Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#16 January Secret Agent

TITLE: Potion of Doom
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Stella LaPlant pushed her sunglasses further up her nose and flipped through her notebook to an entry under the "Strange Sightings." Her teacher was wrong--all wrong! Not all bats were nocturnal. She raised her hand. "Yesterday, I saw bats-large bats-flying in broad daylight." Checking her notes, she added, "We have small-footed bats and big-eared bats in North Carolina, but these were some sort of giant species. And they had a 'Z' on their bellies!"

The teacher dropped her chalk. "What?"

The entire Possum Trot Elementary fifth grade class looked at Stella as if she'd just blown peas out of her nose. Then they erupted into laughter.

Stella's shoulders drooped. What was she thinking? Now she'd have to put up with a fresh round of teasing.

"Woof, woof, dog eyes," someone behind her snickered. Stella always wore sunglasses, even inside, to hide her eyes. Her classmates said she must be part animal, because only dogs and cats could have one blue eye and one green eye.

The bell rang.

"You're all a bunch of stupid cow pies!" Stella grabbed her backpack and darted out of the classroom. Jeers followed her as she bolted around the corner. Simon would be waiting for her outside, and no one messed with him.

Stella's backpack bounced against her as she dashed down the hall and flung open the door. Whew! There he was at the bottom of the steps.


Some kids had a guard dog, but Stella had a guard cat.


  1. That last line sold it for me. This is a great start. I'd read on!

  2. I have no criticisms. This has a great flow to it. Nice job!

  3. I love it because you make us fall in love with Stella right away. The only suggestion is that it might work to wait to tell us why she covers her eyes with sunglasses. Make us want to find this tidbit out.

  4. This is really cute. I like Stella!
    Love the comment about the peas. I like the eye color thing too-very unique character trait for your MC.

    My only suggestion is to give the sentence "There he was at the bottom of the stairs." a stronger verb-even "There he sat... (or something like that).

    I like your writing style. I'd read on!

  5. I love this. I could just see her flipping through her notebook.

    And I was not expecting a cat. Fabulous!

    My only suggestion would be to drop the "Jeers followed her." That felt like a little too much.

    I would definitely keep reading!

  6. Hooked! I would read more, and I love the guard cat instead of dog. It was funny and unique! Great job!

  7. I liked it :-)
    Would read on.

  8. I like the first paragraph and last line a lot. The character pulls you in. :)

  9. I thought this was great. Stella seems really well defined and we get a good sense of the style of story right off the bat. I'd keep reading, but I'd also like a few more hints about what the story was actually about in the next couple of pages.

  10. Aha. I don't quite understand why the kids would tease her for such things. I mean, I'd say some pretty nerdy things in fifth grade but people wouldn't tease me. Maybe it's her eyes, kids tend to tease people who are different. I think the eyes are a charming characteristic of Stella.

    I'm trying to see this through my fifth grade perspective. I think if I were in 5th grade reading this, I'd be somewhat hooked. Mostly because these events seem kind of unrealistic, I mean, if someone would tease another kid wouldn't the teacher stop it? I also found the teasings to be somewhat unrealistic and immature.

    However, I DID like that Simon and I especially liked that last line. I thought he would be like one of those only best friend people, but he's a cat! Adorable. Referring to my fifth grade self, I think I would read on because of Simon. And also, bats with a Z on their bellies? Strange, yes? Yes, I think my fifth grade self would read on. :)

  11. I really liked Stella's name and character. I love reading about the "outcast" and wanted to know more. You do a great job of introducing her to your reader.

    What I didn't understand was why the kids laughed at her comment. Was she wrong? That I would understand, but if she's right, then why would they laugh? As a middle school teacher, I know kids can be cruel, but you might want to make the teasing more legitimate.

  12. Yep, nothing really critical to say about this one.

    I really like this and would keep reading. Good style and voice.

  13. Nice title! That alone will probably pull in some readers.

    The first sentence grabbed me. Why was she wearing sunglasses in school? It wouldn't be allowed around here. But then it's not followed up. Perhaps mention her eyes at this point. It's an interesting fact and will help draw readers in, I think.

    You might name the teacher and cut parg. 4. Go straight into the taunting. ANd because you've already explained her eyes, you won't have to interrupt the action to explain them here.

    As she runs from the class, you might cut the 'jeers followed' and the 'simon waiting' sentence. Keep the backpack bouncing sentence and cut the 'whew there he was.' Go straight to the meow and the guard cat sentence. Making the cuts makes Simon an even bigger surpise than he already is.

  14. I'm afraid I didn't love this as much as others. While I'm clearly in the minority, here are my comments:

    -The sunglasses in the first line bumped me out. Between the chalk and the sunglasses, I didn't know whether we were outside or inside. While I like your later explanation, my confusion over the setting distracted me for several paragraphs.

    -Minor point, but most schools are using white boards these days. Plus, actually dropping the chalk is a bit of an extreme reaction.

    -The first paragraph confused me. I didn't know where Stella was, what kind of notebook she was looking in, or why she had notes. Also, I'd recommend starting a new paragraph for the dialogue.

    -Stella's comment doesn't seem bizarre enough to provoke such an extreme reaction from both her teacher and her peers. Also, I've taught, and most teachers clamp down on the most obvious forms of bullying pretty quickly. In classroom's I've been in, the kids are mostly nice to each other in front of the adults. It's when the teacher's not around to hear that they say mean things to each other (for the most part).

    -I like the 'guard cat' idea. Interesting concept.

  15. Not hooked.

    Things that pulled me out of the story:

    First paragraph reads more adult than MG to me.

    Stella sounds a bit pompous to me. Seems too much description of bats. More like what a college student might say.

    Why would the teacher drop her chalk? doesn't she know Stella? Is she so inept she can't deal with her students?

    Don't think young kids wonder what they're thinking...this again makes me think adult, not MG
    or at least YA

    Is she wears sunglasses, how would her classmates know what her eyes look like?

    In these days of high security, would sunglasses be allowed?

    First, she wonders what's she was thinking then taunts her classmates--of course she'd be teased; this doesn't make me like her

    what state are we in? sound rural-farm to me with cow pies

  16. Hey, Secret Agent here! There’s a lot going on in this little scene, maybe a bit too much. You could say what you’re saying in paragraph one more simply, and maybe give us some more interiority for Stella. Why she blurts out what she does, what she wants when she goes to seek out Simon, etc. Possum Trot is a great name for a school, though!

  17. I liked this a lot but I felt overwhelmed with information! That's a lot to pack into 250 words, wow! I feel like a stone gathering speed downhill with no end in sight... if the rest of the book is this jam-packed I'd love to read it, but I think I'd be exhausted at the end!

  18. There's much I like about this. I think you've set us up for a strange bat beast, but I think you need more explanation that this really is strange and give us more understanding of the extreme reaction from the teacher (dropping chalk) and why the kids tease her. I feel like you are missing this opportunity in the third paragraph after her shoulders droop and she asks "What was she thinking?" Give us something here. What was she thinking? That she should've known better than to think any of them would believe her? That they now think she is making stuff up? We could learn a lot about her, her past and possible problematic future right here.

    After this point, there is a quick shift from them teasing her about her statement to teasing her about her eyes. That seemed odd to me. Stay focused on the comment. I get the feeling there is much more to this bat that could be hinted at, versus her eyes right now.

    I love the "peas out of the nose", and her calling them "cow pies". I would read more to see what happens.