Thursday, April 28, 2016

Are You Hooked? Middle Grade #14

GENRE: MG - fan

12-year-old Geraldine Grey lives in the most haunted house in Louisiana, where she is in charge of taking care of the ghosts.

In the backwoods of Louisiana, where the trees are draped in Spanish moss, and mist rises from the swamps, there is a grand old house called La Maison de Fantômes. It is a mysterious house, cobwebbed and covered in ivy. Its columns are French, its gardens English, and just beyond it, where the alligators rest in the oak grove, is the oldest graveyard in all of the state. Its keeper is Geraldine Grey.

If you ever saw Geraldine, the first thing you would notice was that she was a Very Serious child. At twelve, she had already mastered the stern calmness of a professor, and was prone to carrying exactly three books in her satchel at all times (so as to always have a spare on hand). Her skin was brown, her hair was long, and her elbows and knees knobbier than the branches on an old elm tree. Her most important features, however, were her eyes, which were ghostly white, except for the faint black ring separating her pupils.

Geraldine’s eyes were important, because they were what allowed her to see ghosts.

“Bonsoir, Mister Thompson,” Geraldine greeted the groundskeeper when she arrived at the graveyard that evening – bonsoir, of course, meaning good evening in French.

The crusty, bad-tempered old ghost did not agree with this salutation. “I don’t see what’s so good about it,” he grouched as he rose from his grave and stretched. His bones rattled from the movement.


  1. Nice premise, has a lot of great MG potential. As you develop your logline moving forward (especially in your query), make sure you're including the stakes. Maybe it was just a space consideration, but as is, the logline doesn't include those, though it does start to give us a sense of what could go wrong. At the beginning of your excerpt, I enjoyed the description––it felt like a camera shot panning in, first wide and then closer, at the beginning of a movie. The writing definitely has a spark and I think you can cut and tighten just a bit more––try reading out loud to look for slightly clunky places. Even just deleting that comma after "moss," for example, would make your first sentence quite a bit stronger. The voice is a particular kind of MG voice, one that fits well with the genre and is of course very popular with a certain kind of reader! I would continue to look for moments to amp up the quirky factor––you do this already with the alligator detail––to make sure there's a solid spattering of humor throughout. Overall I'd say this is a very strong piece, definitely accomplishing what it's setting out to do. I'm hooked and would love to read more.

  2. I agree with Erin on the visual elements in the setting. I did get a bit of a jar when you "told" me that her skin was brown and her hair was long. I must rather have preferred to read a description of her long hair resting on her brown shoulders, similar in form to the way you introduced us to the environment. That's an easy fix, and I think it would improve the flow and continuity. I like it. I have a feeling something is going to be happening very soon.

  3. Ditto what the others have said. Great start. Nice voice. Definitely would keep reading.

    I'd delete 'bad-tempered' since you have 'crusty' all ready. And I wouldn't define 'bonsoir' either.

  4. I think this is a fun premise. I would do a little cut and paste. I think that starting with the second paragraph and then working bits of the opening paragraph after that would make it stronger. I want to know that the book is about the girl, not a lot of narrative description. Kids will bail on a book with only reading the first paragraph - so make it intriquing. (I was a school librarian for years - kids need to be hooked by a character they find interesting)

    Nice start - keep up the good work!!

  5. Just as a heads-up, in French we say "La maison DES Fantômes"... "De Fantômes" doesn't sound right.