Option One: © T.M. Clark – Extracted from Mad-Man-Jones
Chapter Book: 771 Words. Aimed at 6 – 9 years.
Friday was Erica’s favourite day of school, and it was also sports dress day. No ironing of her uniform.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like ironing, just that she never quite got her clothes to look as pressed as when her mum used to do them.
They had sports period from big break to end of school, and she got to play tennis. Melissa would win, she always had since grade three when she’d first come to the school. She’d beaten everyone at every sport, but then her dad was her coach and was sporty himself, owning the golf club in town. Erica’s dad was a geek and didn't have a sporting bone in his body. He was never going to be able to coach her properly, no matter how many YouTube video’s he watched trying to help.
‘I wonder…' She said as she pulled her tennis racquet out the pile of sporting equipment in the corner of her room. She looked in the mirror. Sure enough, she looked like a boy again today. Her gold shirt flat in the front, her short hair under her school cap, and her legs sticking out the bottom of her brown shorts with her white ankle socks and trainers.
Why couldn’t girls wear a skirt for their sports uniform? Be distinctly female?
Then Mad-man-Jones would never mistake her for a boy, not ever.
Friday was the only day he ever aimed his tennis-coaching machine at her as she passed his house, because of all the other days, she wore the long green tartan skirt that was her formal uniform.
It was all Jessie and Rupert’s from number 24's fault really. But they were too scaredy-cats to go and apologise and make it right. Instead, they chose a different route to school now, avoiding the problem. She and all the other neighbourhood teenage boys had to suffer because they’d graffitied Mad-Man-Jones’s garden wall.
‘If he tries it today, I’m hitting back. Enough is enough,’ Erica mumbled.
She kissed her dad – who was already working in his study – goodbye and walked out the door. Taking a deep breath, she began her walk to school.
Just before she got to Mad-man-Jones house, she took her tennis racquet from its cover and put her backpack properly on both shoulders. If she was going to have a stand-off with the old man, it might as well be today.
She peeked over the wall – no one was there. It had been a silly idea to ‘arm up’ and bring her racquet, and she shook her head as she began to walk past, along his fence line.
She ducked instinctively as she heard the ball whizz over her head.
Apparently, Mad-Man-Jones was home and terrorising the neighbourhood again.
She took a step back and turned to be ready for the next ball. He stood on his veranda, a little elevated from the road, as he adjusted his ball machine towards her, and let another one fly. She took her racquet, stepped to the side and hit it, returning it to him in his space, but not quite at him.
He stood up and looked at her.
She could see him entirely now. Although everyone said he was old, he didn't stoop, he still held himself straight upright. He was bald but not all the way more like an old-fashioned monk. He wore a shirt with a collar and white shorts. And his hawk-like features seemed to look right into her soul.
She didn’t get to see more as the next ball came flying her way.
Again, she returned the shot, only this time it went closer to him.
‘Come on, give me another try,’ she mumbled as she walked, waiting for him to shoot another ball, now that the challenge was on she wanted another chance before she got to the end of his wall, and to safety.
The next ball came faster than any she had ever experienced.
She whacked it back with a satisfying ‘thunk’ noise.
Erica knew it didn't go near him, but she heard him ‘humph.’
She frowned. She didn’t want to hurt him, just show him that if he shot the balls at her, she would return them now, all the time.
‘Good shot!’ He called. ‘But you could use some coaching lessons. Meet me at the same time at the gate tomorrow morning if you’re interested.’
‘Even though I’m a girl?’ she shouted back.
‘What? I can’t hear you. Speak up boy!’
She shook her head. Mad-man-Jones was going to be in for a surprise when SHE showed up for her coaching lesson tomorrow.
OPTION TWO: © T.M. Clark – Maeve’s Chickens
Picture Book: 436 Words. Aimed at 3 – 6 years.
(All types of chicken breeds are for reference/illo notes only, and can be discarded in the illo's if your imaginations runs that way. Italics are illo notes and a guide only.)
Maeve loved chickens. It didn’t matter the size or colour.
Black chooks (Australorps) and white chooks (Leghorns).
Small fluffy ones (Bantams) and puffballs (Silkies).
Fuzzy (Frizzle), brown (Isa Brown and Orpingtons), speckled (Sussex) and multi-coloured ones too (Belgian d’Uccle).
Weird looking chooks with naked necks (Naked Necks), and big red hens (Rhode Island Red).
Even glamorous chickens wearing hats (Polish).
She read every book she could get from the library.
One day Maeve visited the petting zoo and got to touch a real chicken.
Maeve knew she really wanted one for a pet. ‘Please can I have a chicken Mummy?’
Mum shook her head. ‘Sorry Maeve, but we live in a city, there are so many regulations to keep chickens, besides they smell bad.’
But Maeve still wanted a pet chicken.
She tried to hatch her own. (She took the eggs out the fridge, wrapped them in a tea towel and put them in the sun.)
But no chickens hatched.
Maeve tried again. (Eggs from the box, and put them under the bed with her lamp shining.)
Still no chickens hatched.
Maeve really wanted a pet chicken.
She made a big poster for the front fence:
“Anyone with a chicken I can borrow, please bring it to visit.”
No one brought their chickens to share with her.
‘Please can I have a chicken mummy?’
‘Chickens scratch in the ground all the time. They will dig up my flower beds, and they attract vermin.’
Maeve tried one last time. (Put some eggs into a bird’s nest in the garden. But the birds didn’t fit on the eggs to hatch them.)
Maeve added to her poster:
“P.S. I will chicken-sit for you for free.”
Still no one knocked on the door.
Aunty Lisa lived on a farm, and Mum told her about the poster. She organised a special visit, she brought with her six chickens: Small fluffy (Bantams) ones and puffballs (Silkies).
They ran around and scratched in mum’s flower garden.
They flew next door and had a fight with the cat.
The chickens pooped everywhere and it smelt bad after the afternoon rainstorm.
‘Oh no,’ Maeve said. ‘These are farm chicken’s, if I had my own chicken, I would train it to be good, like in the book. Please can I have a chicken Mummy? I promise to look after it.’
Mum nodded. ‘Aunty Lisa has something special for you. But you have to follow all her instructions.’
When Aunty Lisa left with all her farm chickens, she gave Maeve a special incubation with two little eggs nestled in it.
Maeve soon heard.
Her chicks were pipping.
She watched the eggs hatch.
Two fluffy golden baby chickens of her very own.
She fed and cared for them.
They grew fast as she trained her hens to fit into their city garden.
Maeve waved to everyone as she walked her chooks on their leads down the streets and she made a new poster for her fence:
“Anyone who needs a hug from a chicken, you can visit and share mine.”