PW #215: Middle Grade Contemporary Animal Story: CALL ME ALASTAIR

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Amanda Hill, Cindy Baldwin
Mentee Name: Cory Leonardo
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Contemporary Animal Story
Word Count: 53,000


THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN meets FLORA & ULYSSES, (mixed format, three POV):

All disgruntled, de-feathered parrot Alastair wants is to fly off with his beloved sister,

retire in a palm tree, and feast on Norton Anthologies. But when that sister goes home

with pre-pre-med student Fritz, and elderly dance-enthusiast Bertie adopts Alastair, the

future looks grim…and full of polkas. Alastair’s keen plotting reunites the two birds

at last, but when one final escape looms large on the horizon, he’ll be forced to

choose between the life he’s always dreamed of and the love that will cost him




“Call me Ishmael.”

I ate that sentence once

in a thick steak of a novel.

It wasn’t my usual diet of

Keats, Whitman, Frost,

but it tasted alright anyway,

a little salty maybe, a smidge

fishy, but good.

I prefer the poetry though.

Always have.

Since the first time I wrapped my

beak around the meat of a

Norton Anthology, I was a

fish on a line—hooked.

When all your tongue has known

has been the blandness of

phone books, the sour snack of

tax forms, the cardboard-y flavor of

cardboard, that first bite of Shakespeare

is nectar, I tell you. Almost makes

a fella forget there are other books

to chew, the way it satisfies long.

And the act of remembering,

regurgitating—it fills the taste buds once more…

“Call me Ishmael.”

I ate that sentence once and knew

it would come back to me to be savored again

if ever I set out to write my story.

And it has.

Just like the poems, it’s come back,

filled my beak, taken flavors

old and new, same and


I am a bird.

These are my poems.

This is my story.

Call me Alastair.


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