Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Adorable Editors Winners #3

TITLE: Million Dollar Lunch
GENRE: MG Contemporary

It was only the first day of food camp, and already Rome knew two things: one, there was such a thing as a mortal enemy, and two, it was going to be really tough to beat said enemy with a little sister at his side. To be fair, it wasn’t Livvie’s fault she had to tag along to camp while Dad recovered, but still, it made beating Frankie Hotdog all but impossible.

Rome tried to focus on getting to the finish line of their first challenge. He twisted his body as he grasped his section of a huge, juice-filled tarp and scanned the flat, open field. Ten teams of campers including his own lugged tarps toward a yellow, tickertape finish line nearly half a football field away. Only Frankie’s team was ahead of his, but the team directly behind them was slowly catching up.

“Livvie, you’ve got to keep your end up!” As if in punishment for yelling at his sister, Rome lost his footing on the slippery field and fell to his knees, just managing to hold tight to the edge of the plastic circle.

“I’m trying,” Livvie puffed, struggling against her dipping edge of tarp.

Jake, the third member of their team and Rome’s best friend, pulled up to compensate. The liquid in the center shifted. Rome saw a wave of red swirling toward him, but it was too late. The sweet flavors of strawberry and raspberry mixed with a tart lime aftertaste washed over him.


  1. I'm intrigued by the concept of food camp (I like the title!), but curious as to what it is. Not a fat camp, I'm guessing.

    A couple other things stopped me. I had to read twice to figure out whose side the little sister was by. If you put "by your side" instead of "by his side," it makes it clearer that it's the MC's sister.

    The word tarp brings up a rectangle image, so the "plastic circle" was a little confusing. Also, I'd think the juice would have sploshed his way when he went down on his knees, unless you say something about holding the tarp up extra high.

    The last paragraph would be stronger if you put "Too Late!" after ..."pulled up to compensate." "...washed over him" could be strengthened by using a simile to describe it.

    You've got a good MG setting and conflict going. Good luck!

  2. I think your first paragraph is really tight, and I love the voice. Also love the names Rome and Livvie. The name Frankie Hotdog doesn't seem to fit with the eloquent tone of the voice, but, well, it's MG so I'm sure it's fine. :)

    The second paragraph has some great information in it, but feels a little bulky (and, therefore, slows the pace a tad). Pace picks up again well in the third paragraph, though.

    Overall, I think this seems like it would be a fun read, and pretty lighthearted. It reminds me of The Biggest Loser, but in a middle grade setting. :) My only complaint is that I'm not really sure what the main story is going to be about—is it going to be a lighthearted Rome v. Frankie story, or are there deeper issues going on with Rome that will give this more substance? Obviously, this is only the first 250 words. Just thought it was worth mentioning—if there are deeper themes/issues that are going to be explored, it might be worth trying to work a hint of that in there. Doesn't have to be much—just something subtle, so we know there's going to be more tension/conflict than what we see on the surface. (Re-reading, I noticed the line about his Dad recovering—this might be enough of a hint at deeper things.)

    Yay! Hope this is helpful, and if not, just remember how subjective critiques are! When in doubt, trust your gut and your most respected critique partners. :) Good luck!

  3. Love this!

    Actually, I love paragraphs 1,3,4 & 5. Great voice. Nice tight prose and action.

    Paragraph 2 is clunky and in my opinion completely unnecessary. Could you skip it entirely and jump to "Livvie, you've got to keep your end up!" Then sprinkle in a little description of the race or field when needed to let us know enough of what's going on keep up?

  4. Rome and Livvie are at food camp, dad is recovering, and there is a mortal enemy, though I didn’t know who that was at first. Wasn’t sure if Frankie Hotdog was a person or an obstacle of some sort but I finally figured that he is the mortal enemy. Very funny set up but you need to get to the action sooner. What does it feel like to be dragging around this juice filled tarp? Something must ache, some part of Rome must burn, the sloshy tarp likely bangs against his legs. And what are the stakes?
    What we don’t know is if this food camp simply piles on the food at every opportunity, or if the campers must earn their meals, or learn to cook it, or develop healthier eating habits. If this gets answered in the next page or so, that will be fine.
    The last sentence is really funny. Poor Rome, awash in a sea of sweet juice. I’m tasting the lime, and now you’ve made me hungry! This is a pretty hilarious premise for middle grade kids and I think you’ve got a great story developing. Rome has a terrific kid's voice, smart and observant but not quite in first place.

  5. I may not be the best audience for this because food used for anything but eating kinda grosses me out :(. But setting that aside, this is charming and well written. I appreciated the clear set up in the second paragraph. It helps me know exactly what he's doing and where he is so I can visualize the situation. You could tighten up the writing by dropping some of the adjectives (for example, "field" implies flat and open so the extra words aren't necessary).

    The only thing that really took me out was the last line. The smells would be overwhelming, but when the juice hits him, I'm not sure he would process that as individual flavors. It would be more like "ack, gross" and possibly "I can't breathe."

    Other than that, well done.

  6. Whatever food camp is, I like the idea of it--at least it's different from every other "story set at camp" book I've read.

    "Little sister"--how little is she? Campers are usually divided by age, aren't they? She can't be so little that she would logically be in a younger group.

    What's at stake with this competition? A line would do to let us know.

    I like the tone. Keep going :-)

  7. I like this. It sounds really interesting. I have no idea what ‘food camp’ is going to be. At first, I thought it would be like fat camp, but from the sounds of it, maybe they do things WITH food, other than eating it.

    My only complaint with this excerpt is toward the end. Rome yells at his sister. That’s fine, but her response should come BEFORE he falls. As she struggles to keep her edge up, he slips, and then Jake pulls up to compensate. It would make the scene flow better.

    Sounds like a fun read. Good luck!

  8. Like the voice. Great opening line.

    Agree that the second paragraph may not be necessary. The pacing would be much faster without it. I also can't visualize the tarp right away. I'm thinking about a standard sized tarp but not sure if that's what you mean.

    Love how you end this with him getting juiced!

  9. Hi! This is Kat Brzozowski with your "editor" critique; I'm so sorry for the delay!

    Here are my thoughts:

    I still love the first line!

    I think there's too much going on in the 2nd paragraph; it's hard to follow. Keep it simple here to draw the reader in.

    Leave Jake (or at least his name) till later; it's hard to keep track of four different named characters in only five paragraphs.

    I also don't quite understand what's happening in paragraph 5; again, keep it simple!