Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #14

TITLE: Alex and Alejandro
GENRE: Chapter Book

I know when it’s coming now, every day at the same time, the “ Alex stop fidgeting” from my teacher. Ever since Bobby moved to Chicago, I’ve been fidgeting more. Mom says it’s because I’m bored.

Miss Higgninbottom rose from her seat as I squirmed in my chair. She looked at me, at the classroom door, and then back at me as the door opened. Principal Miller entered through the doorway with a new kid. The kid has dark skin, black hair and his eyes looked like two pieces of candy. Not like Skittles. More like the chocolate candy Mom gets from Dad in heart shaped boxes on Valentines days.

I could tell it was coming. She was going to tell me to stop fidgeting I knew it.

“¡Buena dìas,” she said. “That’s Spanish.”

Great, now she’s telling me to stop fidgeting in another language.

“¡Buena dìas means good morning in Spanish,” Ms. Higginbottom explained. “Class, can you say it to our new student Alejandro?”

We all said “¡Buena dìas,” but not as good as Ms. Higginbottom did.

She clutched the new kid by the shoulders, holding him like a trophy. “Alejandro and his family come from Mexico; he is bilingual, which means he speaks both English and Spanish.”

The new kid wiggled as she went on and on about Mexico. She didn’t loosen her grip the whole time.

Alejandro would you like to tell the class how old you are in your native language?” Ms. Higginbottom asked.

“Ocho,” he said.

“Ocho means eight,” she explained.


  1. I love that Alex thinks he's being reprimanded in a new language.

    The physical description of Alejandro can be completely cut. It's borderline offensive, boring, and doesn't tell us anything important. Instead, give us one vivid, interesting detail that might reveal his personality instead of ethnicity - a soccer jersey or missing front tooth (just examples, you'll come up with something better).

  2. I enjoyed Alex's voice and how he notices Alejandro wiggling as the teacher goes on and on about his home country. Maybe they have something in common?

    I agree with Zach, the description of Alejandro should be cut. Brown eyes are not so unusual that Alex would focus so much attention (and detail) to them.
    (Mexican-American here:) )
    Good luck!

  3. I'm guessing the teacher's error is supposed to be intentional / funny ("buena dias" versus "buenos dias"). I admit, it's hard to tell because there are some other small errors in this excerpt: an extra "n" in the teacher's name in one instance, the tense shift in paragraph 2, "heart shaped" needs a hyphen, "Valentines days" I believe should be "Valentine's Days," and there's inconsistency with the upside-down exclamation points for the Spanish phrases.

    Anyway, beyond all that, I like the voice overall, and I can tell that Alex is going to be a fun character to follow. I like how you've clearly set it up that A & A have the same issue, and there's suspense in wondering when and how the two are going to interact. Also, you've given us tension from the very first line, with Alex expecting to be reprimanded.

    You'll want to be careful with having too many "lessons" on page 1. What I'm getting from the latter part of the page is that Ms. H is kinda clueless and a bit insensitive -- "holding him like a trophy" speaks to that, as well as forcing Alejandro to serve as a Spanish lesson to the rest of the class. But I'm not sure that younger readers will pick up on that subtlety right away; I'm worried that some kids will see what looks like a Spanish lesson and close the book. Just a thought. I think that dynamic between Ms. H and Alejandro would be interesting to explore, but you may want to introduce it in a different way.

    Good luck!!

  4. I like the idea of incorporating a Mexican child into the class if that is an unusual event in some areas. But these days I would think most classes have a wide mix of races and nationalities already. I would hope this book has more to the story than just introducing an ethnic character. If so, I would want to see that in the opening. Just a thought.

  5. Maybe it's because I was at a conference for work today that covered a diversity section... but I was really uncomfortable with the whole new kid part -- the description of him, the way the teacher acted (would a teacher act like that? It seems kind of insensitive... and I'm not a teacher, but if my child's teacher did that I'd hope the principal would step in with a pink slip or diversity training notice...)

    Anyway, good luck with your project. Perhaps starting at a point where the two interact or get to the main conflict might be better?

  6. I like the title, and the idea that these two boys with similar names and similar difficulties are going to become friends. This piece has an historical feel, pre-Skittles, possibly related to the emphasis on Alejandro's appearance and the teacher's clumsy attempt at a Spanish lesson. I'm troubled by the faulty parallelism in Alejandro's description--but love the hilarious idea that buenos dias must mean stop fidgeting in Spanish. Good luck with the story!

  7. I’m afraid that this doesn’t read like a chapter book to me, feels more middle grade. Additionally, the first line is confusing – Alex has been fidgeting because Bobby has moved here, and Bobby makes him bored? And Bobby is the first of two people to move into Alex’s life? There are some typos here, easily fixed, that are distracting. Overall, this opening feels a bit too familiar - new kid comes to school -- so this isn't grabbing me.

  8. I like the overall idea that these two kids with the same name and the same problem will probably come together and help each other out, but the presentation doesn't quite work.

    You could start with parg 2, rather than parg 1 to get right into the story, and then tell the story instead of teaching a lesson.

    I thought you could start this with parg 2