Thursday, April 28, 2016

Are You Hooked? Middle Grade #20

TITLE: The Dolphin Nexus
GENRE: MG - Magical realism

Irene sees the world through a microscope of science. Diana sees it through a kaleidoscope of dreams. They’ll have to see eye-to-eye to save the ocean they love.

        The port rail gave Irene the best view of the tourists in their natural habitat. A chuffing breath behind her announced a dolphin periscoping out of his natural habitat. He surfaced so close, she could identify him by the speckles around his eyes:  Snoopy.

            “Folks, check out portside.” Captain Jimmy’s gravelly voice crackled over the microphone. “That’s left for landlubbers. There’s a sight ya don’t see ev’ry day.”

            She did. Jimmy returned her smile with a thumbs up. Irene winced as tourists engulfed her in an odor bomb of sweat, Coppertone, and bug spray. Her hobby was sightseeing, not smelling, the passengers. Sidling out of the crowd, she escaped to Jimmy at the helm.

            “We saw it yesterday,” she reminded him.

            Jimmy lowered the mic to tell her, “Owe ya double then.” His cheeks wrinkled around his gray eyes as he aimed a wink at her. “Thanks for reelin’ him in.”

            Irene shook her head. “I had nothing to do with it.” Jimmy’s theory that she was some kind of dolphin lure was as wild as his fish tales. “You gonna tell me why I had to ride again today?” Jimmy had promised she’d have the best virtual world travel of the summer this morning. So far, he was so wrong. She said, “Nothing new in this crew.”

            “A poet and she don’t know it.” He winked, his cheeks crinkling around his gray eyes. Ignoring her question, he went back on mic with: “Folks, I’ll idle; see if he’ll stick around.”

            “It’s Snoopy. Of course he’ll stick around.”


  1. Magical realism is one of my favorite genres, and dolphins are one of my favorite animals, so I was excited to read your excerpt.

    Snoopy sounds really cute; I love that name for a dolphin. While I like the detail and descriptions overall, I wasn't sure why Irene is on the boat, because she doesn't seem to be enjoying herself. I don't know how old she is -- but she doesn't really have a MG voice.

    The character of Jimmy is interesting to me and his personality shines through -- nice job -- but their conversation is confusing. Is the "sight" Snoopy? Or something else? When she says "We saw it yesterday" what does "it" refer to? And why is she so bored? Or at least, annoyed?

    You use one detail twice: Jimmy winks, and his cheeks crinkle around his gray eyes. You should omit one of those instances. (But keep one in, because I love that description -- I can see it.)

    I do like that you introduce the concept of Irene "luring" in Snoopy -- and it's great that you found a way to get that bit in there within your first 250 words. It makes me think that this is why she is on the boat -- as a favor to Jimmy to entice the crowd? But I'm not sure. If this is the case, I think you'll want to make that part clearer, as I had mentioned I wasn't sure the reason she is on the boat at all.

    Good luck with your story and thanks for the read.

  2. Your log line pulled me in! I liked the voice, and felt it mostly worked for an older middle-schooler (although you haven't clearly stated the characters' ages).

    I found a couple of lines confusing. When Jimmy says, "There’s a sight ya don’t see ev’ry day," the next line - "She did." - is confusing, and, I think, not necessary because the idea comes across quite well a few lines later when she says to Jimmy "We saw it yesterday." The it in that sentence, btw, is confusing. She has already referred to Snoopy as "him" so I think she would use either that pronoun or Snoopy's name.

    Also, the sentences "Irene winced as tourists engulfed her in an odor bomb of sweat, Coppertone, and bug spray. Her hobby was sightseeing, not smelling, the passengers." feel both too old and too negative at this point in the story.

    I didn't understand what "the best virtual world travel of the summer" meant or why that would compel Irene to take the boat ride. Can you be a little more direct here?

    The last sentence of this excerpt is great! It tells us so much about Irene, her level of knowledge of the dolphins, and her relationship with Jimmy.

    Thanks for the read.

  3. I also loved the log line! I'm really interested and enjoyed your opening. I did stumble at the virtual world travel line because I was trying to figure out if it was related to the dreams, but then realized Diana is the one with dreams. I also am taking that literally, by the way, but you may just mean she's a dreamy, idealistic girl. But with magic in there, it seems possible she's really having some kind of dreams that are powerful or useful. If that's not the case, just be aware of how someone might perceive it. I think it was the word kalidescope that made me feel it was a literal viewing of life via dreams. I would definitely keep reading. The last line of your longline is super strong and fits with some great current topics that could be tied into class visits for science classes, for example, for ocean conservation or ecology, depending on what happens in the story. Thumbs up!

  4. Very interesting premise that will totally draw MG readers in. I was quite confused at the beginning. Not sure which characters are dolphins and which are human. I would focus in on the main character in the first few paragraphs and really establish who they are and their voice. As it is now, you have three (or four?) characters introduced in the first two paragraphs which can be quite confusing. Start with one and make sure we know for sure who and what he/she is. Hope that helps a bit. Best of luck to you!

  5. When Irene winces, I thought it was because grandpa gave her a thumbs-up, which was wrong. In the paragraph that begins, "She did," I didn't know what she "did." I think you have a habit of separating one idea from another by too many other ideas. Your premise is very cute though. I like that she's the dolphin whisperer.