Annie B., Made for TV


By Amy Dixon

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For every kid who’s ever come in second place, this is a middle grade story about chasing your dreams.

Eleven-year-old Annie Brown is used to being on the losing end of comparisons to her almost-always best friend Savannah. Savannah is MVP of the track team, has straight As, and, predictably, wins the most coveted school spirit award on the last day of 5th grade. Fortunately, Annie does have one very specialized skill.

Inspired by As Seen on TV commercials, Annie likes to invent products and write clever sales pitches to go along with them. So when an opportunity arises to audition for a local web show called The Cat’s Meow, Annie knows her future is set. She’s going to wow those producers with her fabulous writing and made-for-TV announcer voice.

Of course, things don’t happen quite according to plan, and soon Annie is worried about losing both the opportunity she’s been training for her whole life, and her best friend.



“Jefferson, Jefferson, Home of the Quail!

Jefferson, Jefferson, we never fail!

Our school is the best, better than the rest.

We’ll shout it loud and clear,

Jefferson, Jefferson, Home of the Quail,

Show us how you CHEER!”

I know as a fifth grader I’m supposed to roll my eyes and pretend to say the words to our school fight song instead of actually saying them. It’s the little kids that get excited and belt out the lyrics and cheer their heads off at the end. The fifth graders, the rulers of the school, are supposed to cross their arms over their chest and act bored. Usually I play along, but today is our last day at Jefferson Elementary, and I can’t help but sing and scream like a maniac at the end. I’ve been at this school since I was four years old, which means I’ve probably sung the phrase “Jefferson, Jefferson, Home of the Quail” seven thousand times.

Quail are the worst mascots ever. The quail is our state bird in California, so I’m pretty sure that’s why it’s our school mascot. I once did a report on quail and discovered they get scared easily and run away and hide when anyone comes close to them. So I’m not sure why you would want your school to be represented by a bird like that. If you’re going to be a bird, at least pick a strong and brave bird, like an eagle or a hawk. When you play another school in basketball, you don’t want to be the bird that gets eaten. You want to be the bird that eats the other birds!

The only mascot that’s possibly worse is a troubadour. That was my mom’s school mascot when she was my age. The first problem with a troubadour is that they don’t even exist anymore. They’re from way back in the time of knights and castles and damsels in distress. The second problem is that a troubadour is a wandering minstrel—someone who frolics around the countryside playing music and spouting love poetry. I’ll never understand who thought that would make a good mascot. A mascot should be something you’re scared to compete against. Troubadours just stand on the sidelines in their tights and funky hats, singing and waving to the real warriors. They’re like the cheerleaders of the Middle Ages. What’s scary about that? Oh, mighty troubadour, with your flute and tiny guitar, your inspiring poetry has me shaking in my boots! How will I handle all of your encouragement? The only chance you have with that one is to hope that no one knows what a troubadour is. Then you can pretend it’s something fierce, like a rare type of jungle cat or a ferocious dinosaur species. But there’s no pretending with a quail. Everyone knows what a quail is, and no one is afraid of it.

My best friend, Savannah, doesn’t agree. She adores quail and was super upset when she saw them on the menu at Chez Jacques, a fancy-pants restaurant downtown. Which really just proves my point, since you would never see sautéed eagle or poached hawk on someone’s dinner plate. But Savannah thinks quail are beautiful. Personally, I think they look a bit like a miniature soccer ball. Something you’d like to kick, which, again, makes them not the greatest mascot. But today, on the last day of fifth grade at “Jefferson, Jefferson, Home of the Quail,” every student in the room wants to have the heart of a quail.

The Heart of a Quail Award is the biggest and best award you can get at our school. It is given to one fifth grader each year who represents “Outstanding scholarship, active participation, dedicated school service, and positive leadership.” The teachers like to call it the “school spirit” award, but I call it the “I’m good at everything” award. And even though I’m hardly ever the best at anything, there’s a tiny part of me that thinks there’s a chance my name could be called up to that stage. So my entire class is sitting here, actually holding it together pretty well for the last day of school, waiting for the awards to be announced. It’s first thing in the morning, which helps because we haven’t been here long enough to get antsy yet. We’re sitting on the floor of the MPR, and it’s super gross. The school calls it the multipurpose room because they use it for everything. It’s the auditorium, but it’s also the cafeteria and the gym, which means that this floor has been splattered on a regular basis with both taco sauce and wrestling sweat. Somehow, even when it’s a hundred degrees outside, they manage to make the MPR absolutely freezing. Which feels great when you first walk in, but after thirty seconds it feels like you’re inside an igloo. Thank goodness today I remembered my soccer hoodie. Now if they could only get it to smell like something other than dirty socks and tater tots in here, it might be bearable. Wait! That gives me a really good idea.

I love writing commercials. It’s a talent that I discovered a few years ago when I used to watch cartoons. The cartoons were okay, but the made-for-TV commercials were so much more interesting. Pillow Pal—is it a pillow or a stuffed animal? Brilliant! Moon Munch—do you play with it or eat it? So creative! It was then that I realized writing was my passion in life. My dad’s a writer, too, so I get my writing gene from him. Except I mostly like to write about my inventions, so Dad calls me a wrinventor. A writer-inventor.

A familiar voice calls out from the side of the auditorium. “Annie!”

I turn and see my mom and dad leaning forward out of their folding chairs. Dad has both hands in the air, giving me a giant double thumbs-up. “Go get ’em, honeykin!” I wish he wouldn’t call me that at school. Honeykin is some mishmash of nicknames he has for me. First it was honeypie, followed by pumpkin, which now has become honeykin. Making up words is Dad’s specialty. He said things like fantabulous and ginormous for years before they became actual words other people used. So he is a wrinventor, too. A wrinventor of words.

My teacher, Mr. Lombardi, is on the microphone now, which means it’s time for awards. “Welcome, everyone, to our end-of-the-year awards ceremony!” A screech echoes through the auditorium, and some of the parents cover their ears. The sound system in here is terrible, so us kids are used to the piercing noise the mic makes. It doesn’t help that Mr. Lombardi is super loud. I never really understood what it meant to have a “booming” voice until I was in his class. He booms way more than he talks. At first I was kind of scared of him, but then I discovered how goofy he really is. He likes to wear costumes when we study historical figures, and some days, to mix it up, he wears funny hats. It’s pretty impossible to be afraid of someone in a hat.

Today, because it’s a special day, he has on a black fedora with a red feather sticking out of it. “Thanks especially to all the parents who have taken the time to come out and support your children. We couldn’t do it without you!” Then he calls out the names of the kids who made the honor roll, followed by sports awards, and then special academic awards. Savannah, who is sitting right next to me, has straight As, is the track team MVP, and wins a plaque for reading the most words in the entire school. She keeps having to get up and then squeeze back into her tiny space between me and Jake Ramirez. Meanwhile, I’m getting a cramp in my leg from sitting cross-legged on the floor for so long.

Finally, my name is called and I go up front to get a certificate for reaching my reading goal. Mom and Dad are super loud as I walk up, and all grins and flailing arms when I walk back to my spot on the floor. As I sit down, Savannah grabs my hand. “Heart of a Quail is up next!” she squeals. I turn to face her and squeal along, when I see that somehow, between getting up for MVP and Reading Champ, she managed to get a huge smear of ketchup on the front of her white ruffled shirt.

“What happened?” I ask, pointing to the giant red blob on her chest.

Mr. Lombardi is back on the mic. “And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for.…”

Savannah’s eyes follow my finger down to the ketchup, and get wide. She looks at her hand, which also has ketchup on it, and traces it down to a spot on the floor where, clearly, someone went condiment crazy at breakfast.

“… It’s time for the very special Heart of a Quail Award.”

Savannah is rubbing frantically at the red on her shirt, trying to make it go away, but it’s only making the spot bigger. It used to be a tiny puddle, but now it’s a lake.

I’m trying to focus on Mr. Lombardi, because this is the moment. I know it’s a long shot, but until he says something different, there’s still a chance the name “Annie Brown” might come out of his mouth.

“This year’s Heart of a Quail Award recipient is…”

Mr. Lombardi is trying to be dramatic, and drags out the “is” for way too long. The little kids are into it, and they start pounding the ground, creating a drumroll effect. I’m holding my breath, and wishing he would just say the name already. Finally, the drumroll dies down, and Mr. Lombardi booms once again into the microphone. “Savannah Summerlyn!”

Savannah stays seated, and for a second I can’t figure out why she isn’t popping up like she did for all the other awards. She’s holding a hand over her heart like she’s about to pledge her allegiance. I’m clapping and nudging her, not sure why she isn’t moving, until I see the red peeking out from between her fingers. Oh, right. I quickly unzip my hoodie and hold it out to her. She doesn’t seem to understand at first, so I help her put one arm through and something finally clicks into place. She zips it up over the mess and hugs me before she moves toward the stage. “You’re the best, Annie!”

The words play in my head as I watch her skip up the stage steps. I certainly don’t feel like the best when it comes to grades or sports or anything else that seems to matter at this school.

Savannah’s pop is back, and before taking the award from Mr. Lombardi, she dips down into a dramatic curtsy. Everyone laughs and claps even louder. Savannah wins. I hardly have time to feel proud or disappointed, because Savannah is back with her arm around me, and our parents are taking pictures. Savannah can’t even hold up all of her awards. She has to rest the Heart of a Quail Award, a heavy glass trophy in the shape of a bird, in the fold of her elbow. I hold up my single reading certificate and say, “Cheese!”

“Wait!” Mr. Lombardi says, running over and pulling the certificate out of my hand. “It’s covering up the quail,” he explains. “That’s better,” he says, moving the paper to my other hand. “I need to get a quick shot for our website. Annie, can you scooch a little that way?” I move a step farther away from Savannah and hear the click of the camera.

“Perfect!” Mr. Lombardi says, showing us the picture on the back of his camera. Savannah’s right in the middle, smiling big and proud. But I was moving when he took it, so you can’t even tell it’s me. I’m just a blur near the edge. I think Mr. Lombardi sees me looking funny at it, because he says, “We can fix it up once we get it on the computer. A little of this, a little of that, a crop here and there.… It’ll be great! We wouldn’t want a picture of Savannah without her sidekick!”

Everyone keeps coming over to congratulate Savannah, which forces me to keep moving farther away to make room for them. Finally, Mom and Dad ask if they can walk me back to class, and I’m tired of waiting, so I agree. I give Savannah a little wave as we leave the MPR. She’s chatting with people and passing around her award, so she doesn’t see me.

My parents gush over my reading certificate as we walk to my classroom, where I’ll waste away the rest of the last day of school. They tell me they’re proud of me, but I can’t help but wonder what it is exactly that they’re proud of. Because as far as I can tell, the only thing I’m best at is being the friend of someone who is always the best at everything. Savannah’s sidekick. There to clap for her and cover up her ketchup stains. A blur at the edge of the photo. And as I hug my parents good-bye and head back into my fifth-grade classroom for one last afternoon, I’m thinking it might be time to brush up on my poetry skills. Because I may not have the heart of a quail, but I’m shaping up to be a fabulous troubadour.


The last day of school is supposed to be the best one. That’s the rule. And it’s especially the rule when it’s your last day of all of elementary school. We’ve been in fifth grade now for nine months, which in kid time is longer than forever. Nine months of changing out of my soccer-ball pajama bottoms because they’re not “presentable.” Nine months of desperately smoothing the crinkles out of my homework in time to hand it in. Nine months of trying to perfect the face that says to my teacher, “I’ve never been more fascinated,” when really I’m writing a made-for-TV commercial for my latest invention. I’m rocking that face right now, because I have the best idea.

Every student should be required to have a Feelings Folder. That way you would know who to ask for help when you don’t understand an assignment, or who you definitely don’t want to sit next to after we’ve had baked beans for lunch. Since today is the last day of school, I’m pretty sure most kids’ folders would be bright yellow. Savannah’s would be yellow for sure. I’m still deciding what color mine would be. Probably some splotchy rainbow mix, since my feelings are a big tangled-up mess.

“Annie?” Mr. Lombardi’s voice brings me back to the classroom. I look around and realize that my entire class is lined up to go outside. Except for me. “You planning to join us for kickball?”


  • "When it comes to imagination and creative wordplay, Annie has no match."

    -Publishers Weekly
  • "Annie's first-person narration is hilariously astute.... Readers graduating from Junie B. to lengthier stories will find a new book-friend in Annie B."—-Kirkus Reviews
  • "Annie's narration is so irrepressible, genuine, and laugh-out-loud funny that she's sure to carve out an audience with young readers.... Hand to fans of the Dork Diaries."—-Booklist
  • "The incorporation of 'As Seen on TV' adds vivid language, creative thinking, and heart felt dilemmas into a short digestible nugget for the intended audience."—School Library Connection
  • "Annie B., Made for TV is an engaging story of competition, friendship and, of course, hilarious As Seen on TV commercials for products that should exist, but don't."—--Lisa Doan, author of The Berenson Schemes and the upcoming Chadwick's Epic Revenge
  • "Annie B. isn't just made for TV-she's made for books, too. Readers will cheer her on in this charming story about friendship, first crushes, and following your dreams. A delightful debut!"—-Abby Cooper, author of Sticks and Stones and Bubbles

On Sale
Jun 5, 2018
Page Count
240 pages
Running Press Kids

Amy Dixon

About the Author

Amy Dixon is the author of the picture books Marathon Mouse, Sophie’s Animal Parade, and Maurice the Unbeastly. She writes from her home in Clovis, California, where she lives on a steady diet of popcorn and coffee. Annie B., Made for TV is her debut middle grade novel.

Learn more about this author