I can’t tell if this series has great potential or is cringe city. I’d love to write a beloved children’s series (who wouldn’t?), and I think some kind of “adventures in etymology” angle would be great. I also like the idea of inserting myself into the series (I think?) because the name might help people remember Vocabbett.
But man, writing for kids is SO different! The age group here would be elementary school, probably around 4th grade.
March 4, 2020 – Here’s What I Have So Far:
Ms. Abbett wasn’t anybody’s idea of a normal teacher. She was too young, for one, and wayyyy too excited about things nobody cares about.
She’d say things like, “Our next lesson is about my main man, Julius Caesar. Love that guy.”
How awkward is that?
She even had an endless supply of history-themed jewelry. You know, a golden snake bracelet for Egypt. A Medusa necklace for Greece. Sword earrings for Rome.
The sort of thing a perfectly sane person might select while shopping.
I’m ashamed to admit that most of my friends fell under Ms. Abbett’s spell immediately. Their hands shot up in her class like they were volunteering to be the first kids on Mars. Their excitement to answer a question like, “And whom did Paris give the golden apple to?” was an embarrassment to adolescence.
What most annoyed me about Ms. Abbett, though, was how desperate she was for me to care about history.
Why can’t she just accept that some people are more into math and science? I mean, I don’t think she wants me to be bad at math, per se. But she wants me to love history, too.
And she took it up with my parents at conferences.
“James is a wonderful student,” she said. “However, I would like to see him participate more in class. The more engaged he is, the easier it’ll be to get those grades up.”
My parents looked at me in alarm.
“Grades?” Dad croaked.
“Up?” Mom added.
Honestly, they were like a couple of parrots.
I shifted awkwardly in my desk. “I haven’t been doing that great in history this year,” I mumbled.
“And you’re not even trying?” Mom added.
I shook my head.
“James!” Dad cried.
Seriously, they’re as dramatic as she is. It’s not like a few middle school test scores matter anyway.
“I’d like James to come in for extra help,” Ms. Abbett added.
My face turned puce, reddening all the way to the tips of my ears.
“But, Ms. Abbett—” I protested.
“James!” Mom gave me her famous bug eyes. “Do not interrupt your teacher. I’m so sorry, I don’t know what’s come over him!”
Mrs. Abbett just smiled, like she always does.
“Extra help won’t be anything like you think,” she said, giving me a wink. “I promise.”
“She got you too, huh?” Lily said.
She was sitting in Ms. Abbett’s class after school, where the dreaded help session was to take place.
I flopped into a desk, nodding. “Shouldn’t you be at soccer?”
“My parents won’t let me play until I get my grades up.”
I didn’t know Lily well, but I knew she was the star of the school’s team, played club soccer, and had even gone to Spain for some fancy invite-only, all-expenses-paid soccer camp for rising stars.
“Yeesh,” I muttered. “Sorry.”
Lily’s face had gone as red as mine during conferences. Hers, however, seemed to be rooted in rage rather than embarrassment.
At that precise moment, Ms. Abbett glided into the classroom, bringing her bejeweled hands together in excitement.
“Lily and James,” she proudly declared, “by the time we’re finished, you’re going to walk out those doors with an entirely new appreciation of history. No more extra help required.”
Lily and I exchanged eye rolls.
“I saw that,” Ms. Abbett said. “I’m standing right in front of you. Remember?”
That was the first time I ever saw Ms. Abbett drop her smile. She bit her lip and twirled one of her rings round and round on her finger.
Lily finally broke the tension. “I’m sorry, Ms. Abbett. We both are.” I got the feeling she wanted to elbow me but wasn’t close enough.
“Thanks, Lily. I appreciate it, but…” Mrs. Abbett seemed to be struggling to find her next words. “I have something unconventional planned for today. Your parents agreed, but it’s — well — it’s dangerous.”
“Mrs. Abbett,” I asked flatly, trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice, “how can a trip to a museum be dangerous?”
“We’re not going to a museum, James. And I need you both to promise, right now, that for the next two hours, you’ll follow my instructions exactly. If I say ‘jump,’ you say ‘how high.’ If I say ‘quiet,’ you keep jumping in total silence. Capeesh?”
I had no idea what “capeesh” meant, but I nodded.
“With that out of the way,” the glimmer returned to Ms. Abbett’s eyes, “I want you both to pick a card.”
Like a magician, she withdrew a tattered deck of cards from a velvet bag, then spread it on her desk at the front of the class.
“Go on!” she urged.
We both got up, gave each other looks, and drew a card. Mine said “roster” on it, surrounded by weird symbols.
“And now, for the moment of truth!” she put the cards Lily and I had chosen behind her back, closing her eyes and shuffling them around. Then, she held one up to us.
“Which one is it?” she asked eagerly, flipping the card so she could see it. “Roster! Oh, I love this one!”
“Better luck next time, Lily,” I snorted. “But…what did I win?”
“The adventure of a lifetime.”
Mrs. Abbett held my card up to her necklace, the only one she never took off. It was shaped like a small, golden seashell — you know, the kind you put your ear up to and listen to the waves in? Then she started whispering something in a language I didn’t recognize.
I didn’t have time to ask what she was doing. By the time I realized something wasn’t quite right, opening my mouth to speak, I was falling…down, down, down, right into the Mediterranean Sea.
“James!” Lily shrieked. “James, up here!”
I paddled wildly, coughing out seawater as I tried to stay above the crashing waves.
“Give me your hand!” Ms. Abbett shouted.
I did as I was told. Surprisingly strong, Ms. Abbett hauled me into a little wooden boat, Lily pulling at Ms. Abbett’s waist to keep her from toppling over, too.
“What in the—”
“James, watch your language,” Ms. Abbett said.
“No, but seriously. I actually feel wet. And cold.” I coughed again, wobbling over to one of the rickety boat’s benches. “Did you get a grant from Google? Is this, like, some next-gen VR field trip?”