Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#12 January Secret Agent

TITLE: Annie Steel and the Ghost of Willowbrook School
GENRE: Middle grade, realistic fiction


Annie Steel clapped her hand over her mouth. Ms. Caldwell gave Annie the Look. Annie shriveled in her seat. She hadn't just burped. She couldn't have. Impossible.

Someone started to laugh. Annie slid down even further so her nose was level with the top of the table. A second person laughed. A third. A fourth. Ms. Caldwell's mouth twitched up into a smile. Annie saw her bite her lip just before the entire class burst into laughter.

Steven Ash, who sat next to Annie, was shaking. She gave him the Look. At least, she hoped it was the Look. He didn't shrivel in his seat, but he finally stopped laughing and wiped his eyes.

"It wasn't me," she said. "I didn't burp."

"Yes, you did!" said Steven. "Everyone heard you."

"Nuh-huh. It wasn't me," said Annie.

"Was too." Steven snickered and flapped his hand in the air. "It smells."

Annie liked slimy anchovies more than she liked Steven Ash. He should move to Mars. Annie had a sudden inspiration. Steven was the biggest 'fraidy cat in the third grade. He'd even gotten scared at the Halloween party last October.

"I really didn't burp," she said. "It was the ghost. It made me do it. It floated into my body and made the biggest, loudest burp ever. I bet you're next."


  1. I think there are too many uses of Annie's name in this. Try switching some out for "her" instead, which will also connect the reader to your character - put us more in her head.

    Overall, I love the voice of this. It's cute and funny so far.

  2. I feel the line "He should move to Mars" is out of place.

    I like Annie. I would read more about her.

  3. I liked this. I agree that you have too many "Annie's" here, though.

    I don't think you need the line, "At least she hoped it was the Look." The paragraph is effective without it.

    The voice is great-especially the last line.

    I'd keep reading about Annie. :)

  4. I don't like the line at the beginning where you spell out her burp. It just seems forced, and a confusing way to start the story. Maybe there's a short description you could give instead, or just begin with her embarrassment of having burped.

    I do really like Annie's voice. It's very fitting for a third-grader. Seems genuine. I'd keep reading.

  5. I struggled with the dialogue. Tru doing actions instead of just said, said, said. It gets a little too repetitive. I liked the characters and their voices rang true.

  6. I also didn't like the sound of the burp at the beginning. It threw me off as I tried to decipher it. But a burp in class fits in well with a middle grade audience. Maybe it could be introduced in a different way?

  7. This sounds like a feisty girl protagonist, a fun one and I would be interested to follow her story.

    I didn't know what was going on at the beginning. I didn't know what the sound was until after I've read the first paragraph twice. Did she make the noise from having clapped her hand over her mouth?

    The genre says realistic, yet you seem to be setting up for a paranormal of some sort: her insistence, even to herself, that she hadn't burped.

    As for dialogue, you don't need "Nuh-huh. It wasn't me," said Annie.

    "Was too." Steven snickered and flapped his hand in the air. "It smells."

  8. LOL. I like Annie Steel, the character. She's very funny in a dry kind of why. She sounds Middle Grade appropriate enough.

    However, the writing didn't cut it for me. I know it's MG and supposed to be simpler and all, but when I was in MG, I didn't like reading such simple sentences.

    Anyways, if I were still in MG, I would keep on reading because of Annie's voice. Oh, and also the ghost. Nice cliffhanger, there. ;)

  9. I don't read a lot of MG, so this comment might be totally off:

    All the short sentences kept me from getting lost in the scene, and made the reading experience choppy.

    Outside of the choppiness of the sentences, the style seems to fit MG.

    Although this starts with action, and the main character is in the center of that action, I don't see any hook here for me. The ghost appears to be (or will be) a fiction of Annie's and, if so, there's no mystery. There's nothing to draw me onward.

    As was said above, Annie seems feisty, but that feistiness doesn't have much display here. Maybe have more focus, from the beginning, on her attempts to distract attention from herself?

    I would stop reading here.

  10. I liked the story, but feel third grade is too young for middle-grade.

  11. I thought the writing was appropriate for third grade readers.

    The burp went on too long, and spelling it out confused me. I had no idea it was a burp until I read further, and I didn't immediately read on because I was trying to figure out that first sentence.

    Perhaps cut the burp scene a bit. It takes too much time. Make it quick and get to the ghost. She burps, they laugh, steven makes his comment and she brings up the ghost. This is what we're reading for - the made up ghost and all the complications this little white lie is going to cause.

  12. I like this. You could simply cut the spelling out of the burp and start with, "Annie Steel clapped . . ." You explain exactly what happened in that paragraph.

    I also like Annie character a lot. Reminds me of the Clementine series by Pennypacker.

  13. Hey, Secret Agent here! Where did the ghost come from? I didn’t care as much about seeing Annie denying the burp. It went on for a while. I wanted to know why she denied it so much. What it meant to her to burp so loudly in class. I don’t know if this is the most grabby opening I’ve read on here, unfortunately. I didn’t get a sense of what the rest of the story was going to be about because the ghost idea was a real left turn.

  14. FUN! She sounds interesting an inventive... and I like the fact she went for the ghost idea right away. I agree with some comments above, however--the back and forth between her and Steven feels unnecessary (despite the fact kids do this!)

    Great job!