Reading bedtime stories for kids is all part of being a parent. But I liked making up my own stories, on the spot. I even considered writing my own children’s stories. Now, if only I had the gumption…
We used to tell bedtime stories to our children. What parent didn’t? We had lots of storybooks, from Dr Seuss to Robert Munsch. And, because Heather wanted our kids to be bilingual, we also read them French storybooks. When they were very little, one of their favourites was Bonne Nuit. A simple board book that said “good night” with a variety of cute child’s pet names, like “mon petit chou” or “ma perle”.
But my favourite stories were the ones I made up at bedtime. I think they became Zachary’s favourites as well.
The Tales Of Thomas
As a little guy, Zach loved trains. His absolute favourite was Thomas the Tank Engine. He played with the different trains and cars, and he watched the tv show. I have to say, George Carlin’s narration was the best…
So at bedtime, I would often tell stories based on the characters from the Thomas the Tank Engine world, like Percy, Toby, Gordon, and Hiro. We’d get comfy in bed, and I would begin to make up an adventure story involving one of the characters. My main objective was having Zach falling asleep with a positive message, like being helpful to others, or trying his best, despite setbacks.
It’s funny, but as I think about those stories and our bedtime ritual, it brings a tear to my eye. I can still see that little guy, watching me with saucer eyes when something scary happened to one of the characters, or laughing when they did something silly. Okay, I’m just going to pause for a moment…
Right! So anyway…
Beth-Rose was a little different. When it was my turn to read or tell her a story, she usually just wanted the same story every night. And when I say every night, I mean EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! There was probably no more than 4 stories I ever told her. Didn’t even need the book anymore to tell the story because they were etched in my brain!
Not only that, but she laughed at me when I read French books. She said my accent was funny…
New Adventures in Bedtime Stories For Kids
As Zach got a bit older, he became interested in adventures. We discovered the Flat Stanley series, which have been around for almost 60 years! If you don’t know about Flat Stanley, he got flattened after a bulletin board fell on him. So he went on tons of adventures by mailing himself around the world. Fun!
He also loved the game Minecraft. He loved building worlds and using his imagination to invent and create elaborate structures and villages in Minecraft. Both our kids also loved to read, so when he discovered an author who was writing books for young readers, that used the Minecraft universe as their setting, he was thrilled. At some point, he even wrote to the author.
Bedtime Stories For Kids Gets An Upgrade
Then Zachary became interested in mysteries, so we read The Hardy Boys, a wonderful youth series by Franklin Dixon. I sometimes wonder if this is when Zach started to get the idea of becoming a voice actor. He often commented on the voices I did for the stories as I read them aloud. He still comments on the voice I made for the Hardy Boys’ friend, Chet Morton!
His interest in mysteries and teenage sleuthing morphed into spy stories, and he discovered Jack Stalwart, written by Elizabeth Singer Hunt. These were also the books that introduced cool spy gadgets that captivated young Zach. We even got him a spy gadget kit for Christmas one year.
And one year while camping, I decided his bedtime stories needed an upgrade. So I started writing my own spy story.
Zach and I had a good chat about what the story should be about. At the time, he was 9 years old. And so he wanted the main character to be 9 or 10 years old. He wanted him to be a master spy, with lots of cool gadgets and crazy skills.
Me? A Children’s Book Author?
So, over the course of our camping trip, I created a rough outline and, very quickly, a first draft of chapter one. I thought to myself, “Hey! I could really write a kid’s book!”
But I never followed up with the story. in fact, once the camping trip was over, the notebook with my first chapter ended up on a shelf, forgotten. So the story was never written. So much for my brilliant career as a children’s author…
After finding that notebook a few days ago, I decided to create an outline for a full book. I don’t know when I might actually get it written, but at least the idea is back in my brain. Who knows, maybe I’ll still get a kid’s book published. You just never know…
But here it is, written so many years ago, the first chapter of the story we developed. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Zack Taggart and the Mysterious Lights
It was a cold winter’s night in January, and Zack Taggart lay in his bed, listening to the snow falling heavily outside his window. Zack was wide awake. Tonight was the night he was going to Mexico!
Zack wasn’t your average, ordinary, everyday 9 year old boy. He was a Super Spy!
Two years ago, Zack was recruited by the Worldwide Secret Agency, an international network of Super spy kids.
Zack had always loved inventing things, and some of his best inventions had gotten noticed by the WSA.
One of his inventions, the Teleporter, was now used all the time by the Agency. It let spies transport instantly from one place to another, even half way around the world! The WSA bought Zack’s invention and perfected it. They even shrunk it down and put it into a watch! Now every spy wore the Super Spy Utility Watch, which also allowed the wearer to turn invisible for short periods of time.
In the last two years, Zack had been on a dozen missions for the WSA, each resulting in the capture of international bad guys who threatened the safety and security of the world’s innocent. And each mission had proven more difficult than the last.
A Special Spy Kid
Zack’s Mom and Dad knew that he was a super spy. They worried about him all the time, but they were also very proud of their special spy kid. Even Zack’s little sister, Betsy-Rose, wanted to be a super spy, but Mommy Taggart wasn’t sure about that. “I think one super spy in the family is more than enough,” she often said.
And Dad always replied, “Yes but, how many Dads can say they have a spy for a son?”
“You can’t say anything, Dad,” Zack scolded. “No one can know that I’m a spy!”
The Taggart Rule
His parents made a rule with the WSA. If he was to go on a mission, they had to be notified 24 hours in advance. It was the only way they would let their 9 year old go off on super secret, dangerous spy work.
The boss of the WSA, Callum Colton Connor, had agreed to this because he knew that Zack was something special. In fact, if Zack’s Mom and Dad had asked for the moon, Mr. Connor would have given it to them! He had been prepared to offer them anything to get Zack to come work for him.
Now besides Zack’s amazing inventing abilities, he also spoke four languages. In addition, he could shoot a bow and arrow with perfect accuracy; he could move through a forest or a room full of people, and no one would hear a sound, not even a squirrel in the trees or a deer in a meadow. Zack was a ghost. But a very quiet ghost!
To get back to our story, the night before, the Taggarts were sitting down to dinner when their spy phone suddenly rang. Brrrring-brrrring! Two quick rings. This was their special red phone the WSA had installed to let the Taggarts know when Zack was expected on a mission.
When the special phone rang its special ring, brrrring-brrrring, everyone stopped and stared silently at the device. It only rang twice. Then Zack’s phone alarm vibrated on his wrist, and a message transmitted to the screen on his watch face.
“ATTENTION AGENT!! MISSION IMMINENT!!”
Zack jumped up from the table. “Sorry Mommy. I gotta take this!”
Quickly he dashed from the kitchen and headed up to his room. Sitting down at his desk, he popped open his laptop, and the logo of the Worldwide Spy Agency appeared on the screen. Then the logo faded out and the director of the WSA, Callum Colton Connor, appeared.
Connor was an older man, almost 40, and completely bald. Though he had no hair on his head, he made up for it on the rest of his face. He had very bushy eyebrows, completely black, and a big, bushy, black beard grew from his long, pointy chin, down to his chest. And a huge, black moustache completely covered his mouth. Zack realized he had never seen Mr. Connor’s teeth!
Connor was usually quick to laugh, but tonight he looked very serious.
“Hello Zack, good to see you.”
“Hello sir,” Zack replied, feeling a little nervous. “What’s up?”
Mr. Connor paused, took a deep breath, then began.
“Mission thirteen for you Zack, and this one’s a doozy. For three nights now, strange lights have been appearing in the night sky over Bucerias, Mexico. It was really just a curiosity until tonight. Most of the town was out on the beach, watching these lights blinking and flashing in the sky, red, blue, yellow, orange, green. Suddenly the lights got real bright, then they all merged together, and a blinding flash shot out of the sky and blew an outhouse to smithereens!”
Zack’s eyes grew as big as flying saucers. “Holy Moly!” he exclaimed.
“Don’t worry,”Mr. Connor reassured. “There was no one inside, and no one got hurt. Everybody beat a hasty retreat back to their homes and locked their doors and windows. And the lights just went back to their regular flashing and blinking.”
“So what do you need from me, sir?’ Zack asked.
“Well son, governments around the world are worried. They don’t know if this is some kind of alien invasion or just a magician practicing a fancy trick. Some countries want to send in their military, but the Mexican government won’t let them. They’ve asked us if we can look into it, quietly, mind you. They don’t want any more panic. Folks in Bucerias are frightened enough. But the government is keeping them calm for now.”
Mr Connor continued. “We’re sending you down to check it out. And so tomorrow night you’ll teleport to the town of Bucerias and have a look around. Then you’ll meet up with our local contact, Miguel, and he’ll fill you in on the details.”
“As quickly as you can, you are to determine the source of those lights and, if they are a threat, find a way to stop it. Remember, under no circumstance are you to tell anyone why you’re there. Miguel will set you up with a place to stay, but time is short. And you’ll only have 48 hours before the Mexican government sends in their army. Do you have any questions, Zack?”
Zack blinked, staring at his laptop. For a moment he waited for the Director to say something like “April Fools!” But it wasn’t April. And Director Connor looked very serious.
Zack gulped and took a deep breath. “But sir, if this is an alien invasion, what can I do to stop it? I mean, I am just a kid.” And suddenly, Zack suddenly felt very small.
The Director’s eyes softened, and he smiled kindly.
“Son, I know this sounds like the craziest thing you ever heard. But when the Mexicans contacted me, you were the first person who popped into my head. And I want you to know, I would never send you on some hopeless quest, or a mission you couldn’t come back from.
“In the past two years, you’ve shown me how good you are. And today I know in my heart, I’m sending my best agent. Moreover, if anyone can get to the bottom of this, it’s Zack Taggart, Super Spy!”
Zack swallowed and smiled at the Director. “Thank you sir. You can count on me!”
And now, 24 hours later, Zack lay in his bed, waiting for the bedside clock to read 10 o’ clock. That was the hour he would teleport out of his cozy and safe bed, and into the unknow in a small Mexican town, 2,000 miles away.