Thursday, April 28, 2016

Are You Hooked? Middle Grade #11

GENRE: MG - Science fiction

Science-geek Mike meets an alien and agrees to test candies from an alien PEZ dispenser to find out what planets humans can visit. He’ll have to survive bizarre reactions and aliens who hate Earthlings. If he doesn't finish in time, the Galactic Emperor will lock Earth in an anti-spaceflight field.

Mike shifted on the hard bench and glanced from his math book to his fifth grade classmates dashing around the community soccer field like superheated atoms. So far, the negatively-charged molecule known as “Brutus” hadn’t swooped in to repel the others like an electric bowling ball. Brutus was probably searching for Mike.

He’d show up eventually, hunting those on The List of Chumps to be Pounded After School. Failing to call Brutus, the biggest sixth-grader at Evanston Elementary, by his self-chosen nickname broke Chump Rule #1. Mike blew that the first day of school. On the second, he sat in Brutus’s swing. His name had topped The List ever since.


Mike jerked upright. A soccer ball bounced away from the side of the bleachers. He gritted his teeth and clenched his math assignment. Home was only five blocks away…

No. He would not hide in his house like a friendless dork. With summer coming and Brutus able to stalk the park all day, Mike’s plan to escape Evanston Ohio had to work.

Step one: attend the Academy section of Space Camp two years ahead of his age group. Step two: get noticed by NASA. Step three: move to Florida as the space program’s youngest astronaut. Step four: “accidentally” drop an International Space Station toilet into Brutus’s backyard.

“C’mon Mike, we need another player.” Carlos picked up the soccer ball and bounced it against the lowest bench.


  1. Describing Brutus as a negatively charged molecule is great. I especially like that you have the brief description about repelling others right after it to clarify what it means from anyone who isn't familiar with the concept.

    Mike's voice feels perfectly MG. Both the premise and overall writing level are excellent.

    Minor typo: "Evanston Ohio" is missing the comma. Everything else is too good to pick apart.

  2. I think this definitely works for MG voice-wise (and in general). Perfect for a 12-year-old "geek." Little nits are to add a hyphen to "fifth grade" ("fifth-grade") and would a soccer ball make a "Crack" sound if it bounced against bleachers? I envision more of a "Whomp" or even "Thud." Great job, though, and good luck!

  3. The story is great --- although I'd delete the last line of the first paragraph (you show it in the next one anyway)

    Nice voice.

    Not a fan of the biggest kid always being the bully, but that's just personal bias.

    I think the log is okay, but it could be more fun. i.e. the Emperor will lock the Earth in a cosmic jawbreaker making sure we never reach space again.

  4. This is a fun concept and you've nailed the MG voice! I particularly liked the atomic metaphors in the opening and Mike's list of things to do when he escapes home. Both of those tell us this story is going to have sci-fi elements even though we're in plain old contemporary Ohio in this first scene--nice work!

    Somehow I can't reconcile the Pez dispenser to the actual conflict of the story, though, so you might need to clarify that in the logline a bit. I'm also not sure what the consequences of being locked in an anti-spaceflight field would be. Does it just mean Mike wouldn't get to be an astronaut like he dreams, or would it have more devastating consequences for Earth? Upping/clarifying those stakes will really punch up the pitch.

    But honestly, I really love this and would read more! Best of luck.

    Julie (#40)

  5. Thanks everyone! Love getting the nits - gotta get those things down too. I'll work on that logline, I started from scratch on a new one, so it definitely needs polishing.

  6. The idea of an electric bowling ball seemed like it might be trying too hard. Since there's no such thing, I had to think about it, which pulled me out of a story I wasn't quite into yet. But I loved the kids moving like superheated atoms. That seemed natural and funny.