Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #26

Genre:  Middle Grade, contemporary
Word Count: 35,000


Harold has ruined twelve-year-old Jake’s life for the last time. So what if Harold has Asperger’s and is a genius when it comes to baseball trivia and sixth grade Algebra. Jake’s D-O-N-E.

Harold collects baseball facts like the Smithsonian collects dead things and Jake is convinced that Harold also has a talent for killing Jake’s social life. But Jake has finally found a way to put some distance between himself and Harold—middle school. His plan is to not only ditch Harold, but also the Titans, Jake’s baseball team. It seems the best the Titans can do is second place and he’ll do whatever it takes to find a spot on the number one team even if it means leaving his friends and his dad, the coach, behind. Once he’s rid of Harold and playing shortstop for a winning team, being one of the cool kids is in his glove.

Jake meets Mr. Williams who was once a Little Leaguer himself. Only no one would play his team because in the 1955 South, white teams didn’t play black teams. Mr. Williams tries to convince Jake that Harold’s knowledge of expert plays might help Jake’s team beat the undefeated Comets. And Lucy, the girl who sits beside Jake on the bus, tries to show him that winning isn’t everything and that friends like Harold are pretty special. Even though Jake thinks Lucy is annoying, he suspects she might be right and kind of awesome to sit by.

HAROLD - THE KID WHO RUINED MY LIFE AND SAVED THE DAY is a story full of baseball action, humor, and a lesson about true friendship. As a teacher and school counselor for over twenty years, I’ve worked with kids like Harold who fall on the high end of the autism continuum and who struggle to find acceptance. Currently, I’m a middle school counselor with the largest school system in the Southeast.

First 250:
On the first day of sixth grade, I cracked open the front door and looked outside. The bus stop was empty. So far, so good. I’d figured Harold’s mom would drive him this year like she did when he was in kindergarten. Harold has trouble when it comes to new things. Well, that’s one of his problems.       
I walked toward the stop and from behind I heard, “Hey Jake! Wait up! It’s 8:03. Bus Number 6 will be here at 8:07.”
I walked faster and called over my shoulder, “Thanks for the update, Harold. I didn’t know I was so early. Tomorrow, I’ll sleep in a whole 4 minutes.”
Harold caught up with me and said, “I woke up at 6:33, but Mom said I couldn’t come out until I saw you.”
Great. Where is that bus?
“Hey, Jake, have you ever heard of Harvey Haddix?” he asked while he rummaged through his book bag.
I knew what he was looking for. Each year before school started, Harold added one green composition notebook to his school supply list and in that notebook he kept track of the times he beat me at anything—Texas Hold’em, NCAA 12, checkers. He’d write down the date, the game, and the score. He also wrote down baseball stats.
“Yeah, Harold, I know all about Harvey.”
I didn’t have a clue, but I thought just this once Harold wouldn’t go into his never-ending monologue about one more Major League ballplayer I’d never heard of.


  1. Adorable opening scene- love it! I really, really love the query hook and introducing Asperger's up front. Middle school is all about fitting in, so it's a great conflict to have this kid who couldn't fit in if he wanted to because of his disability and your credentials back you up as the person to tell this story. I would steer clear of using the word "lesson" in the query lest you give the impression that this book is preachy. I think the idea comes across just fine in your earlier paragraphs anyhow. I'm rooting for this one!

  2. I think this sounds like a great story! I love that you have a non-neurotypical character and the voice is fantastic. Good luck!

  3. I really like the voice here and the opening reads smoothly while showing the characters right up front. Nice work! (I'm envious!) My only suggestion is for the query, the second paragraph's first few lines kind of repeat what's introduced in the hook (which is great), so I think that whole section can be condensed. You don't need the line about how he collects trivia when you've said he collects it, for example.

  4. Have you considered trimming your title? HAROLD – THE KID WHO RUINED MY LIFE is interesting enough by itself. I'm just wondering if you give too much away by adding, "AND SAVED THE DAY." Just a thought.

  5. haha...It's all so subjective. I was just thinking that I love the title. :) Great opening and a really interesting conflict. I don't really read MG, but I'm always reading that agents are looking for boy stories, so I think you'll have good luck with this. Just in the first 250, I really liked Jake's voice. It sounds like a fun story!

    I'm number 29 if you want to take a look at mine. I only have a couple comments, so I'd really appreciate it. Thanks! :)


  6. Hiiiii! Okay, I'm going to weigh in on th title real fast and just say I LOVE IT. And the name Harold is AWESOME! I'm going to take this query then first 250, so stick with me! ;)If you have any questions you can reply here and @ (@andimjulie) me on twitter to let me know you have a question!

    QUERY: GIRLFRIEND! (Are you a female? I'm just going out on a limb here. hahaha If not, BOYFRIEND!)I love this query. The Smithsonian line is great. I'm a stickler for comps, so the only thing I'd like to see differently would be some great comps for your last paragraph. Like the first commenter said, I might be a little wary of the word "lesson", especially since your book seems like so much more than that.

    First 250: My *only* criticism is that I think these two sentences might be in the wrong tense: "Harold has (had?) trouble when it comes (came?) to new things. Well, that’s (that was) one of his problems." I really love Jake's voice and already have a soft spot for Harold!

    Good luck!

  7. Thanks all! Your encouragement and kind suggestions are extremely helpful.

    And Julie- I'm a chick and I've "kept the book" for baseball teams from jr high to college and now for my middle school son.

    Good luck all!

  8. This sounds like a fantastic story. Wish I had something constructive to add, but I really like it as is.