Wednesday, September 9, 2009

27 Secret Agent

GENRE: MG magical realism

Ellie often jumped for joy. At Christmas. On her birthday. When the
first green tips of the crocuses came up in March. When there were
sausages for supper. And once when she found two quarters, one dime
and seven pennies on the sidewalk. But she’d never jumped for joy and
caught it.

Of course, she didn’t know that joy was what she had caught, not at
first. That morning she had got up and wondered why it was so bright
in her room. Then she remembered that it was the first day of summer
vacation and (whooping an enormous whoop) she jumped for joy. At the
very top of her leap her sweeping hand, brushing something solid,
simply closed around it, like catching a fly ball she couldn’t quite

Ellie froze, her hand still above her head. She couldn’t move, could
hardly breathe. Whatever she had caught was small, warm and wriggling.
Alive. She brought her hand down slowly, gently. She kept it closed
firmly against whatever was pushing against her fingers while she
tried to think.

It wasn’t an insect. She knew how it felt to hold their fluttering,
almost unnoticeable weight. In fact, there were always seven or eight
jars on her windowsill housing various caterpillars, beetles and
spiders she had caught. She watched them carefully and dropped things
into the jars for them to eat. It wasn’t her fault they sometimes
escaped and ended up nesting in her mother’s sock drawer or crawling
up the kitchen wall.


  1. I adore the concept of catching joy! How awesome!

    I think the writing could be tightened (the sentence with her sweeping hand was a bit awkward) but you've got a great idea here. I'm hooked.

  2. I like the voice in this one, and the idea of catching joy. The writing is very smooth and draws me in until the last paragraph. There I thought that a girl who'd unintentionally caught something alive and wriggling would look at it -- not stop and think about the other things she'd caught before.

    Overall, though, I enjoyed it!

  3. This has a lovely Peter Pan feel to it. I would love to read more.

  4. Clever concept! I'd read more to find out where you're going with it. I agree that the paragraph about insects is a bit of an unnatural delay - we want to see what joy looks like! :)

  5. I like the first paragraph. :)

    I did have a problem with the second one for various nitpicky reasons, but you gained me back with the paragraph after that.

    I don't know about joy, but I'm expecting a fairy in her hand.

  6. Hooked. Your voice is wonderful. I wish your last paragraph revealed what's in her hand. Other than that, I really liked it.

  7. I love your voice. The first paragraph is downright enchanting.

  8. Loved this! One of my favorites. And what a charming, whimsical concept.

  9. Great premise for a MG book! I like the opening, except the last paragraph does slow the action down a bit.

    But I'd read on for sure!

  10. Great follow up explaining her love for insects as it explains why she didn't freak out by catching something. I would definitely want to read more!

  11. This is a great concept, and I love your opening. The line "she'd never jumped for joy and caught it" perfectly sets up the action in the rest of the snippet.

    Hooked, definitely hooked.

  12. You had me until that last paragraph! I agree with everyone else on that great first paragraph, but I can't imagine a child holding something unexpected in their hand, and not taking the time to look.

    The first sentence about her knowing it wasn't an insect is okay, but after that, bring us back to what's in her hand. That's what we all want to see - your readers and Ellie.

  13. This is cute and the voice genuine. It definitely works for MG fiction! I don't typically read MG, but I think this is something my kids would enjoy!

  14. Well written, but once you got me hooked, then the bulk of the last paragraph talked about her bug collection. Which, erased some of that excitement/hook.

    I like the paragraph, actually, I like all of it, but perhaps her bug collection could come earlier, before she catches joy?

  15. Hooked as a hooked thing :) Love the voice, love it. I has that sparkling happiness about it I just love.

    Like some others said, I'd ditch the insects and sock drawer and tell us about the thing she's caught. (if you feel the need to tell us what it was, I'm sure we'd forgive you hint hint). I don't think it hurts mentioning she collects bugs, it's cute and tells us about her curiosity, just maybe don't tell us so much.

    Clever idea, lovely execution.

  16. Original with brisk, energetic writing! LOVED it.

  17. Thank you all SO MUCH for taking the time to read and comment. It's really encouraging and helpful.

    I think it's interesting -- and a useful ego check -- that good critiquing shows us the flaws we already know are there but don't really want to face and are sort of hoping aren't really an issue. Har de har har.

  18. This was cute...something we wouldn't mind our kids reading.
    Hooked. :)

  19. Barbara, I assume she opens her hand in the next paragraph and,personally, I'm okay with that. I could see a kid who likes to catch things holding her hand closed so as not to let it escape.

  20. I loved this one, and I thought the description about bugs in jars nicely explained why she didn't freak out over the wiggling thing in her hand. :D Yes, love. Can I read more please?

  21. Ditto to what Shadowfeet said. This is my favorite so far. Good luck.

  22. Lovely! I like this so far. However, I do think the "sweeping hand" line is a little too busy and the last paragraph's tangent on the bugs while believable for a middle-grade-aged kid, goes on a little bit too long.


  23. Your first paragraph definitely hooked me. Lovely idea.

    However, you confused me once she caught "joy". I was convinced she was instantly frozen in space and time by the way you described what was happening. Maybe that's just the way I read it.

    Great job.

  24. Enchanting 1st paragraph and voice!

    There are a few places you could tighten up, but I really enjoyed this and would read on.

  25. Totally different. Totally unusual. Totally hooked.
    Loved everything, from catching joy to your MG voice.

  26. I'd keep reading. There's a style to this that is similar to the best middle grade stuff out there, and so I'd keep reading.

  27. Very enjoyable. I would definitely read on.