Sunday, September 16, 2012

CAGI Finalist #20

Genre: MG Fantasy Adventure
Word Count: 51,000


Maddie has a woolly spider monkey that no one else can see. After losing all her friends and getting assigned a therapist, she’s stopped trying to convince people it’s real.

Then Maddie meets worrywart Liam and his smart-aleck friend Hayden at sixth grade orientation, and is astonished that they’ve discovered “invisible” animals of their own. The three kids are quickly recruited into a top-secret wildlife rescue organization, where Maddie learns that her cute baby monkey isn’t a hallucination, but rather a Spirit Animal—the essence of its endangered species. When a sudden illness ravages her monkey, a horrified Maddie realizes it can only mean one thing: wild woolly spider monkeys are in serious trouble.

Banding together with Liam and Hayden, Maddie must get from California to Brazil to discover what is threatening the monkeys and put a stop to it. Faced with slash and burn deforestation, a corrupt police detective, and desperate poachers, it seems impossible that three kids and one sickly Spirit Animal could have any chance of succeeding in their mission. When it comes to saving her beloved monkeys, though, Maddie knows failure isn't an option.

I work as an education associate for the Museum of Science in Boston and have studied primatology at the graduate level. In 2011, I wrote a picture book (A BRIDGE FOR THE IN-BETWEEN STREAM) for the Museum of Science, which is used in their educational outreach programs. I am also an active member of SCBWI.

First 250:

Maddie lowered the baby monkey into her backpack. “Just stay still for me, please?” Maddie asked. The monkey’s tiny fingers pulled playfully on hers as she tried to coax him into the bag. The bag itself balanced cautiously on the damp wooden fence in front of the zoo’s Primate House, and Maddie had one strap looped over her arm to make sure it didn’t fall. “I’m excited to be back here again, too,” Maddie continued, “But if you get out—”

“Who’s she talking to, Grandma?” a little voice asked.

Maddie immediately stopped what she was doing. People can see you. Got to act normal, she told herself, though it was impossible to keep her hands from bobbing weirdly as the monkey scampered out of the bag and over them. Brazilly, no! Get back here! She bit down on her lower lip to stop herself from actually shouting after him.

Farther down the spider monkey viewing area, an old lady gave her a sideways glance. A tiny girl in a blue rain jacket blinked curiously at Maddie from the lady’s side.

Maddie grimaced. Brazilly, taking advantage of the situation, had managed to climb halfway up her arm already. Please stop, she silently willed the monkey. Don’t make me grab you in front of them. He just looked at her, cocking his fuzzy head to one side.

“Her face looks funny,” the girl in the blue jacket said next.

Maddie blushed, blinking away her stern glare. The monkeys in the enclosure hooted at Brazilly as he continued to climb, and Maddie was pretty sure they were egging him on.

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