike.

Mrs. Johnson named this calf Pandora. Something told her Pandora would be full of surprises. As usual, Mrs. Johnson was right.

From the very beginning, Pandora knew she was different. She didn't look like the other calves. The other calves wore black and white splotches. Pandora was checkerboard. But she didn't care about how she looked. That's just the outside. Pandora knew her real difference was deep inside. She was going to be special and make a difference. 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.


  1. It's funny the mother cow faints when she sees her baby, but we don't know who the main character is going to be until the last paragraph. Start with Pandora.

    Who is Verbal?

  2. I like it. It sounds cute. But I'm no expert, since I don't usually read Chapter books.

  3. I'm in the same boat as SuzanneWrites.

    Good luck with SA!

  4. I love the idea of a checkered calf. How funny.

    With the POV, I'm presuming the first half is narration which I think may be okay in chapter books. I'm not sure though, but I've read chapter books like that.

    I love the name, Pandora. I'd definitely read on. I want to know why the mother cow fainted and what else is different about Pandora.

    Good luck.

  5. Nice writing. I'm hooked. I especially love the image of the fainting cow. I can almost see it, legs up in the air.

    I also love the line: Pandora knew her real difference was deep inside. I know this story, and I love the double meaning. Good job!

  6. It took me a few paragraphs to get into this but the image of the cow fainting is great.

  7. The fainting cow is excellent! But Pandora has just been born and she already knows about fate and making a difference?

    Perhaps just show us she's different thru her action and dialogue as the story progresses. Telling us makes it sound preachy.

  8. What about beginning with "The first thing Pandora heard was Farmer Johnson say 'Well, well, would you look at that?'" That way, my early reader is primed to accept Pandora as the main character and to see things from her POV.

    That way, we get to the fainting cow-mom earlier, too -- which would make my kid crack up and force her to keep reading.

    All the stuff about springtime and balmy nights can come later, as Pandora is exploring her world.

    I'd also caution against telling the reader about the future ("she was going to be special and make a difference," "something told her Pandora would be full of surprises"). Let the surprises and the special-ness unfold with the story.

  9. I agree with Ami. How does Pandora know who the farmer, the farmer's wife, and the hired hand are? Her thoughts about that (and about the other cows) could be great opportunities for chapter book type humor.

  10. I love the way Pandora is a checkerboard calf and that her mom faints when she sees her. Nicely written, too! My main problem is that this sounds more like the beginning to a picture book. From what I know about genres (others please chime in), a chapter book is one that young readers read on their own. I think it should start with Pandora and her POV. The vocabulary should be on a 2nd-3rd grade reading level, and the sentences should be shorter.

    Good luck with your story! It sounds like fun!

  11. Looks like it could be a cute story, but I agree with the comments that starting right from Pandora's POV would make this so much stronger. Right now it's jarring to go from omniscient to Pandora.

    Is the mother fainting because of the checkers? If so, you've already ruined that for us by telling us about it. Consider starting with "The first thing Pandora heard..." and work everything that came before that into the story as it is important to the story instead of just telling us about it all at once.

  12. I love the description and where you're going with the calf, but I feel this is more of a picture book wording. Chapter books are when a kid first starts reading alone ("Look mommy, I can read!") so the sentences should be short and to the point.

    LOVE the checkerboard pattern, though!

  13. I know nothing about chapter books, but I loved the voice and how this starts, with the checkerboard pattern and the mother cow fainting. :D I'd read it.

  14. The cow fainting is great! I agree you should start with 'The first thing Pandora heard..." because the beginning isn't that hooky and not from Pandora's POV. Get us to the fainting cow earlier!