Thursday, April 28, 2016

Are You Hooked? Middle Grade #40

TITLE: The Elephant Tree
GENRE: MG - Magical Realism

Armed with a book of spells and the necklace that was left with her at the orphanage when she was born, ten-year-old Tilly must contact her Haitian ancestors to cast a spell that will bring her broken adopted family back together. A Snicker of Magic with a sprinkle of vodou.

When I was little, I checked every flower I passed, sure I’d find a sleeping fairy nestled inside. Now, at just-turned-ten, I wasn’t so sure that kind of magic existed anymore. Not in my world.

Angry voices echoed up the hall to my bedroom as I blinked sleep from my eyes. I suck in a breath, listening, my eyes trained on the Grumpy Cat poster taped to my ceiling above my bed.

“You’re so stubborn sometimes, Teresa,” Daddy thundered from downstairs. “Why don’t you just admit it? We can’t go on like this.”

That cat looked just like Daddy sounded, all squinchy-faced and angry.

Mama shushed him, then said something in a quieter voice. A few seconds later, the front door creaked, then slammed. So much for Daddy’s birthday pancakes. Sliding Matilda off my nightstand, I burrowed deeper under the covers and traced the soft yellow spine of the book with my finger.
The special hard-backed edition mama got me would keep me company until things calmed down. I’d read it a zillion times, but the words still gave me hope that even the most awful things could work out okay in the end. Right now, I wished I could crawl right inside that story and stay for a while. Matilda was fierce and funny, powerful and magical.

“Happy birthday, baby girl!” Mama said, flinging the door open with a big smile and eyes a bit too shiny for happy thoughts. “Ten years old and nine years mine.”


  1. This line sounds so believeable: "That cat looked just like Daddy sounded, all squinchy-faced and angry." This is another favorite: "I’d read it a zillion times, but the words still gave me hope that even the most awful things could work out okay in the end." Well done!

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  3. I'm pulled in immediately. I love the first line, and it feels believable and real for a ten year old. I like the use of "squinchy-faced" and "a zillion." The phrase "a bit too shiny for happy thoughts" seems too adult.

  4. I like you concept here, but unfortunately I don't think you opening 100% hooked me. For the most part I think your voice is spot on, but I'm not convinced you started your story in the right place. I'm not sure how this opening leads to your inciting incident and there's not much tension or connection to the character that is really drawing me in yet.

    I can see how you're trying to lay the ground work for the dysfunctional family, but if that's really the case, I'd really play up and show how bad the situation is and how it makes Tilly feel. Then I think the reader will really connect with your main character right off the bat.

    The phrase "when I was little" struck me as a tiny bit off for MG. She's ten so there's not too much prior that makes her little. She still is little. Maybe just saying something like I used to check every flower. But that was the only piece that stood out as possibly not MG voice.

    I do really like your opening paragraph, but I'm not sure how it connected to the birthday scene. The transition was a little rough. I would have loved to have the first paragraph continued out until we got to inciting incident. Or drawn into the opening a bit more smoothly.

    I think you've got a great start here and with a few edits this will really shine. Best of luck moving forward with this :)

    Jamie - Entry #35

  5. The voice is good but the first paragraph read awkward to me. Also the comma after sure changed the sentence for me.
    I liked the grumpy cat reference but if this book is around in 20 years the reference won't make sense to your readers. Also I think you are trying to make the connection to Matilda to obvious. My favorite line is ten years old nine years mine. I would read on.

  6. First, I have to say I disagree with Jamie's comments. I like the pacing, and even five-year-olds talk about when they were little.

    It's a great consistent voice. Two things though.

    1) Grumpy Cat will date this. Since he's already gone it won't be long until he's forgotten.

    2) With Tilly 'buried deeper under her covers' with her book, she can't see her mom's face as she enters. If you mean she pulled them up tight against her neck then you may need to rephrase.

  7. I love your title and the logline pulled me in, especially loving that last line, A Snicker of Magic with a sprinkle of vodou (spelling? voodoo). I like your start and agree with ikmar's points. Also love the last lines of your sample, big smile and eyes a bit too shiny for happy thoughts. “Ten years old and nine years mine.”

    I would read on! I love magic and am very curious to see how that comes into play. I love that she used to check every flower for fairies. I'm hooked on your character and want to find out how she pulls her family back together.