Wednesday, January 17, 2018


After graduating from Stanford University, Martha Freeman worked as a newspaper reporter, copy editor, substitute teacher, college lecturer, advertising copywriter and magazine writer before finding her true calling as a writer of children's books. She has since written more than 20 books for children.

Freeman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Zap, and reported the following:
I’d like to say that as it happens, Page 69 in Zap is my very favorite.

Only I’m not sure an author is well-advised to single out one page that way. I mean, doesn’t a favorite imply that the other pages are lesser? And if it does, wouldn’t the wise and time-pressed reader just go to the favorite page, and skip everything else?

Zap is a novel for and about kids that takes place in a troubled city I call Hampton, New Jersey. At 7:42 one ordinary morning, the lights go out … and stay out. Soon our sixth-grade hero Luis comes to realize something scary. He has a clue about what caused the outage that no one else has. Worse, the authorities are way too busy to pay attention to a kid. As the situation gets desperate, Luis and his ex-best friend Maura get busy. To bring back the power, they brave abandoned houses in Luis’s blighted neighborhood, take on a gang of toughs and outwit a ruthless unknown adversary.

Page 69 depicts a moment of high drama. In the dark, three drunk teens led by a kid named Tony break into Luis’s favorite bodega and threaten the owner, Senora Alvaro. Scared out of his wits, Luis tries to think clearly:
Tony’s around sixteen, I think. I can take him if I have to. I can take him because I’m smarter. Also, I haven’t been drinking. No problem. An opposing voice spoke in Luis’s head, too, a sane one…. You’re eleven. You are half his size. All those push-ups won’t count for much against his weight advantage. You are going to get annihilated. Run while you can!
No spoilers except to say the outcome is both realistic and (I hope) funny, and Luis lives to fight another day.

I’m no electrical engineer, so writing Zap required quite a bit of research. In a way, I learned about electricity, the electric grid and computer hacking right along with my characters. One more fun fact about Zap: Luis, the hero, is loosely based on a friend of mine who grew up in Camden, New Jersey, and recently moved back to that city. There are photos of the real Luis and his family at the end of the book, and a letter to readers from him, too.

No doubt you are a wise reader and probably time-pressed. Knowing Page 69 is the author’s favorite, maybe you are tempted to read it and skip the rest?

But, reader, please don’t. To grasp the full glory that is Zap Page 69, you are going to have to read the preceding and succeeding pages, too. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Visit Martha Freeman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Strudel's Forever Home.

The Page 69 Test: Strudel's Forever Home.

Writers Read: Martha Freeman.

--Marshal Zeringue