When I left Red Ventures, my friend, Brittany, gifted me a book called 300 Writing Prompts. When I fly, I ask the person lucky enough to sit next to me to choose a prompt for me to write. (Sometimes, I just pick my own.)
This one, I picked.
You’re a children’s book writer. Write the first few lines of your new book. This one is about Jamal Tamal, a little boy with a big imagination (I might know how it feels.) He imagines himself in incredible predicaments, which become real-life trouble.
I know there are plenty of contemporaries for Jamal, from Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Captain Underpants, and that there are some similarities.
This book might appeal to young Hispanic kids who sometimes struggle with embracing their cultural identity and fitting into an Anglo world. I also hope the dreamer kid who doesn’t always fit into the mainstream world will also identify with Jamal.
The Adventures of Jamal Tamal
Pape Sarape flicked the lights off and on in Jamal Tamal’s closet. This is the way a dad whose son sleeps in the closet wakes that son up at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for school. Andele, mono Pape says in a loud whisper. It’s time for breakfast.
Mono means monkey and that’s what Pape Sarape calls Jamal, even though Jamal is way too old for that. He’s nearly 8, and even though he still climbs trees he’s not really a monkey anymore. He carries his book bag on one shoulder even, just like the big boys.
One big-boy thing Jamal doesn’t do, though? He has unusual friends. I don’t mean Charlotte from Charlotte, the pretty girl one grade ahead of Jamal. And Sutton von Sutton is just a regular boy in Jamal’s grade. He’s from California and has cooler hair than Jamal.
No, the friends that other kids don’t understand are the ones only Jamal, Charlotte and Sutton can see. Namely, the Three Helpful Frogs. They’re dynamite for helping this trio solve all the mysteries on Lilac Lane. But, there’s one thing.
One Helpful Frog is always right. One Helpful Frog is always wrong. The third Helpful Frog? He just never really knows, to be honest. So, you can see how helpful/unhelpful Helpful Frogs can be to a gaggle of kids who has to bring order to the world.
Jamal crunches the fruitiest and crunchiest sugary cereal on the planet and slurps the blue milk left over in the bowl before he grabs his backpack and corn-husk cape and jumps from the fifth step (a new record!) onto the sidewalk toward the bus stop.
It’s just another day at school for most kids at Lone Pine Charter School. But not for Jamal. Not with Sutton and Charlotte and the Helpful Frogs. Teachers love Jamal, but they tell his parents at teacher conferences, Sometimes Jamal goes a bit too far …
What were your favorite books as a kid? What kind of books are your kids into?