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Tommy Bee - Chapter Book - Feedback Please

While I'm waiting to hear back from agents for my other work (could be waiting forever), I am writing a new chapter book for children. Age 6-10. This is the first chapter what do you think? 

Tommy Bee

Chapter One

Ella pouted and twirled in front of the mirror, admiring her reflection. She couldn’t wait to show off her new A92’s, a present from mum and dad for her tenth birthday. They were the latest and coolest wings on the market, black with bright yellow spots. Aja, her best friend, would be so envious. Grabbing her school bag, her tummy flipped with excitement.

‘Bye mum, I’m off now,’ she shouted.

‘OK, don’t be late home.’

‘I won’t. Love you mum.’

 

Rushing into the garden, she ran down to see Tommy. 

‘What do you think of my new wings Tommy, they’re a bit like yours aren’t they?’

Tommy gave a contented buzz of approval. 

‘I knew you’d like them,’ she said, and blew him a kiss.

Tommy was her favourite Bee in the hive. He was such a good listener. She could tell him all her secrets, he never interrupted, always agreed with her, and was the perfect friend.

‘Bye Tommy, see you later.’

 

Pressing the launch button on her wings, Ella rose steadily into the sky and looked down at the roof of her house and Tommy’s hive. Flying higher and higher, they became just dots on the landscape with all the other houses. Bees had almost become extinct until the government decided to make a new rule. All new houses had to have a Beehive, and Tommy’s hive in her opinion, was the best in the street. During her last beach holiday, she’d collected two buckets of shells and spent hours painting and sticking them onto his hive. It looked fabulous. 

 

At last she reached the lane allocated for the school run. Lanes were divided up by age or by type. The starter lane was for six to seven-year-olds, the next for eight to nine, and then, her lane, ten to twelve. There was an extra wide lane for teenagers with lots of  cameras watching them. They  have things called hormones which can make them a bit unreliable, so mum said anyway. Men and women travelled to work using what was called the commuter lane. There were a few other specialised lanes, but Ella didn’t need to use these.

 

A voice cried out from up ahead, ‘Come on slow coach, we’ll be late for school’. 

It was Aja, her best friend. 

Aja tutted, and patted her watch. 

Ella pressed her super boost button to catch up.

‘Ella, you’re always late. We can’t get into trouble with Mrs Mumble again, she’ll give us extra homework.’

‘I know, I know, sorry,’ said Ella, making an upside down smile with her mouth.

‘Well, what do you think?’ said Ella, twirling around to show off her new wings.

‘Think of What?’ said Aja.

Ella cocked her head to one side and frowned.

‘Only joking. The new A92’s, cool! You’re so lucky.’

Aja pursed her lips and went cross eyed as she said, ‘My dad won’t buy me new ones. He says these old things do the job and that’s all I need,’ she flapped her arms like an injured bird. 

Ella fell about laughing. ‘Aja, stop, stop. I can’t fly when I laugh, and we’ll definitely be late.’

 

Aja continued to make funny faces and the two of them giggled so much that they collided into another of their classmates, Pria.

‘Oi you two, watch where you’re going. You’ll damage my new school bag. It’s designer, Gucci I’ll have you know,’ said Pria with a snooty voice.

Ella raised her eyes up in disgust.

Ensuring she was just loud enough for Pria to hear, she said,

 

‘She thinks she’s so great, just because her dads got loads of money.’ Pria looked back at the two of them and scowled. 

Aja and Ella shrugged their shoulders at one another.

‘She’s a weirdo,’ said Aja. 

‘Perhaps,’ said Ella.

 

A few concrete apartments remained in the town. Ugly, grey buildings, that reached into the sky, with no gardens or open spaces. The government wanted to knock these down and replace them with mini pods. These were so much nicer and reminded Ella of Igloos. Of course these weren’t made of ice, but pretty panes of glass that sparkled in the sunlight. Ella had heard the Prime Minister speaking on TV about wanting to make the country a better place for everyone to live in. Ella thought if she were Prime Minister, she would make sure there would be enough food for everyone, and enough places for everyone to live. Everyone should be happy, including the animals. 

 

Aunt Fee owned a pod, and Ella loved to visit her. The many glass windows meant that Pod filled with sunshine during the day, and the stars twinkled down at night. On the nights she stayed over with her aunt, she would talk to the stars. If they twinkled when she spoke, she thought they were replying. Her aunt had decorated it with the very latest furniture. Green, squishy sofas, pink kitchen cupboards, and soft floaty beds. Aunt Fee was so cool. 

 

One day she dreamt she would have her own mini pod. Like her aunt, she would buy all the latest furniture, then invite all her friends for a sleep over. They would sleep in floaty, soft beds with fluffy blankets. She knew exactly how her pod would look and had drawn pictures that she kept hidden under her bed. Her little brother was eight and always snooping in her room, even though she had put a ‘KEEP OUT’ sign on the door.

 

Ella smoothly landed on the school field, while Aja landed with a bump and lost her balance. Aja got up and rubbed her elbow vigorously. 

‘You, OK?’ Ella asked.

‘If I had a new set of wings like yours, this wouldn’t keep happening,’ replied Aja wistfully.

Ella knew Aja’s family didn’t have much money for these kinds of luxuries. Often Aja wore second-hand clothes that her mum bought from the charity shop, and clothes handed down from her older sisters. Ella thought Aja always looked lovely but she knew it bothered Aja, she longed to have new clothes. Pria would sometimes make horrible remarks and had made Aja cry on a few occasions, it made Ella so cross.

 

Walking arm in arm through the school gate, the two girls giggled, their close friendship obvious to all. Aja was her BFFL.

Pria appeared from around the corner. Her black eyes stared menacingly at the two of them. 

‘You’ll be sorry, just wait and see,’ she said in a really nasty voice.

Ella ignored her, but didn’t like her tone, she didn’t like her tone one bit. Pria was up to something

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Replies (5)
    • It's an interesting premise - kids flying to school with wingsuits. I like the protagonist's voice. I'm not an expert on writing for children by any means, but it comes across as a bit advanced for six-year-olds, to me. When you mention the government in particular - maybe it could be 'the Mayor' who wants to knock the buildings down?

      The exposition around "Lanes were divided up by age or by type" is jarring - perhaps just a little too obvious? "Men and women travelled to work using what was called the commuter lane." - maybe 'grown-ups' instead of 'men and women'? "There were a few other specialised lanes, but Ella didn’t need to use these." - do we need to know about these, at this point in the story? "One day she dreamt she would have her own mini pod. " - did you mean "She dreamt one day she would have her own mini pod."? There are places where it seems a little 'telling heavy' - e.g. the little brother snooping in her room - I'm sure you could make something more vivid of this.

      Best of luck with this one!

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      • Thanks Sligo great feedback much appreciated. Yes you’re right about it being advanced for six year old, I guess more eight - ten, young readers. Having said that it’s amazing how kids are so advanced these days! I like the idea of using grownups, maybe adults? I probably could improve the scene regarding her brother and I’ll have a think. As this is a chapter book, there needs to be a little more tell than you would use in say middle grade.

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      • Hi Deb

        Hope all is good with you. Sorry it's taken so long to read 'Tommy Bee,' but things have been crazy here.

        Firstly, you know how much I love your writing style. The quirkiness and humour you bring to the characters. There does seem to be quite a bit of telling though, especially in the explanation of flying lanes etc.
        Chapter One

        I've got to say I was a bit confused at first. I wasn't sure whether Ella and Aja were humans, bees, or a combination of both., I had to re-read it a few times to get my head around it. I got there eventually!
        You set things up nicely - using current themes of global warming and bees, something cataclysmic has obviously happened.
        There's a bit of repetition in the paragraphs about cars, and when you say 'wings did not exist,' what about planes? A bit picky maybe!
        I like the characters of Ella and Aja. As usual you're great with characterisation and introduced them really well. Also liked the introduction of Pria as the baddie!
        There does seem to be a lot of explanation crammed in to the chapter. Could this be eked out throughout the book? History lessons maybe to learn about what has happened to the world?

        Chapter Two

        There was no hint in chapter one of the school holidays, so the start of chapter two seems a bit disjointed. Maybe one line of confirmation in chap one to say it was the last day of school.
        Overall, I think it's a much stronger than chapter one. I can really see Ella, Aja, and Pria's characters taking shape.
        One thought though - maybe you could have had a bit more fun with Pria and the bees: running around while the others laugh at her. Could give her more reason to be the villain of the piece.

        Well done though Deb for something completely different with superb current issues.

        I hope you've found my comments constructive and I'll wait for you to post chapter three (which hopefully I can read a bit quicker!)

        Dave

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        • Hi Dave,

          thanks so much for your comments. Chapter one has changed quite a bit since posting but your comments are spot on. I read it to my grandchildren and they thought Ella was a bee! I could see them tire when I got to the telling and have changed it since, but it needs much work. Glad yo like the premise. Back working on Archie now as I’ve had notes back from my one to one, very constructive. How are you doing? Are you still going to self publish?

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          • Hi Deb

            Still thinking about self publishing. I'm in discussion with a couple of illustrators at the moment - some interesting concepts! But I've also got an agent 1 to 1 booked for next Tuesday, so I'll see what feedback I get from that. LIke everyone else, I'm just a bit fed up of agents not getting back to you, but I suppose with all the manuscripts they get, it's understandable.

            I think if I like the illustrations, I might look at Amazon Kindle Publishing, although I have also had Silverwood and Troubador who have said they would publish it - not cheap though!

            Let's see what the new year brings eh?

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