Thursday, July 17, 2008

#99 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure

The bully grabbed Stella's sunglasses and mashed her face into the ground. Her cat, Simon, bit the boy's ankle and sank sharp claws into his butt.

Yelping, the boy took off. “Eat grass, rabbit,” he hollered over his shoulder, tossing Stella's sunglasses up into a tree.

“You stupid cow pie!” She hurled a dirt clod after the boy. “I'm a vegetarian, not a rabbit.” Stella had been known to turn down cake in favor of Brussels sprouts. And she wore the sunglasses to hide her eyes – one green and the other blue. It usually didn’t help.

Simon sprinted after the boy, not an unusual thing for the Siamese to do – he frequently chased away her taunting classmates.

“Now what am I going to do?” Stella was afraid of heights. She looked around and found a long stick. Leaping, she poked at the glasses, but couldn’t quite reach them. A possum waddled out on the tree branch.

Another strange sighting! Stella dropped the stick, grabbed her backpack, whipped out her notebook and pencil, and jotted:

*A possum in daylight?

She rummaged through her backpack. “Hey! Mr. Possum. If you can get me those glasses, you can have this.” She held up an apple.

The possum nodded, scurried out on the branch, and knocked off the sunglasses with its paw.

Stella stood there open-mouthed. She put the apple at the base of the tree. “Th-thanks.”

The possum scampered down and picked up the apple with its front paws.


  1. Um... no.

    But I think that's because this isn't the type of book I'd read.

    But I can't find anything to pick at. It's written well. Stella stands up well on the page - good voice.

  2. Stella seems like a likeable character. I'd peg her more at elementary school than middle grade though due to the type of insults being traded.

  3. This sounds like a younger middle grade voice. The line "not an unsual thing for the Siamese to do" threw me out of the story for longer than I'd prefer as I wondered what that was supposed to me: Simon, Siamese, Stella, are they siamese twins? No, that's not it...

    This first part didn't entirely draw me in, but I'm pretty forgiving (and believe most kids who read are too) and so I'd keep going to see if things picked up, if the Siamese reference makes sense, and so on.

    Good luck!

  4. Interesting voice. Very authentic for the period. I'm not a fan of historical fiction, but if I were, I'd probably read more of this.

  5. I think it has potential, but needs a great deal of work.

    For example, first you have the bully shoving her face in the dirt. Then miraculously she's in the tree and afraid of heights. Consistency is a must.

  6. Afraid not. I think the language needs to be tightened up, as does the fight scene.

    There's no emotional or physical response from your either your MC ("...mashed her face into the ground") or the bully (who got bit by a cat). Woudn't they at least cry out in pain?

    Also, if her face is being pushed into the ground, how could she see what happened to the bully? Then, she just pops right up and starts poking at her glasses and taking notes-- it's as if the fight never happened.

    Lastly, there's no discernable setting, time period, or physical descriptions of the characters.

    Sorry, but it's a no.

  7. Yes...has possibilities. Middle grade can be 7-10 at one end of the scale and 9-12 at the other. The voice might be young for 12, but fits a 9-10-year-old. I like the humor.

    A good sense of the character in a few words: picked on, nerdy, has one blue eye and one green eye, can talk to possums and has a Siamese "body guard"--sounds like fun. I'd read a bit more.

  8. I agree with Zona that it would fit the 9-10 year age group. I feel the story would benefit from more description. What type of ground? Was it dirt, mud, grass, cold, hot, wet? Any of this would add to the visual image. You did not hook me. I let my 10 year old read it, and you had a fish on the line. You did not hook an adult, but you did hook someone of your target audience age. So in short, overall good job! It just needs more description.

  9. I think I liked this better than some other readers, even though it's not what I read. The sunglasses placed her in modern times for me, I understood she was on the ground and didn't want to climb the tree because of her fear of heights. I saw the bully pushing her face into the ground but not holding it there forever.

    Making a note about the possum gave a good clue about her personality, then having the beast respond to her gave me a good sense of the magical nature of the story. That also reinforced the weirdness of her own cat defending her. It made me release my doubts about that.

    I think she probably knows "the bully's" name so it seemed distant not to use it. I think she might express a tad more surprise at the critter doing her bidding, just so the reader is sure that's what happened. She'd probably make a note in her notebook.

    I'd keep reading even today. I know I would have when I was a kid.

  10. I think the sequence of the fight needs work.

    The voice skews younger to me - 9 or 10 year old.

    This genre is not my preference at all.


  11. Yes, for a while longer. While I think Stella sounds like a fascinating character, being able to talk to animals isn't a big hook for me. I'd need to know more about the plot before I'd commit to reading further.

  12. I think, as a kids' story, this is a good start. I like Stella -- she's immediately sympathetic. (She must be speaking to the child nerd I was way back when. ;-) )

    I do think a name would be nice for the bully. Additionally, have you considered waiting a bit to give us some of the 411 about Simon? It seemed almost like info overload on the cat, what with him biting the bully, then "sprinting" after the bully (which we discovered wasn't an unusual thing for him to do) and revealing his name and breed. I felt like I needed a character reference sheet right here at the beginning! ;-)

    I'd read on, though. :-)

  13. Hooked.

    Not my genre but, I like the MC. It seemed like Stella wasn't expecting the possum to actually understand her and that made me interested. The details wrap up nicely; vegetarian, likes animals, and can seemingly communicate with them.

  14. Sorry, on the fence leaning towards "no." A cat chasing off bullies isn't something I'd regard as an everyday occurence. Funny, but no. And I don't like the thought of a boy bully beating up a girl. I know it happens, but...

  15. Yes. I like the genre and appreciate all the clues the author has planted to let us know something special is going on.

    I would read to find out what it was.

  16. Sorry, but no.

    Believe it or not, the first two words bothered me because they felt like telling. Use his name. You have shown by his actions that he's a bully.

    Another place you tell then show is in the 6th paragraph. "Another strange sighting." You don't need to say that because she shows she thinks it's strange by writing it in her notebook.

    Also, I see many familiar themes, the vegetarian, the eye color(s), an the talking animals.

    I see talent here, as well as a voice struggling to be free. Keep writing. Keep reading. You use great verbs. You have what it takes. But this one needs more work.

    Good luck.

  17. No, sorry. It's written well and amusing but personally nothing about it grabs me (even though I enjoy animal stories).

    Good luck,


  18. On the fence. I think with a bit more polishing it could be good, but as it is something feels lacking - the action feels jerky.

  19. Lots of potential here. The Simon biting ankle/clawing butt thing read to me like Kitty Twister, maybe smooth that out. But once we got to the possum, I was with you, so take another run at those first bits and I think you'll be in business.