Count on Cookie Carmichael


Becky Birtha


MG Contemporary

Word Count:

24,000 words


When a rumor spreads that Johnnie Watertower’s gang of junior high school boys plans to beat up the entire elementary school, fourth grader Cookie Carmichael is overheard reassuring her frightened best friend, and finds herself thrust into a leadership role, expected to save the whole school from the impending disaster. Fortunately, she’s up for the challenge. With the questionable advice of her parents and their inevitable lessons about non-violence and African American history, the well-meaning input of her teachers, the real help of her classmates, and her own creativity and love of the arts, Cookie finally comes up with the FFFPP (Fabulous Fantastic Fail-Safe Perfect Plan) to face the gang members without fear.

My manuscript, Count on Cookie Carmichael, is a middle grade contemporary set in an urban African American community. Like my main character, I am African American. A member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I am the author of two award-winning historical fiction picture books about African American families, Grandmama’s Pride (Albert Whitman, 2005) and Lucky Beans(Whitman, 2010). Forthcoming in 2017, also from Whitman, is Far Apart, Close in Heart: Being a Family When a Loved One is Incarcerated.

First 300 words:

Chapter 1:  The Danger Zone

“Cookie!  Hurry up!”

Cookie Carmichael looked up to see her best friend Jerriellen Jackson at the end of their block, waving and motioning at her to come on. She stuffed her book bag under her arm so she could run better. One strap had broken last week, and Mom said she wasn’t buying a third book bag this year, when there was only a month left of fourth grade.

She raced past the row of red brick houses that were all attached to one another, past the little front yards behind their fences. Her green jacket flapped around her and the big shopping bag she was carrying bumped against her legs.

When she caught up with Jerriellen, Cookie had to stop and put everything down to tuck her shirt back in so that the missing button wouldn’t show, and to pull her socks back up.

“Hey,” Jerriellen said. “You’re wearing two different color socks.”

Cookie glanced down to discover with dismay that she had accidentally pulled one navy blue and one black sock out of the messy drawer that morning. Without turning on the bedroom light, so her little brothers wouldn’t wake up, she had taken the socks for a match. Cookie sighed.

But Jerriellen said quickly, “It doesn’t matter, Cookie. You can hardly tell. I probably only notice stuff like that ’cause I’m gonna be an artist when I grow up.”

Cookie thought maybe that was the reason, too, that Jerriellen always looked ready to have her portrait painted, while Cookie could never seem to get her clothes quite right.

“Boy, I sure am glad you came along,” Jerriellen went on. “My grandma said it was too late to wait for you any more. I sure am glad I don’t have to walk by that corner all by myself.”


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