Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #3

GENRE: Chapter Book (Adventure)

Marie Curie slid across the living room floor chasing the red dot that scurried up and down a wall, zig-zagged across the floor, and disappeared beneath the sofa. She flattened out her furry body and tried to squeeze in after it.

“Marie Curieeeee, over heeeere,” called Maya as she pointed the laser back to the middle of the floor. The gray-haired cat quickly jumped to her feet and resumed her attack.

“You better watch out, Maya. You know lasers can burn her eyes, right?” said Maya’s next-door-neighbor, David. “I saw a YouTube video where this guy used a laser to burn his initials onto a piece of wood, so maybe you shouldn’t be playing with that thing on the wood floor.”

“This laser is pretty weak. It runs on tiny batteries. See?” Maya unscrewed the back of the laser pointer and removed two small button-like batteries and held them out to David. “Staring into this kind of laser is a little bit like staring into the sun - definitely not good for your eyes, but your eyeballs won't melt." Maya replaced the batteries and screwed the laser back together.

David laughed nervously. "So this laser can’t burn a hole in one of my ‘bots no matter how hard I try?” David pushed his black-rimmed glasses up, but they slid right back down the bridge of his nose.

“Nope, you need a stronger laser for that. Some of the most powerful laser beams are made up of light particles, or photons, that are invisible to our eye.”


  1. I love the cat's name and the fact that these appear to be geeky-type kids. But so far this snippet - and I realize it's difficult in only 250 words - doesn't give me a clear picture of what it's leading up to. But I think with the robot reference we're in for some fun.

    I like the descriptive language and get a clear visual of the scene. My only concern is it seems a little advanced for a picture book. I don't know if it's sentence length, structure, or word choice, but something about it seems more MG. I hope that isn't too critical, and I wish you much luck!

  2. I agree this does feel more middle grade than chapter book, but maybe only because it seems to be starting off slow. (Or at least, I'm assuming that the cat chasing a laser is not the main plot. ^_^) The vocabulary level seems right to me, and I am a fan of robots. Best of luck!

  3. I agree with the others that this has more of a middle grade feel. Although, (if I am right) you are going for a light science fiction which is not usually around for the younger audience.

  4. I like that you start with the cat named Marie Curie. It drew me in and was a fun reveal to find out she was a cat chasing a laser. I also like how David very casually brings up his bots. It gives me a cool Spy Kids meets Brixton Brothers feel.

    I do wonder if the laser conversation is a little too dry for a first page, but at the same time I like how intelligent/well-informed the kids are. So I am torn about my feelings on this conversation. (I think that overall, it's not detracting from the scene, so it's fine).

  5. I feel like an idiot and hope you'll forgive my earlier comment about this being a picture book. I really did mean chapter book. (hides red face in shame)

  6. I did not like that you start with Marie Curie as the name without saying it was a cat. I expected this to be about her in the past or about a kid named that. From the descriptions, I think I have a better feel for the cat and the friend than the mc.

    Also, the geek with black glasses seems cliche. I'm just not feeling enough pull to read on because I have no reason to side or feel for the mc.

    Also, toward the end, it felt a bit teachy. I would hope the rest of the story isn't like that.

    just my opinion.

  7. I was intrigued by the opening. It was a fun surprise to find out it's a cat. I also like how the girl seems to be charge and perhaps, smarter. I question that the boy wouldn't know how powerful the laser is if he can build a robot. If you are introducing an invisible laser, which is an interesting concept, it gets lost in your explanation because I'm thinking, light IS photons and that is in sense, what her laser is, so how is this different--and I'm off your story. Because if she had said something like, "The most powerful lasers are invisible." and no explanation, then I'd want to know what she's talking about and how she knows this.

  8. I like the opening. I spent many days this week watching our kittens chase their laser and I love a famous named animal (my cats are The Doctor and River and I have named a fictional dog Stephen Tyler).

    Overall, I like this. I can see reading it to my kids. I am intrigued.

    My only negatives: the dialogue begins to feel a little more educational than conversational near the end, and I don't have a clear picture of the MC yet. But, it is the very beginning, so I would keep reading to see where it goes.

  9. Cats and robots and smart kids--this concept sounds entertaining! As a cat (and dog) person, I knew immediately what was going on with the red dot. However, the first sentence seems too long for a chapter book, and might even be too complex for MG. I would find the excerpt more compelling if I had more of a sense of the story problem or goal for the main characters. Could it be that the story begins later?

    I would read on to find out how the two characters' special interests merge.

  10. My first thought was that this reads above chapter book levels. You're looking at 2nd to 4th graders, so you may want to bring that down by using simple or short compound sentences.

    I wondered if lasers will be central to the adventure, since so much time is spent on them in the opening. I also thought it felt like you were teaching a lesson about lasers instead of telling a story. Perhaps make that part more conversational.

  11. I was instantly charmed by the idea of a cat named Marie Curie, but the dialogue felt unnatural to me. I’m assuming, based on the title, that this is a book about science and math, and a group of kids that love those subjects, which I’d be interested in. But be careful with explanations of scientific or mathematical principles, they need to be woven into the story more fully than is done here in the dialogue. This started to feel educational, not as much about the characters and their concerns.

  12. Thanks everyone for taking the time to read and critique my entry! I've learned a lot and will be making some changes. As the Terminator once said, "I'll be back!"