The following is an excerpt from I’d Rather Be a Kid, signed Becky Chalmers
The leaves crinkled under a stampede of small feet. It was the first day of school at Yardley Elementary School. Twins, Jimmy and Billy Chalmers, were in the second grade this year. Their sister, Becky was starting fourth grade. All of the neighborhood kids chatted about a new teacher, Mrs. Howell.
“We’re going to have Mrs. Howell for second grade,” Billy said. “I saw her when I peeked in the classroom window yesterday. She’s so pretty, I’m going to bring her some daisies this morning. I picked them from Mrs. Pincher’s yard. Mrs. Pincher will never know. I didn’t pick them all.” Billy clutched a rapidly wilting handful of the yellow and white flowers.
“I’m bringing my trusty peashooter, Billy,” his brother confided. “I got a whole lot of those dried peas from the kitchen.”
*Peashooters were innocuous homemade toys. A peashooter was comprised of a wide straw and a pocketful of dried peas. The peas were blown through the straw and made a slight ‘ping’ when hitting a target, which usually didn’t happen.
“I still hate arithmetic, but I’m going to sit next to my friend, David,” Becky said. “He’s really smart with numbers.” It was a mystery to Becky how David always had the right answers in arithmetic. “I know he’ll let me see his papers if I get confused.”
“That’s cheating, Becky Chalmers,” Sharon, Becky’s sister-friend said.
Becky, the boys, Sharon and several other kids walked the half-mile to school. Mrs. Howell was as pretty as Billy said, but she had a very disciplined spirit. However, it was the first day of school and Mrs. Howell didn’t know the kids yet, although she was warned about Scotty Cadwallader.
“Okay, second-graders line up here,” Mrs. Howell called out. The noisy playground became quiet. Mrs. Howell led her students to their new classroom. “You may all choose your desks, but if you don’t behave, I will move you.”
Jimmy raced for the back row. So did Scotty Cadwallader.
“That’s my desk!” Scotty told Jimmy who was a little faster and seated at the best desk.
“I got here first,” Jimmy was going to stand up to Scotty this year. His mommy told him to.
Scotty drew up his fists like a boxer. Jimmy grew over the summer. Scotty grew even more. He relinquished his desk to Scotty. The only desk left was square in the middle of the classroom.
Billy brought his flowers to Mrs. Howell after choosing a desk up front. “These are for you,” a bashful Billy said. “I picked them myself.”
Mrs. Howell graciously accepted the nearly dead daisies and put them with water in a large cup. “Thank you,” she said. “You must be William Chalmers.” Billy already had a reputation as a Romeo at Yardley Elementary.
Patty Brown was determined to please Mrs. Howell. She turned around and said, “I’m sitting in front of you James, so you better be nice to me or I’ll tell.” Patty lost a little of her ‘sweetness’ over the summer vacation.
“Children,” Mrs. Howell began, “I’m going to take roll call. Please tell me your name and something special about yourself. We’ll start with you William Chalmers.”
“I’m William Chalmers and all the girls like me,” Billy said. Finally roll call got to the back of the room.
“I’m Scott Cadwallader and my dad taught me to box this summer.” That’s not good, Jimmy mumbled.
The bell rang for recess and Mrs. Howell lined everyone up quietly. Once out on the playground, her class ran in every direction.
Patty Brown cornered Billy. “Do you like me, Billy?” She asked.
“Well, I don’t know if I do,” Billy said, thinking.
“No, he likes me,” Sharon appeared from nowhere. “You go find somebody else.” Billy stood next to Sharon who was staring fiercely at Patty.
Back in the classroom, Jimmy made sure to avoid Scotty. Mrs. Howell restored order. “We’re going to have a reading lesson,” she said. “William and Patricia please hand out the reading books. We will read about Dick, Jane and Sally.”
Patty tried extra-hard to behave properly. She needed to be Mrs. Howell’s favorite. “Scotty Cadwallader, don’t ruin your book,” Patty said loudly, wanting to tip Mrs. Howell off about Scotty’s orneriness. Reading began. Mrs. Howell read the first two pages while each child listened. She turned to write the vocabulary words on the blackboard. Patty raised her hand with a question. She felt something ping her back. She looked behind her. Everyone had their heads down writing the vocabulary words. Patty picked up her pencil and wrote the words neatly. Something else pinged her. This time Patty turned around and saw James laughing. She frowned, thinking that was warning enough. It wasn’t. A sharp ping on her neck followed. Patty shrieked.
Mrs. Howell was startled, “Patricia, what’s wrong?”
Patty knew tears were called for. “James is throwing things at me,” she sobbed.
Mrs. Howell marched to the middle of the room. “Are these peas on the floor around Patricia’s desk?” She asked Jimmy.
“I don’t know,” he responded.
“Open your desk, James,” Mrs. Howell ordered. Jimmy opened his desk. Right on top was his trusty peashooter and a pile of peas.
“James, I think you need to meet our new principal, Mrs. Liston,” she said.
“It wasn’t me,” Jimmy protested. Scotty stuck his pea shooter and a handful of peas in his pocket. Jimmy could hear Scotty giggling.
“Off to see Mrs. Liston you go,” said Mrs. Howell.
Jimmy took a detour to the nurse’s office. “Welcome back, James,” the nurse said. “I suppose you want to lay down.”
“Yea, I’m sick,” Jimmy said. Scared sick, the nurse thought.
When the lunch bell rang, Jimmy recovered and took himself to the cafeteria. He stood in line with Becky.
“Oh, Becky, it’s the first day and I already got sent to the principal.”
“Why?” Becky asked, distracted by the ice cream bars at the end of the line.
“Scotty Cadwallader…” Jimmy started to say.
“Again,” Becky said. “I guess I will have to teach him how to be nice.”
“Be careful,” Jimmy warned. “He knows how to box now.”
“Don’t you remember Jimmy, I’m a tap dancer. Daddy says I’m quick on my feet,” Becky said. “I’ll see him at recess.” Becky went back to the fourth-grade classroom thinking about Scotty. Her mother’s advice about not fighting was forgotten. The afternoon recess bell rang. Becky caught a look at Scotty while students spilled out onto the playground.
“Uh oh, he’s really big now, what am I going to do?” Becky asked Sharon, who wanted to come along and watch.
“Why don’t you get David to fight Scotty?” Asked Sharon.
“That’s what I’ll do,” Becky said. “David took me on a friendship-date, he likes me.” The girls found David. “Will you fight Scotty Cadwallader for me?” Becky asked David pleading with her eyes. She saw Mommy doing this when she wanted Daddy to do something Mommy didn’t want to do.
“No, Becky,” David said. “Everyone gets hurt when you punch and we’ll all be sitting in the principal’s office.”
“Hump,” Becky said. “Looks like I have to teach Scotty to leave my brother be.” Becky felt a ping, then another, and another; she was under fire from Scotty’s peashooter.
“I heard you’re going to fight me,” Scotty said to Becky.
Becky’s temper flared, she picked up a fistful of powdery dirt and threw it at Scotty. It blew into a fine dust before reaching its target. Scotty was very surprised; so surprised, he swallowed a pea meant for Becky. It went down with a gulp.
Excerpt from I’d Rather Be a Kid, signed Becky Chalmers
By Diane Campbell Green, Illustrations by Linda E. Jones
Published by DCG Books, 2021
Available only at www.dcgbooks.com
About the Author
Diane Campbell Green was trained as a research historian. She received a Bachelor's degree from Worcester State College in Massachusetts then attended graduate school at Marquette University and the University of Virginia. As a graduate student, she assisted the editors of the Papers of George Washington and the Papers of James Madison. Her first time in print was as coeditor of American Manuscripts, 1763 to 1815, an index to the early manuscript trade. Post academia, she was a researcher for several major New York and Tampa retained executive search firms.
Ms. Campbell Green was inspired and urged on by a dear friend to write. She first wrote a memoir of a very influential family member of the "Greatest Generation." Some photographs given to her by a favorite relative were the catalysis to write On Being Great Again, A Surgeon, A Soldier, A Family Man, Jack J. Caleca, MD. Next, Ms. Campbell Green overlaid a family history with national history and the local history of Bristol, Pennsylvania during the Gilded Age. The book is entitled This Was Their Time and is presented as historical fiction.
From here the author took a leap into children's literature. For several months, early morning thoughts about her childhood in Yardley, Pennsylvania pressed her to compose positive, happy, humorous memories into books for children 12 and under. Santa and The Cotton Tree is a children’s story about a magical Christmas Eve journey and an old Pennsylvania tradition; a Christmas cotton tree. The book was published by Covenant Books and released in 2020. Santa and the Cotton Tree won a Royal Dragonfly award in 2020.
Ms. Campbell Green found the characters in Santa and the Cotton Tree fun, interesting and remarkably real, worthy of continued stories. Book One of the series, The Sparkling Adventures of Becky and Friends was also published by Covenant Books. It is a chapter book about the adventures and explorations of a group of children lead by eight-year-old Becky Chalmers. The book won second place for Children's Chapter Books in the 2021 Royal Dragonfly contest sponsored by Story Monsters, a children's literature review publication.
In each of the ensuing books, characters multiply revolving around Becky Chalmers. The authors talented friend, Linda Elizabeth Jones, created illustrations. Mrs. Jones exquisite artwork (begun in Santa and the Cotton Tree) continues through the entire Becky Chalmers series.
The Second Book in the series, is Goats and Ginger Ale Floats. Becky and friends have various hilarious misadventures while “growing -up.” Goats and Ginger Ae Floats was awarded a five-star rating from Reader's Favorites.
In Book Three, I’d Rather Be a Kid, signed Becky Chalmers, Becky laments the “adult” responsibility she now has.
Additionally, two early readers for children just starting their education have been published by Digital Publishers for the author. One is entitled, Senecca Starstopper Can Fly. The second early reader is Boys and Girls, Dimples and Curls.
Ms. Campbell Green intends to write for as long as she can hold a pen and make a computer work properly.