Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #13

51,000 WORDS


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.

In the summer before sixth grade, Maddie meets worrywart Liam and his smart-aleck friend Hayden, who have recently discovered ‘invisible’ animals of their own. The three kids are recruited into a top-secret wildlife rescue organization, where Maddie is relieved to learn that her monkey is not a hallucination at all. It’s actually a Spirit Animal, the essence of its endangered species. Unfortunately, Maddie’s relief is soon soured by the awful realization that her Spirit Animal is sick. Its sudden illness can mean only 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.

ENDANGERED (MG; 50K) is a contemporary fantasy adventure with series potential.

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 150:

“Just stay still for me, won't you?” Maddie asked, lowering the baby monkey into her backpack. “I know you’re excited. I’m excited to be back at the zoo again, too. 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 Brazilly 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.


Unknown said...

This is charming right down to the name of the spider monkey. Brazilly is such a kid-assigned name! The query makes it sound as if the kids go globe-trotting on their own, but that would be a challenge to make believable. I know that all questions on my MS are cleared up at word 151. I'm sure that's the case here too! :)

CallMeKarma said...

I would definitely read on! I love the premise, and am totally okay with the idea of globe-trotting solo kids...MG readers love to imagine a world without parents telling them what to do : )
Good luck!

Katharina Gerlach said...

This is right up my alley. A story with a message that doesn't preach. If this get published please, please, please remember to tell me about it.

The only thing I'm wondering about is the question if there is a genre called contemporary fantasy. Is there?

Anonymous said...

Love this story idea!! I'd buy it and read it with my kids. Schools are going to love it too. Fabulous 150. Only big note I have is, query is wordy -- agents like it pared down as much as possible for the sake of reading time. Here's another way to handle the first two long sentences of the 2nd paragraph:

Sixth grader Maddie, along with worrywart Liam and his smart-aleck friend Hayden and their own ‘invisible’ animals, are recruited into a top-secret wildlife rescue organization--and Maddie discovers that her monkey is actually a Spirit Animal, the essence of its endangered species.

Same info, just more concise.

Good luck!!

Liana Brooks said...

Reading and commenting...

I like the opening line. It's got a lot of personality and Voice to it.

Interesting query, a lot of shades of Captain Planet and Animorphs there, but this is the right age group for it. I think it has potential.

---First 150---
The opening lines work. I'm curious how she came up with the name, Brazilly, but I assume you'll explain that later.

I think you have a really good shot of getting page requests from what I see.

Good luck!

Traci VW said...

I loved this when I read it at WriteOnCon and I still love it. Your query reads smoothly and captures attention. I really want to know how they get to Brazil, but I don't think you need to answer that in the query. I felt a slight bit of let down at the end of your query. I want to know more of what's at stake for Maddie if her spirit animal dies. You say failure is not an option, but I want a bit more than that. How will it affect Maddie directly? What's at stake for her, not just her spirit monkey?

In the writing sample, I'm wondering if it might be better to start with Maddie's actions first and then have her speak. I feel this gives the reader more grounding. It's an immediate introduction to the character which pulls me in more. i.e. Maddie lowered the baby monkey into her backpack. “Just stay still for me, won't you?” she whispered. “I’m excited to be back at the zoo again, too. But if you get out – ” I also cut “I know you’re excited." since you say as much with the next sentence and that tightens the first paragraph up a bunch.

In the last paragraph, I'm not really sure whose arm Brazilly is climbing. Maddie's or the girls or the old lady's?

I want to read this book! Great work!

Anonymous said...

This is a great story and as my (almost) 12 year old said "Cool!" I think it's fantastic to write about an environmental issue without making it seem preachy, as someone stated earlier. I have no suggestions because I think you're already close! Best of luck

Jambo said...

I agree with the other posters, this is a great query. I do wonder also about the tripping to Brasil without an adult, but I am sure you have covered that in your manuscript.

gailecn said...

I love this! It sounds fun and timely. I'm super curious about how the kids get to Brazil on their own...guess I'll have to read it when it's published. ;)

Someone mentioned starting your first 150 with action first, instead of dialogue, and I agree. I also think you could trim your query a little (not a whole lot - just enough to make it a bit more concise).

Good luck!

Dr. Milestone said...

I was immediately drawn to this because my wife is from Brazil and I would really like to know how they get across continents (it's no easy task, believe me), especially all the way to the Amazon (I'm assuming that's where they're going). I grew up around Boston so the MoS also holds a dear place in my heart.

Re: the first 150, I agree it would be stronger with some description of action or setting before the dialogue. Even though she says they're at the zoo, it's not immediately clear until halfway through the first paragraph. Maybe you could start off with something like: "Ignoring the stares of the other zoo visitors, Maddie lowered the baby monkey into her backpack..."

For the query, I also feel it's a bit long. I'm not sure the second sentence in the first paragraph is necessary--it's more background than story meat. Maybe you could say something like:
"Maddie has a pet woolly spider monkey. As if that wasn't unusual enough, no one else can see it." You could probably eliminate "smart-aleck friend" to cut that line down, along with "recently discovered" and "is relieved to learn that..." and combine into "...where Maddie learns her monkey is a Spirit Animal..."
I'm a little curious what kind of animals Liam and Hayden have and why they're willing to save the monkeys (unless they also have monkeys); this is especially important because in the last paragraph of your query you say "three kids and one sickly Spirit Animal". What about Liam's and Hayden's animals?

These are just nits, though, that you can easily fix before querying, because the story itself sounds great. Good luck!

Michael McDuffee said...

I'm not a big YA person, nor do I have kids, but when I do... this is exactly the type of book I want them to read. I love the framing of the bigger issue at stake and it sounds like a wonderful read for an imaginative little one.

I have no voting powers, but best of luck!

Barrymfee said...

I agree with the other posters, this is a great query. I do wonder also about the tripping to Brasil without an adult, but I am sure you have covered that in your manuscript.