Monday, January 14, 2013

Bouncer Post #20

Genre: MG Adventure
Word Count: 34,000


Eleven-year-old Thelma Bee might turn red as cherries when she’s embarrassed, but she’s no wallflower. Thelma has adventure in her blood. There’s not a whole lot of opportunity for exploration in her hometown of Riverfish, Massachusetts, though, so she and her best friend Alexander Oldtree are often left to their own devices--with mixed results. The full-scale Viking Longship, for example, was a magnificent flop. 

But one October night, Thelma’s sixth-grade year takes a turn for the peculiar. A ghostly visitor kidnaps her father, leaving her alone and scared to death. Her only clue is a centuries-old jewelry box and one cryptic word the ghost whispered into her ear: “Return.”

That one word draws this adventurer-in-training into a world where her family tree unfolds a mystery that’s more extraordinary than anything her imagination could concoct. With her team of amateur ghost hunters, Thelma delves deep into the New England woods, where the lines between folklore and reality become dangerously blurry. It’s there, where the creaking trees have long memories, that she comes face to face with the devious Mr. Understone, who has been stalking her bloodline for centuries. Thelma has something he wants, and he’ll keep her dad until he gets it. 

To save her father, she must find the bravery to overcome a dark magic…and discover just what she’s made of. 

First 250:

Chapter One: A Twitchy Visitor

Thelma Bee had short, confident bangs, a heavy red backpack, and no idea that a very strange thing was about to find her. When the final bell rang that Wednesday afternoon, she closed her eyes and the sound transformed into a celebration of mariachi trumpets. Just one more school day until the long-long weekend. She busted out of the front door with the excitement that only 2:30 p.m. can bring, and navigating a path through a weird-smelling ocean of middle-schoolers, Thelma set a course for her dad’s antique shop.

Mr. Henry Bee was the proud proprietor of Bee’s Very Unusual Antiques, which was, in Thelma’s opinion, a bit of false advertising. Sometimes they sold items that were quite ordinary, like an old chipped mug, and sometimes they sold things that were not antique at all, like Mrs. Edelstein’s homemade cookies. Maybe, she thought, the shop should be named something more like Bee’s Very Unusual Antiques and Also Some Very Normal Antiques and Also Cookies. Not very catchy, but honest.

“Hey, Dad!” She threw down her backpack and plopped on an overstuffed avocado-and-orange-colored chair that looked like it belonged on an old sitcom.

“Hey, kiddo!” hollered Henry. He emerged from his workshop in a worn-out brown apron.

Henry Bee sported the kind of thick eyeglasses that were fashionable in the 1950s, as he had a passion for the antique and unique. Once a worldly journalist, his shop was littered with the evidence of his travels.


  1. I liked this! I'm not much of a middle grade reader, but I love the mystery/adventure you set up in your query. And I really enjoyed your first 250 words. I loved Thelma's thoughts about her father's antique shop! So cute!

    Great job! Good luck!

  2. This definitely sounds like a fun MG read from your query. I would eliminate the 1st paragraph and start w/ the 2nd one, because that's where your query gets interesting.

    As for your 1st 250 words, I really enjoyed your voice, though I don't write/read any MG. I think you've started your story in a great place; end of school and a long weekend are setting it up nicely. One suggestion: break up the last sentence in your 1st paragraph into 2 sentences.

    I'm in the contest as well (#19), and I wish you lots of luck!

  3. I love this! The voice is strong even in the query and I wanted to keep reading. I especially love how she describes her father's shop. I have two kids reading MG and I'd absolutely buy this for them--even just based on what's here. I wish you much luck in your publishing journey and hope to see your books on the shelves someday soon. One thing--I really love your characters' names, but there is a VERY popular series of "Junie B." books out there that you might not want your Thelma Bee's name competing with. Just FYI...

  4. P.S. I forgot to mention that I am entry #2. Good luck!!

  5. You're in!

    But your query and pages need a bit of work. I really love the idea of an MG adventure story about a girl and her family tree. It's just the thing I would've loved to read as a kid. Unfortunately, I think you need to think about word choice throughout your query and the pages. I want to see very specific words that will draw me in.

    For instance, I got hung up on "confident bangs." What does that mean?
    What does "the lines between folklore and reality" mean exactly? Can you give a specific example instead of saying folklore and reality, so that readers are forced to use their imagination? (e.g. "Humpty Dumpty was wearing a Red Sox hat."

    I think you need to say in the first paragraph of the query that her father has been kidnapped because Mr. Understone wants something from Thelma. That's a lot more concrete and interesting than talking about who she is and how she likes adventure. I want to know what's at stake asap!

    Could you start your query with something like: "Mr. Understone has been stalking 11-year-old Thelma's family tree for centuries, and she has what he's been looking for..." Then tell us a little bit about Thelma... then show specifically how and why her dad get kidnapped... then show us what Thelma's choices are and what she's up against.

    Good luck!

    1. Thank you for this great, specific feedback! I'm excited to review the query/first 250 with this all in mind.

      Thanks also for all the time you've spent reading through our entries, we all appreciate it so much!

  6. I love your first 250! I think the third person narration is kind of unusual and awesome, and it has tons of voice :) congrats on getting in!