Hana Walker and the New President

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Here’s my third Hana Walker short story for Japanese junior high school learners of English. I just published it now as an ebook and paperback worldwide here. What do you think?

* * *

My name is Hana Walker. I am 13 years old. My Mum is Japanese, my Dad is English. Japanese call me “half”. But I am not 50/50. I am 100 percent me. I speak English, but I don’t speak Japanese. I go to a Japanese Junior High School. I solve mysteries by looking and thinking. Every day is a new mystery…

Monday

Nanaki smiles at me. She sits next to me in the classroom.

“Why are you smiling?” I ask.

“A president always smiles,” she says.

“But you are not class president. The election is on Thursday.”

“Yes, but I am the only student in the class election, so call me President Nanaki.”

She smiles more.

I don’t smile. I think. Nanaki is clever. Nanaki works hard. She is a good student. Do the other students in the class like her? I’m not sure. Do I like her? Yes, I do. Our teacher, Mr Saito, likes her.

Haruto stops at Nanaki’s desk. “President Nanaki? I don’t think so. Call me President Haruto!”

“What do you mean?” Nanaki asks.

“You are not the only student in the election on Thursday. I am in the election now. I never lose anything.”

Haruto is tall. He is a good runner. He is in the track and field club. Is he clever? I’m not sure. Do other students in the class like him? I’m not sure. He goes over to talk with Takuma. The boys in the class like him. Do I like him? I’m not sure.

The election is on Thursday.

I don’t smile.

“What’s wrong?” Nanaki asks me. “There are 20 boys and 20 girls in our class. If all the girls are with me, then I can’t lose. And if one boy is with me, then I am president. And… Takuma is a boy. He is my friend.”

“Maybe,” I say, “But Haruto likes winning.”

Nanaki has an idea. “Hana, please help me. Please watch the election. Watch Haruto.”

I think.

“OK,” I say. “This week, I am a journalist. I watch. No problem.”

Tuesday

It’s lunchtime. Nanaki talks to the girls. She gives them a piece of paper with her name on. She talks to every girl and smiles at every girl. She talks to me.

“Please choose me as class president!”

“OK,” I say. “Are all the girls with you?”

“Yes, I think so. All the girls say, OK.”

I nod my head. “Good. Don’t forget you need one boy too.”

“Yes, I know! I’m working on it now.”

Nanaki stands up. She looks out the window. Takuma is in the sports ground. He is alone. Nanaki smiles at me. We walk out of the classroom together. We go outside to the sports ground.

Takuma stands under a tree. He watches other boys play soccer. The goal posts are old and broken so the boys use their school bags as the goal.

“Please choose me as class president!” Nanaki says.

“Mmmm,  bmmmm, dmmmm,” he says.

“Do you like me?” Nanaki asks.

“Mmmm,  bmmmm, dmmmm,” he says.

“What?”

Takuma has a cookie in his mouth. He doesn’t speak. He finishes his cookie. Then he speaks.

“Yes, I do. I’m with you as new class president.”

Nanaki smiles. We leave Takuma with his peanut cookies. We go back to the classroom.

“If all the girls are with me and if Takuma is with me, I am the new class president!”

“Maybe,” I say. “Maybe.”

* * *

I see Aiko. She has a piece of paper.

“Why does Nanaki give the girls a piece of paper with her name on?”

“It’s a list of her ideas.”

“Please show me.” Aiko shows me the paper.

Nanaki has three ideas:

1. Work hard!

2. Help Mr Saito!

3. Listen to the future!

Aiko asks me: “What does listen to the future mean?”

“I don’t know.”

I think.

“Do you like Nanaki? Do you like Haruto?”

Aiko smiles. “I like them both, but…”

“But what?”

She blows her nose on a tissue.

“Nothing, I have a cold.”

“If all the girls choose her and if Takuma chooses her, Nanaki is the winner,” I say.

Aiko nods her head. But she doesn’t smile. She pulls out a tissue. She blows her nose.

“I’m with Nanaki,” she says. Then she sneezes and blows her nose again.

Nanaki thinks it is easy to be the new president. I’m not so sure.

Wednesday

On Wednesday morning I hear boys shouting in the classroom. I don’t know why. I see Nanaki run out of the room. She is crying.

“What’s up?” I ask.

“Up?”

“Why are you crying?”

“Haruto and the boys are shouting. They are shouting Build the wall! Build the wall!

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know,” Nanaki says. She runs to the girls’ toilets.

I see Haruto in the classroom. I say, “Quiet! What do you mean build the wall?”

Haruto waves at the boys. They are quiet. Then he says, “Many, many children climb over the school gates and play in the sports ground on the weekend and at night. They are not students of this junior high school. They are bad children. They break goal posts.”

I think.

“The goal posts are old. But the little children don’t break anything. And they are not students of this school now, but one day…”

“No! Build the wall! Build the wall!”

The boys shout “Build the wall! Build the wall!”

Tomorrow is the election. It’s very difficult to think when everyone is shouting.

Thursday

At lunchtime, Mr Saito, Nanaki and Haruto  stand up at the front. Nanaki speaks first. I don’t know what she says, but she speaks for a long time. She finishes her speech with an English slogan.

“Listen to the future!” she says at the end of her speech.

She smiles at everyone. I smile back. I look around at the students. The boys are laughing and the girls are looking out the window. I don’t think listen to the future is a good slogan. I look for Aiko, but she is not in the classroom.

Then Haruto speaks. He talks for a short time then he raises his hands in a fist.

“Make the school great again!” he says in English.

All the boys shout “Make the school great again! Make the school great again! Build the wall! Build the wall!”

They are very noisy.

Mr Saito says: “Be quiet! Let’s vote.”

Everyone sits at their own desk. We put our heads down on the desk with one hand covering our eyes. When Mr Saito calls Nanaki’s name, I raise my other hand. When Mr Saito calls Haruto’s name I keep my hand down.

Mr Saito counts all the students’ hands and writes two numbers on the blackboard with chalk.

“OK,” he says.

I look at the blackboard. Nanaki looks at the blackboard. Haruto looks at the blackboard. We all look at the blackboard.

“Nanaki: 19. Haruto: 20.”

Haruto is the new class president.

Nanaki cries.

“How is Haruto the winner?” she whispers.

“I’m not sure,” I say, “let me think.”

At lunchtime no one talks about the election. Everyone is quiet. Haruto is quiet. Nanaki is quiet. Takuma eats a new packet of chocolate chip cookies. Where is Aiko? I don’t see her.

I think.

I know how Haruto is the winner. Do you?

Friday

Nanaki doesn’t talk all day. At the end of the day we walk home together. She says: “I am the loser and Haruto is the winner. How is he president? If 20 girls are with me, and Takuma is with me, that is 21 students for me and 19 for Haruto, not 19 for me and 20 for him. I lose by one? How?”

“You don’t lose by one. You lose by two,” I say.

“What do you mean?”

“Easy,” I say. “You need 20 girls with you. Twenty girls do like you, but one of the girls likes you and likes Haruto.”

“Who?”

“Aiko. She likes you and she likes Haruto.”

“So?”

“So, she has a problem. Do you remember, this week she blows her nose all the time in the classroom, not in the toilets?”

“Is she very sick?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. But she doesn’t choose you or Haruto. She spends all Thursday in the nurse’s office.”

“That still means I get 20 votes and Haruto gets 19.”

“But it is the opposite. Haruto gets 20 and you get 19 because one person who likes you doesn’t vote for you.”

“Who?”

“I think Takuma.”

“Really?”

“Yes, think about it. He likes you but he likes one thing more — cookies. He eats peanut cookies every day, but not on Thursday. On Thursday, he has chocolate chip cookies. I think they are a present from Haruto.”

“He gives chocolate cookies for votes? Is that OK?”

“No, it isn’t OK, but it doesn’t matter now because Haruto is the winner and you are the loser.”

“Haruto is not a good president. What do we do?” Nanaki asks.

“We help each other, do the right thing and always remember the truth.”

“Is that enough?”

I think.

“I don’t know. But it’s a start.”

* * *

This is the third in a series of Hana Walker mystery short stories designed to engage students of English as a foreign language who typically are in their first year of junior high school.

Every book features an engaging mystery with the same cast of characters, a vocabulary section and set of questions. The books can be used as the focus of a reading and discussion lesson or given as homework for students to read by themselves.

Word Count: 1,525

Tenses: Simple present

Target language: Third person vs first person verbs

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