Pull up a chair, brew a little tea, and read this month’s four first pages drawn for review to illustrator Martha Aviles’ cute little girl. She’s waiting to listen. Check back tomorrow to see more fun illustrations from Martha and get to read about her process.
Jazmyn, Jalen, and Basketball by Gloria Jean Berry (Picture Book)
Usually, Jazmyn loved to hear that sound, especially when her big brother Jalen played
basketball—but not today!
She wasn’t even excited anymore about starting kindergarten. Jalen was going off to
begin high school at Achievement Academy.
No more funny jokes. No more basketball coach.
She wanted to play like the big girls in the neighborhood and on television.
“Jazz, let me see you dribble,” shouted Jalen.
After passing her the ball, his mouth flew open.
Jazmyn dropped it! She hardly ever did that.
She snatched up the ball and ran around slapping it with her palm. Jalen’s eyes bulged.
Jazmyn didn’t use her fingertips or lift her chin as Jalen taught her.
“What’s wrong?” asked Jazmyn.
“Let’s take a break,” Jalen responded.
“Why shouldn’t you tell an egg a joke?”
Jazmyn thought awhile. Laughing, Jalen said, “Because it might crack up!”
Jazmyn giggled; then frowned.
“Why are you acting SO strange?” he asked.
JAZMYN, JALEN, AND BASKETBALL by Gloria Jean Berry
This is a solid concept – the idea of an older sibling growing up and not being around as much – and I love sibling stories. The use of basketball as a bonding point and a reason for his absence really works. It starts off strong, with wonderful specifics (I can visualize how the art might look!). I’d like to see more of a lead in to the scene of Jazmyn and Jalen playing basketball, to separate from the setup of the story, and a transition to the telling of the joke. I’d want to read more of Jazmyn and Jalen’s story and I’d definitely want to see what the takeaway ends up being.
CHRYSALIS by Donna Maloy (Young Adult)
“Sally Naught. There y’are, luv.” Tolly grinned and threw his arms wide.
“I’m not your love.” I ducked under his elbow and sped up as I made my way home through Beetledung Alley. “Now go away. You’re drunk as an admiral.”
“That I am.” He nodded cheerfully. “An’ you’re so pretty. Come and give us a kiss, Sally. I got ye a present, right here.”
He fell into me then, shoving me up against wall. At first I thought he’d stumbled. But then he started tearing at my bodice and I knew he meant to have a go at ruining me, right there in front of the Dancing Pig.
I pushed and wheedled a while. Then I tried screaming. Of course everyone in the alley was either deaf or suddenly visiting somewhere else. So I stuck him.
But my pricker was cheaply made and Tolly’s arm was thick as a tree. With a horrifying snap, my blade broke off before it hit bone. All that remained was the blood-slick handle, as useless as a cannon without balls. I’d be lucky if he bled enough to pass out. But I’m neither lucky nor skilled at being on my own. Putting a hole in Tolly’s meat hadn’t soured his lust, only made him angry.
Barely a glimmer of moonlight made it past the sagging tenant rooms, staircases and laundry lines that overhung the alley. Even so, when he fisted his paws around my throat, stars began to pop out in front of my eyes. First one, then a thousand. All of ‘em shimmering to the roar of Hell in my ears.
Scratching and kicking weren’t working. But I couldn’t—wouldn’t—simply hang there from Tolly’s fist and die. Not now. Milady was gone and I finally had chances, choices. Yet what could I do quick enough to make a difference with only a ruined knife handle?
I swung again as hard as I could, aiming for his squinty eyes. He saw the blow coming and turned his head, but that proved to be his undoing. I slammed my five inches of horn hard against his neck, right below his fat ugly ear. There must’ve been some bit of blade still attached, because I saw a splash of hot blood. With a last bellow, he let go, clapped a hand to his sliced-up neck, and ran for his mam.
In truth, I had no idea where he’d run to and didn’t care. I slid down the nearest garbage-spattered wall and concentrated on sucking in enough air to make those sham stars disappear.
CHRYSALIS by Donna Maloy
It’s tough to open with a specific name and slang being used as dialogue. I admire the jump into action here, but I’d like a little more setup of who it is we are seeing the world through. There is some lovely imagery and it seems like the beginning of an interesting tale. I’m not fully convinced by the voice, though, and the action is a bit unclear and hard to follow in the middle paragraphs (Where did the knife come from? Etc). I’d be interested to see where the story goes, because the main character seems fierce!
First Kiss Club by Natasha Wing (Middle Grade)
You wouldn’t think French fries would be the reason why five girls became best friends, but it’s true.
Since I’m the leader in the group, I’ll tell you how it happened so that you don’t get five different stories. ‘Cause Richelle would say that if it weren’t for her knowing about the free French fries, we five might not have met. And Krista would say that the name we came up with for our group was all her idea. And Miracle would be overly dramatic reinacting how Jane splatted ketchup everywhere. And Jane. Well, you’d have to ask her a million questions to pull the story out of her. So I, Emily, am going to tell the story of how five very awesome girls met.
It happened three summers ago at Paugusset Club. We call it Paugy, as in Paw-gee, because it’s easier. It’s this pool and tennis club named after American Indians who used to live in the woods here in Orange, Connecticut. Only they spelled it with two ts. Anyway, my family belongs to Paugy because it’s right down the street so I can walk there.
My neighbor, Richelle, belongs to the club, too. Her dad joined after her parents divorced so Richelle would have a place to go in the summer when she visited. She lives with her mom in New York City during school. Richelle doesn’t play tennis or swim or dive, but she’s into hanging out at the snack bar. It’s the best viewing area. You can see the pool and the tennis courts from there.
Okay, so it was free French fry day at the snack bar. Richelle and I – we were ten then – each got a large order of fries and sat down at a picnic table right near the snack bar so we could check out what everyone was ordering. We were dousing our fries in ketchup and this girl sits down with us with a large order of free fries.
FIRST KISS CLUB by Natasha Wing
I’m really digging this first page (I could be biased –I love french fries). It has a solid first line that pulls me in, and the MS immediately identifies the familiar qualities of this group of characters (a pack of young girl friends). It’s light with a fun sense of humor, and has a definite voice and sense of storytelling. There’s a nice setup of setting, and the brief snippet of characterization here is well done. I’m reminded of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I would definitely keep reading this one! I’m intrigued by the title, for sure.
MOLDILOCKS and the THREE SCARES by Lynne Marie Pisano, PB / 665 Wds
Once upon a time, lived three Scares: Papa Scare [Frankenstein], Mama Scare [Mummy], and Baby Scare [Vampire].
Late one night Papa Scare worked in the lab, Mama Scare cut finger sandwiches, and Baby Scare swept bats from the belfry.
“I haven’t had a playmate for 100 years,” whined Baby Scare.
“I haven’t had a girl around for 1,000 years,” complained Mama Scare.
“I haven’t had a good scare for a long time,” grumbled Papa Scare.
“All we can do is wish,” said Mama Scare, “and eat some dis-comfort food.” She ladled out Alpha-bat Soup with a dollop of Monster Mashed Potatoes into…a huge cauldron for Papa Scare, a middle-sized cauldron for herself, and an itty-bitty cauldron for Baby Scare.
“This soup’s so hot, I’m getting a headache,” said Papa Scare, rubbing his bolts.
“This soup’s so hot, I’m unravelling,” said Mama Scare, tucking in a strip.
“This soup’s so hot, it’s giving me a pain in the neck,” said Baby Scare, flashing his fangs [Art Note: Showing Red Teeth].
“Let’s take Plasma [Bloodhound] for a walk while it cools,” suggested Papa Scare.
“The Crypt-Kicker 5 are playing tonight,” said Mama Scare, putting on her wrap. “I dig their sound.”
“I dig graves,” said Baby Scare, grabbing a shovel.
So, the three Scares and Plasma creeped out.
Beneath a tombstone, Moldilocks [Art: Wearing a Braincoat] woke from a dead sleep. Hungry, she set out to find someone to eat. [Art: Her pet Zombee flies around her throughout the story.]
MOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE SCARES by Lynne Marie Pisano
The title throws me off a bit right away, because I’m wondering if Moldilocks is made up of actual mold. There is a typo in the first sentence (“there” is missing) and that can be an instant turnoff – always proofread twice! I like the idea of this Halloween/spooky version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but I don’t think the puns are fully working for me (for example, I don’t know if “dis-comfort food” would make sense to kids). There are some cute details that I enjoy (“rubbing his bolts”, “tucking in a strip”, “cut finger sandwiches”) that I’d like to see more of! By the end of this first page, though, I’m still unsure what Moldilocks is, and I feel bogged down in details without enough idea of what the plot is (other than the traditional tale).