Alexandra Hopewell, Labor Coach by Dori Hillestad Butler | Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Alexandra Hopewell, Labor Coach

Alexandra Hopewell, Labor Coach

by Dori Hillestad Butler

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Butler captures the nuances and humor of middle-grade kids in this book featuring Alex Hopewell. She also does a superior job of handling Alex's feelings, allowing the reader to empathize with her and her situation. While Alex is a bit loud and given to leaping before she looks, she works on controlling her behavior throughout the book. Her best friend, Ben, is seen as a smart boy who likes to learn and who knows he is not going to fit in with the athletic type of classmates. The balance between Alex and Ben stresses how kids who are a little different from the norm can be good. Much of the story centers on the life science projects of the class. Alex, prone to accidents, breaks all the eggs she is allowed in the project. Therefore, she has to choose another way to complete the project. Thinking she can be her mom's labor coach when her brother or sister is born proves to be a bit of a lofty aspiration. However, when faced with a tense labor situation, Alex comes through. The quick-moving tale depicts situations in which adults as well as kids learn lessons. Middle graders will come away with positive ideas about diversity. Put this book on shelves available to kids from second through fifth grade; it will be checked out over and over again. 2005, Albert Whitman and Company, Ages 8 to 11.
—Nancy Garhan Attebury
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Alexandra, 11, struggles with a learning disability and an unpleasant teacher at school, while at home she prepares for the birth of a sibling. After having broken three eggs (representing infants) in her class's family-life project, Alex decides that witnessing her sibling's birth firsthand would be a fine replacement for the assignment and sets out to convince her parents that she is mature enough to handle the occasion. Predictably, the baby arrives early, and Alex must deliver it single-handedly, giving her a much-needed confidence boost. Although Alex is likable, most of the characterizations are uneven and the message is a bit heavy-handed. The author describes a childbirth video in blatant detail, describing the blood, mucus, and pain so accurately that it may shock or scare some readers. This book might have limited use in a parenting collection or for children with specific requests; however, suitable alternatives exist in this genre, notably the works of Ellen Conford, Betsy Byars, and Jack Gantos.-Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.78(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.74(d)
Age Range:
8 - 11 Years

Read an Excerpt

Alexandra Hopewell, Labor Coach

By Dori Hillestad Butler


Copyright © 2005 Dori Hillestad Butler
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-7120-7


"Alexandra Hopewell! I hope that wasn't your family life project that just went flying across the room."

Alex jumped when she heard the sharp tone of her teacher's voice.

It used to be her and Reece Burmeister's family life project. Now it was just a gooey, yellow mess dripping down Reece's Minnesota Vikings shirt.

"I-I didn't mean to," Alex whimpered.

"Didn't mean to!" Reece yelled as egg guts dribbled from his shirt to the floor. "Look at me! I'm covered in egg." He turned to Mrs. Ryder. "Alex threw an egg at me!"

Alex gasped. "I didn't throw Eggbert! I-I tossed him. Reece told me to."

"I did not!"

"You did, too! Didn't he, Miranda?"

Miranda sat behind Reece. She had to have seen and heard the whole thing. But she just sat there like a lady in church, her mouth zipped shut. Nobody else spoke up in Alex's defense, either.

Mrs. Ryder rose slowly from her chair.

Alex tried one more time to explain. "Reece kept going 'Psst! Psst!' He held out his hands like he wanted Eggbert. So ... I sort of tossed him over. But then Reece put his hands down. He didn't even try to catch Eggbert. He wanted Eggbert to break because he wanted to get me in trouble."

"That's enough!" Mrs. Ryder banged her fist on her desk.

Alex swallowed hard. She was in trouble now. So what else was new?

"Honestly, Alexandra. I don't know where your mind is." Mrs. Ryder came around her desk. Melanie, Justin and Kaila all shrank back in their seats as Mrs. Ryder moved toward Alex. Alex's friend, Ben, glanced at her with sympathy.

"We don't throw eggs across the room." Mrs. Ryder declared, hands on her hips. Her whole face matched the blood red lipstick she wore every day. "You're in fifth grade, Alexandra. I shouldn't have to tell you that!"

Alex twirled her braid around her finger and did what she always did when Mrs. Ryder yelled at her. She counted the wrinkles on Mrs. Ryder's forehead. One wrinkle, two wrinkle ...

"Just how many eggs have you broken now, Alexandra? Three? Four?" Five wrinkles, six wrinkles ... "How many?" Mrs. Ryder demanded.

Seven wrinkles, eight wrinkles ...

"Nine," Alex said out loud.

"NINE broken eggs?" Mrs. Ryder screeched.

"Huh?" Alex blinked. "No, I mean three," she said quickly. Three broken eggs. Eggbert the first, who accidentally rolled off her desk. Eggbert the second, who accidentally got squashed when Reece set him on Alex's chair. And now Eggbert the third. And this was only the second day of the family life unit.

Mrs. Ryder shook her head sadly. "I don't think you're taking this project very seriously, Alexandra."

"I am, too," Alex said. Then she clamped her hand over her mouth. She was arguing again. Mrs. Ryder had called Alex's parents last week to complain that Alex was argumentative. While she was at it, Mrs. Ryder also complained that Alex was careless, loud and unfocused.

Alex had promised to do better. To be better. But if being better meant pretending you were married to Reece Burmeister and the two of you had an egg for a baby — well, Mrs. Ryder had to expect a few mistakes.

"Reece, why don't you go down to the bathroom and clean yourself up," Mrs. Ryder said. "And Alexandra?" She had that I-just-don't-know-what-to-do-with-you look on her face. "Go get some paper towels and clean up this mess."

No one in the class said a word. But everyone was staring at her. Alex could feel their eyes boring holes into her back as she slunk to the back of the room and yanked out a wad of paper towels from the dispenser above the sink.

Using her thumb and first finger, Alex carefully picked up the broken eggshells. There was one piece that had part of Eggbert's smile and another piece that had part of his hair (hair that Alex had pulled from her very own hairbrush). Poor little Eggbert, Alex thought as she stacked the pieces off to the side.

Miranda slid her blue shoes out of the way. "You're making more of a mess," she whispered as Alex smeared the sticky goo around in a circle.

"So?" Alex whispered back. "Who asked you?"

When Reece returned, there was a huge wet spot across the front of his shirt. "I think you should change your name from Alex Hope well to Alex Hope less," he told Alex as he sat down in front of Miranda.

"Shut up," Alex said.

Mrs. Ryder went to her supply closet. "I've got one more egg here." She held it up so everyone could see the B that she had stamped on the bottom. The B meant it was a boy.

"Since you've had so many problems with this project, Alexandra, I think I'm going to let Reece take this one by himself." Mrs. Ryder lumbered toward Reece.

"All right!" Reece smirked at Alex.

"What?" Alex rose up onto her knees. How could Mrs. Ryder let Reece take care of an egg by himself? Reece hadn't even taken Eggbert home last night like he was supposed to. When Alex found out, he told her he'd smash her face at recess if she told Mrs. Ryder.

But now Reece leaped out of his chair and pretended he was a good and caring "dad." He carefully cupped his hands around the egg Mrs. Ryder brought him. "Oh, my poor baby," he said. "He comes from a broken home."

Stafford and Drew snickered. Even Mrs. Ryder smiled a little.

"If Reece gets that egg by himself, what am I supposed to do for my family living project?" Alex asked in a small voice. She knew Mrs. Ryder wouldn't let her get away with doing nothing for this project.

"You can write a report on some aspect of child development." Mrs. Ryder tucked her silver hair behind her ear. "I'd like to see a topic sentence and a list of three sources on my desk tomorrow morning." Mrs. Ryder loved topic sentences and lists of sources.

"B-but that's not fair," Alex dropped her wad of wet paper towels. "Nobody else has to write a report."

"And nobody else has broken three eggs," Mrs. Ryder pointed out. "You've completely missed the point of this assignment, Alexandra."

"No, I haven't. The point is to show we know how to take care of a baby. And I know all about that because my mom's having a baby in a few weeks and —"

"If she knows what's good for her, she'll keep you far away from it," Reece muttered.

Alex stomped her foot. She'd had enough of Reece Burmeister. This was all his fault. "For your information, my mom isn't just going to let me take care of it, she's going to let me see it be born," she heard herself say.

Miranda's bottom jaw dropped open.

"She is," Alex insisted. "I'm going to help out in the delivery room and I might even cut the umbilical cord. Now that's real family life."

Everyone stared at her in stunned silence.

Then Mrs. Ryder pinched her lips together and said, "Yes, well, why don't you finish cleaning up the floor while the rest of us go to music." Her shoes clicked against the floor as she marched to the door. "Rows one, two, three, four and five. Line up. Let's go."

Without a word, the whole class got up and followed Mrs. Ryder out the door. Ben lagged a little behind everyone else. He and Alex had lived next door to each other practically their whole lives. He knew Alex better than she knew herself. Which was probably why he raised an eyebrow at her.

Alex looked away. Okay. So what she said wasn't exactly true. It still felt good to say it. Besides, it was possible she could talk her mom into letting her be there when the baby was born. Anything was possible.


"There's no way your mom is going to let you be there when she has that baby," Ben told Alex on their way home from school.

"She might." Alex gazed at the boy egg that Ben carried on a bed of paper confetti inside an old soup can. The soup can was covered with blue fabric and trimmed with lace. "Olivia Greene got to be there when her mom had a baby. And she's only eight."

Ben shifted his can to his other hand. "Yeah, but the Greenes are weird."

That was true. The Greenes lived across the street from Alex, but they weren't like any other family in the neighborhood. For one thing, Mr. and Mrs. Greene homeschooled Olivia because they thought the public schools were bad. They had a computer, but no TV or radio. They ate weird food like seaweed and tofu. And they didn't take any medicine, not even Tylenol, because they thought it was bad for you.

But they let Olivia be there when her baby sister was born. They had a midwife instead of a doctor and Olivia's mom had the baby at home. Olivia said that seeing a baby be born was the most amazing thing that ever happened to her.

"This isn't just something I blurted out," Alex told Ben. "I've thought about this for a long time. I really do want to see the baby be born." Alex bent down and picked a daisy from the side of the road. "I heard my mom talking on the phone to my Aunt Cindy last night. She's afraid my dad won't be home when she has the baby."

Alex's dad was a pilot. When he flew, he was usually gone for several days at a time.

"My mom told my aunt that she was going to ask your mom to be her back-up labor coach."

Ben pushed his glasses up. "What's a labor coach?"

Alex raised an eyebrow at Ben. "You don't know?" Ben was the smartest kid she knew. He was so smart he skipped kindergarten. But he sure didn't know much about having babies.

"A labor coach is someone who rubs the lady's back when she's having a baby and gets her a glass of water and reminds her to breathe." Alex had seen it all on TV.

"Oh." Ben did not look impressed.

"I was thinking maybe I could be my mom's backup labor coach instead of your mom," Alex said as they crossed a street.

Ben stared at Alex. "You?"

"Yes, me! Why not?"

"You're a kid," Ben said. "And you're not even twelve years old. Don't you have to be twelve to visit people in the hospital?"

"I wouldn't be visiting, I'd be helping," Alex said as one by one she began plucking petals from the daisy. Mom WILL let me be there when the baby's born, Mom WON'T let me be there when the baby's born, Alex thought to herself with each petal she plucked. Oh, she hoped Mom would let her!

"Yeah, but still," Ben said. "You're ..." his voice trailed off.

"I'm what?" Alex looked at him.

Ben scratched his ear. "Well, no offense, Alex, but you're not exactly the sort of person people want around in an emergency. Remember last year when we had that tornado warning during school?"

Alex remembered. When the sirens sounded, everyone went out in the hall. People were supposed to sit down on the floor and put their heads on their knees. But Alex had sort of run around yelling, "We're all going to die! We're all going to die!" until the counselor, Ms. Westley, came and calmed her down.

"This is totally different." Alex said as she continued to pull petals from the daisy. "For one thing, having a baby is not an emergency."

"You have to go to a hospital to do it."

"You don't have to. Olivia's mom didn't."

"Yeah, but most people do. Your mom will."

Alex was almost all the way around the whole flower. She could just count the rest of the petals to find out whether Mom would let her be there when the baby was born or not, but it seemed like that would be cheating.

"Okay." Ben snatched the daisy out of her hand. "Even if your mom says you can go to the hospital, and even if the people at the hospital say you can be there, I still have one more question."


Ben wrinkled his nose. "Why would you want to?"

Alex grabbed the daisy back. "Because!"

"Because why?"

How could she explain it? "Because having a baby is a big deal. Because I never thought my parents would have another kid. Because Olivia got to do it. I don't know. I just do."

Mom WILL let me be there when the baby is born! That was where Alex was when she plucked the last petal from the flower. She unzipped the front pocket of her backpack and slipped the daisy stem inside for good luck.

"Okay," Ben said in a weird voice. Alex could tell he didn't get it at all.

* * *

Alex's dad liked meat, potatoes and vegetables with every meal. So when he was away, Mom and Alex ate things like pizza, spaghetti or tacos. Tonight they were having take-out Chinese.

While Mom emptied the bag, Alex couldn't help but stare at her mom's huge round stomach. It looked like a dinosaur egg was stuck under her shirt.

"Do you want an egg roll?" Mom asked.

Alex shuddered as she shook her head. She didn't want anything to do with eggs.

"Sweet and sour chicken?"

Alex shook her head again. She wasn't crazy about things that laid eggs, either. "I'll just have rice." She knelt on her chair and dumped some steamed rice onto her plate.

Mom helped herself to an egg roll, chicken and steamed rice. Then she sat down next to Alex. "How was your day, honey?"

Alex stirred her rice around. "Eggbert the third got broken."

"Oh no!" Mom looked sorry, but not really surprised. She knew Alex.

Alex tried to explain how it was mostly Reece's fault, but Mom didn't pay any attention to that part. "You threw an egg across the room?"

"I didn't throw him very hard. And Reece was supposed to catch him." Alex dropped her eyes to her lap. "Now Mrs. Ryder really hates me."

"Oh, Alex. She doesn't hate you."

"Yes, she does," Alex insisted. "She won't let me carry an egg around anymore. She says I have to write a report instead."

Alex hated writing reports.

"Well, I know you didn't mean to break those eggs, but you have to admit, three broken eggs in two days is a lot."

Alex shrugged.

Mom patted Alex's knee. "I'll help you with your report," she promised. Then, tilting her head toward Alex's plate, she said, "You'd better eat."

Alex popped a forkful of rice into her mouth. Then she stirred the rest of her rice around some more. "I already have an idea for what I could do my report on," she said as she shifted nervously in her seat. She glanced at her mom from the corner of her eye.

"Mm?" Mom raised her head, but her mouth was too full to talk.

Alex lowered her eyes. "Of course, Mrs. Ryder would have to wait about six weeks for the report, but that would be okay."

Mom swallowed. "What's your idea?"

"I could ... go-to-the-hospital-and-watch-a-baby-be-born," Alex said in a rush.

"I don't know, honey," Mom said as she dabbed the corners of her mouth with a napkin. "Most women wouldn't be comfortable —" She stopped. Her eyes widened to the size of golf balls. "You mean me? You want to watch me have the baby!"

"It would be for school," Alex explained quickly.

Mom shook her head. "I don't think so."

"Why not?"

"Alex, having a baby is a very personal thing. I couldn't go through labor and delivery with an audience."

"I'm not an audience. I'm your daughter. I promise I won't be in the way. I won't say a word. Not unless you want me to. And I could help. I heard you tell Aunt Cindy you need a back-up labor coach, in case Dad is away the day you go into labor. You don't have to ask Kate to be your backup labor coach. I could do it. I could hold your hand and get you water and tell you when to breathe." Alex had to stop there so she could breathe.

Mom sighed. "I don't know, honey."

"Please, Mom! I really want to see the baby be born."

Mom peered deeper into Alex's eyes. "This isn't just about your report, is it? You really do want to be there when the baby's born."

Alex grabbed her braid and twirled it around her fingers. "Uh huh." She nodded. She really did want to be there.

Mom sighed again. "Well, I can't make a decision like this on the spur of the moment. Let me talk to your dad. I'll need some time to think about this."

"Okay," Alex said. But she couldn't wait around for Dad to get back so he and Mom could talk about it. Mrs. Ryder wanted to see a topic sentence and list of sources on her desk tomorrow. If Alex didn't have a topic sentence and list of sources, there would be even more trouble.


Excerpted from Alexandra Hopewell, Labor Coach by Dori Hillestad Butler. Copyright © 2005 Dori Hillestad Butler. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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