Thursday, May 17, 2012


Genre: Upper Middle Grade
Word Count: 63,000


When a substitute teacher starts ranting about how dark energy is ripping the universe apart, 12-year-old Julia Veltman knows to write him off as a wackadoodle. She is, after all, one of the four members of the Scientastic SuperGirls after-school club. So when it turns out that dark energy is real and her physicist parents have even written classified government documents about it, Julia’s like an electron knocked out of orbit. With the twitchy sub now refusing to share anything else, the SuperGirls have to go all superspy to find out more.

A series of covert missions involving lip gloss and dental floss lead to an elevator in the most unexpected place, and the SuperGirls discover that Julia’s parents are running a secret, dark energy-detecting super collider under their town. Which would be wicked awesome, if it didn’t mean they’ve been lying to her for years. But now that her parents are just days away from announcing some earth-shattering discovery, Julia’s got bigger problems.

She’s got an army of ninjas on her tail. Their plan: kidnap Julia to stop her parents.

What the ninjas don’t know is that Julia’s not one to sit quietly tied up in a closet – and the other Scientastic SuperGirls aren’t about to let some dudes in black stand between them and one of their own.

First 250:

I’m pretty sure nobody’s ever gotten good news from a man with twitching eyebrows. So when our English teacher disappears for an emergency appendectomy and the new sub, Mr. Trolp, appears in front of our class, eyebrows all a-wiggle, I’m not expecting him to start handing out cookies.

Of course, I’d likely get the first cookie if he did – because he’s staring right at me.

“You never know who’ll be out to get you in life,” he says.

Right. No cookie from this guy.

“You’ve got to stay on guard, always checking behind you.”

We’ve found ourselves a sub loonier than the lady who walked on tiptoes and only talked about leprechauns. And it’s not just his eyebrows – his left hand is twitching, too. Maybe he got bit by a rabid spider. Maybe he’s becoming a rabid spider.

I glance over at Tessa, ready for a satisfying eye roll, but she’s hidden beneath her softball sweatshirt in her classic pose – hood up, head on desk – and is probably sound asleep. Wonderful.

“It could happen anytime.” Mr. Trolp’s mouth twists like he has to chew each word before it comes out. “Next Tuesday, for example – when you think everything’s going fine.”

Jeff Harkiss tips back in his chair, his hat perched on top of his head so he can claim he’s not actually wearing it. “Just start the DVD, dude.”

There’s always a first time to agree with Jeff Harkiss.


  1. Three cheers for dark energy and nerdy science girls! And spies! And ninjas! You've somehow packed all my favorite things into one book.

  2. Seriously!! What Elizabeth said!! I don't how you managed to bring together this steaming concoction of awesomeness and not have it be 'too much'!! It's so fun!!

  3. This is still my favorite. I giggle every time I read the word wackadoodle. And everyone knows the Jeff Harkiss type. This is amazing. Love, love, love it!

  4. I don't generally read middle grade, but I'll buy yours when this comes out. I love Julia. Good job.

  5. This book makes me wish my niece would get older a little faster so I could buy it for her...and all her friends! Yeah science girls!!

  6. SUPERB. You totally get a cookie. ;P #NINJASFTW!!

  7. I love all the different, fun elements you have going on here--the sci fi elements and ninjas and awesomeness. So great!!

  8. I <333 this entry! So full of voice and humor. Plus the world totally needs more sciency books for girls, especially ones that also contain wackadoodles.

  9. Such great, great voice and humor and energy in this, from the query to the excerpt! I love it!

  10. Such a great MG adventure! Good luck!

  11. Love to see MG entries in this contest! Go nerdy girls and good luck!

  12. Love the hook in this and the writing is great!! You had me at Dark Energy. Very cool!!

  13. Your query is so entertaining! Good luck!

  14. can I not love a query that uses the word "wackadoodle"? :-) This is great!

  15. A really fun MG premise. And I say that with my eyebrows all a-wiggle. Seriously loved that line. :)

    Good luck!

  16. This is awesome! Love your voice, it sparkles from line one. And the premise is fabulous too. Good luck!

  17. Have always loved these opening lines! I've taught 12 year olds for 12 years....this is perfect! I want this on my bookshelves to give to my kids! Good luck!


    I love the MC already...especially because she clearly has some mad comic book knowledge. ;)

    I have two little girls at home, and this book needs to be on my bookshelf for them. And they need t-shirts. Obviously.

    Seriously, Ann, this is incredible. I'm so proud to be on your team! <3

    GO SSG GO!!!!



    OK, I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t read your query or first page or whole manuscript before. =) But it has been at least a few days since I’ve seen it, so I’m going to try to look at this with fresh eyes.

    I love the word “wackadoodle” in the first sentence—it gives us a quick clue about the tone of this story and feels perfect for middle grade. Later in that paragraph, I might go with “Julia feels like” instead of “Julia’s like” with the electron simile (which is great). And you might consider starting the next sentence with an “And” (“And with the twitchy sub…”) just to keep the flow going.

    The rhyme in “lip gloss and dental floss” is great, though technically it should be “leads to an elevator” because you’re referring to the series (singular) of covert missions, not the missions themselves.
    Overall, an excellent query. =)

    First page:

    I love the voice, the wacky/creepy sub, and the details about and dialogue from Jeff Harkiss. And just about everything else here…I don’t see anything I would change. It’s stupendilicious. =)