Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #42

TITLE: Molly Long Legs and The Sleeping Bug
GENRE:  Middle Grade. Magic Realism

Molly discovered her ability on the last night of summer vacation. Looking under the bed for her lucky pencil case, she came across one of The Boy’s baby books. The Boy was the nickname Dad used for her two year old brother, Herbie. Herbie must have left it under her bed earlier that day when they had been playing hide and seek.

The book was called The Lemon Bears. Its pages were full of bright, vibrant colours with large pictures of strange cuddly animals. Molly was way too mature to read such a book, but with nothing else to do she decided to take a quick look. Molly sat on her bed and began to read.

One day, Baby Lemon Bear went for a walk in her garden.

As Molly read the words something amazing happened. The dull white walls of her bedroom began to turn bright blue. But they were no longer walls, they were the sky. Her bed had disappeared as well. As had the floor, the ceiling, the curtains, the dressing table, the wardrobe, and her new desk and chair. Even her small battered television, which she was only allowed to watch at specific and rather unfair times, had disappeared. Everything, gone. Vanished.

Molly was in The Lemon Bear world.


  1. I think you can save the explanation of "the boy" being her dad's name for her brother Herbie. That can come out later in the story so the opening will be more focused on her experience, and not the details of her brother's name. Maybe like this: Molly discovered her ability on the last night of summer vacation. Looking under the bed for her lucky pencil case, she came across one of her little brother's picture books. Herbie must have left it under her bed earlier that day when they had been playing hide and seek.

    Also, you might want to show some emotion in the scene where everything has vanished. Something like this: Her heart started pounding. Everything, gone. Vanished.

    This sounds like an exciting story!

  2. Sounds like an adventure is beginning. Baby Lemon Bear--Lol!

  3. This sounds like more of a query letter to me. Too much exposition - "telling" instead of "showing". Read other entries and see how they yank us right into the action using sensory descriptors. Keep working it!

  4. I was just going to leave a comment similar to Natasha's. Show don't tell. Especially when you start listing what is disappearing. Molly is sitting on her bed, so when that goes away what happens to her?

    "Molly suddenly hit the ground with a thud and rolled onto her side. Instead of her hard wood floor she felt the tickle of grass on her cheek." Or something like that.

    I also feel like this is set up a little too conveniently. Maybe therd can be a more interesting situation that leads into her discovery.

    Good luck!

  5. I like the title. I agree with previous comments. Also, leave out the something amazing happened bit. If it's amazing, everyone will get that. Don't tell them it's amazing, show them.

    Oh, and The Boy's baby books - make it picture book or board book or something. I thought it was going to be a Baby Book. You know, with pictures, the kid's first word, milestones, etc.

    Good luck.

  6. I agree with the others' comments. Also, I find the voice is maybe a bit old for MG. I don't know many, say, 11-yr-olds who'd say they're "too mature," more likely "too grown-up" or even just "too old."

    Good luck.

  7. This feels way too quick, as someone said, almost like a query letter. Tell us more about Molly, get us into her head and her life before the big scene with the book coming to life. As it is, it comes way too quickly to be as startling as it should be. Slow down.

  8. As the others have said, there is too much telling and not enough showing.

    The very first line is telling and boring. I'm told Molly has an ability but not what that 'ability' is. Rather than telling me, start with the action and show me.

    As it is set up, what happens is that the book sucks her in to its world, not that she did anything to encourage/make that happen. The info about the Dad's nickname is unnecessary and confusing. It's the dad's nickname for Herbie, not Molly's. It doesn't seem like she'd refer to Herbie like her Dad does. I'd just let the dad call him The Boy later in the story and explain then. Besides, that nickname seems kind of cold and deserves an explanation.

    I do love the set up for and the presentation of the sentence: Molly was in The Lemon Bear world, and the title is definitely one I'd pick up from the library.

    Best of luck!

  9. This starts with her discovering her ability, but what her ability is isn’t mentioned. It might be that she can make fantasy worlds become real. It might be that she can enter any world in any book. Perhaps let her realize what her ability is so the reader knows.

    Also, her entire room disappears, but nothing appears, except blue sky. If she’s going to enter Lemon Bear World, perhaps show that appearing as her room disappears. And what’s her reaction to all that?

    And it does sound younger than middle grade. It sounds more like a book a parent would read to a small child.

  10. While I think some of the word selection is very mature for MG, I found what was written came across as too young for MG. When I read it in my head it sounds like something I would read out loud to my six year old neighbour's daughter, rather than something my twelve year old would read. Sentences like "As Molly read the words something amazing happened" just come across as aimed at very 'young'.

    I'm not sure that I have explained what I mean very well here, but hopefully you get my gist.

  11. The voice of the narrator comes across as a lot younger than middle grade. It reminds me of the cutesy stories read to a group of kids by the dotty old librarian during reading time, as it's often portrayed on movies and tv.

    I would say that books for young readers are a lot more sophisticated now than they have been in the past. Even though I still see a lot of submissions for overly cute stories of talking animals and such, I rarely see those published by any of the bigger houses. Personally, I'd much rather see something with a slightly naughty wink and subversive nudge over something cutesy. And, at least anecdotally, that's more of what I'm seeing from publishers. (Mo Willems, Maurice Sendak, Lane Smith, Lemony Snicket, etc., etc.)

  12. I'm working on a contemporary MG now so I know how hard it is to keep the voice, dialogue, and story at the target age level. I agree that the story sounds younger (Lemon Bears) and some words sound older (mature, dressing table, battered TV).

    Not sure of the age of your main character or target reader, but MG readers tend to be a few years younger than the protagonist's age.

    Current MG stories are very mature. SEE YOU AT HARRY's is for 10 and up and included the death of a younger brother under the main character's watch, an older brother coming out of the closet, and parents who
    ignored their kids.

    Jack Gantos' Joey Pigza character has an alcoholic father who deserts the family at one point and then returns and bribes Joey with money and plies him with caffeine early in the morning.

    To make your story work, you might have to add a lot of edge and/or snark. Otherwise it reads more like a picture book to me, albeit one with more advanced vocab.