Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 27, 2015

Free Fall Friday – Results



Agent Elena Giovvinazzo has read the four Lucky first pages winners and shared her thoughts below. She is interested in Young Adult, Middle Grade, Picture Books, etc. plus illustrators. 

She would like to see a historical novel with a contemporary feel or a heartbreaking gorgeous contemporary YA novel.

Pippin Properties, Inc. is an agency devoted primarily to picture books, middle-grade, and young adult novels, but they also represent adult projects on occasion. Elena joined the Pippin team in June of 2009.

Here are the winners and Elena thoughts:

BABY EVIL GENIUS, Valerie Bodden, Picture Book

Baby Evil Genius had the perfect evil hair and the perfect evil smirk and the perfect evil laugh. He even had the perfect evil sidekick.

All day, Baby Evil Genius worked in his lair. He conjured lightning bolts and concocted secret potions. He invented sliming machines and make-the-bug-bigger devices.

But there was one thing Baby Evil Genius couldn’t make. It was the thing he wanted most of all: friends.

So he invented a friend zapper. He pointed it at a little girl on the swings. Instantly, the girl appeared in Baby Evil Genius’s lair. The girl screamed. Baby Evil Genius didn’t think that was a friendly sound. He sent her back.

Next he made a friend potion. He left some on a picnic table. But the results were not optimal. “Yuck!” “Eww.” “It tastes like pencil shavings!”

So Baby Evil Genius sent one of his creations to fetch a friend. Apparently, friends do not like spider drool. [illo: giant spider carrying a kid]

Maybe it was time to rethink his plan. He went to the park to make some scientific observations.

Here is what Elena had to say:


This first page shows some great potential! I love that it provides just enough to keep the reader interested but leaves lots for the illustrator to tackle. I’m dying to see what or who this evil sidekick is. I’d ask the author to reconsider the title and the repetition of “Baby Evil Genius” – I think there’s room for something even funnier. Otherwise, I do think that this is off to a pretty great start.


SAVING SARAH by James Boyce – Young Adult

The acrid smell from the damaged engine lingered in the cool evening air as sirens wailed in the distance. Sarah tried to gather her wits about her. She was in pain, significant pain. Her vision was blurry and she could feel blood oozing from a wound on the side of her face. Someone had been talking to her, but she wasn’t hearing it. That’s when things started to become clearer.

“Stay with me. You’re gonna be all right. The ambulance is almost here. Can you hear me? Hello?”

The surrounding sounds were fading in and out, almost as if she was floating in water. They seemed muffled one moment and then would clear up, only to sound muffled again.

As pain racked her eight-year-old body, Sarah turned her head to the right, and then blinked a few times to get her eyes to focus. When she looked through the shattered passenger seat window, she saw the face of a man, balding and overweight, with sweat running down his face. He looked petrified.

“Can you hear me? Are you okay? What’s your name?” the man asked with urgency.

Name. Sarah recognized that word. Name. She had a name. When she opened her mouth to respond, she only had the energy to say one word. “Sarah.” Her head bobbed and her eyelids became heavy. She could hear more sirens in the distance, different ones. Where was she?

“I’m Harvey. You’ve been in an accident. Help is almost here.”

Yes. An accident. Only now did she remember that she was with her parents; they had been on their way home from the library. With the pieces falling into place, Sarah turned her head to the left in a slow and deliberate manner.

Harvey shook his head so hard his cheeks rippled. “No, Sarah, keep your eyes on me—” he pleaded, but it was too late.

Sarah’s gaze met her father’s eyes, which were calm and lifeless.

Here is what Elena had to say: 


Talk about diving right into the action. I know authors are often told to do this, but if not done perfectly right it can be a bit jarring and I often find myself feeling lost when I’ve only just begun. I’d suggest maybe even starting with “Stay with me. You’re gonna be alright.” I have to say, too, that I was actually stunned to find out that the protagonist was only 8 years old. This reads like a YA novel to me but 8 is far too young for the genre. If this is a flashback, perhaps there needs to be a way to signal that right off the bat so you’re not left with a reader thinking “why would I want to read about an 8-year-old.” That being said, this opening is very intriguing with a last line that is going to have the reader clamoring for the next page.


IMA MOSQUITO by Wendy Greenley Picture Book

[Note: corresponding nonfiction for sidebars/back matter is in order at story end] 

Hi! It’s Ima Mosquito flying to find YOU. I’m on the move because—


Or at least the neighborhood.

It should be diabolically easy. In a month’s time I will have more than SIX MILLION minions—I mean family members! Bwa-ha-ha!

To set my plan in motion, I’m leaving these beautiful flowers.

No more nectar. I need a deliciously disgusting special meal.

No rain. Low wind. Perfect flying conditions. Yes, today is the day!

It’s a human smorgasbord! Let’s get this party started!

First stop, the young humans’ game of hide and seek.

I don’t need to see them. I can follow their breath. Mwa-ha-ha!

Go ahead! Try to run away! Hot sweaty humans smell even more delicious.

Forget the cake. I’m hungry for blood!


Careful! I had to dodge that last move!

Here is what Elena had to say: 

This feels like the start of really kid-friendly non-fiction. I always cringe, however, when a character introduces himself directly to the reader. There has to be a more creative way to do it. Imagine every book started of with “Hi, I’m so and so.” Boring! This character has a great voice, but I wonder if there is a way to frame him apart from a villain – show what purpose mosquitos serve – they do serve a purpose, right???



My thumb hovered over Amy Decker’s name on my phone screen. I already had the remote control to the hot tub in my pocket and five Fuzzy Navel wine coolers stashed under the deck. It was shaping up to be a damn fine afternoon until Mom announced that it was time for a family outing.

“Jackson, this time next year, you’ll wish you could spend time with your little brother,” she told me when I tried to get out of it. “You’ll be getting ready to head off to UCLA all… by… yourself…”

She trailed off. It was Saturday, just after school let out. I had better things to do than visit the world’s most boring tourist trap. But Dad gave me a meaningful look and started tapping his highball glass on the wet bar.

I sighed and took my finger off the screen.

So there we were, me and Jaden and Mom and Dad, clomping down the Mystery Stop’s raggedy-ass boardwalk in the middle of the Santa Carla Mountains with all the tourists from over the hill. The closer we got to the wooden, summer camp-looking archway by the ticket booth, the more trouble Jaden had holding still. I was having the same problem, but probably for a different reason.

“We’re almost there, honey,” Mom said, steering Jaden back into line. “Are you excited?”

Jaden squeaked and nodded until I thought he’d fall down. He’s four. I’m 18. My parents have been married to each other the whole time. I did the math on that one a few years back and promised myself I’d never, ever do it again.

We made it to the ticket counter, which gave Dad an opportunity to grumble about how expensive things were these days. The girl behind the desk nodded like it was the first time she’d ever heard that, and then seemed to look around for something to slash her wrists with. I gave her a medium-wattage smile and she brightened, like maybe she’d give life another try after all.

Here is what Elena had to say:


We’ve been dropped into the middle of this story. Who is Amy Decker! More importantly, who is the narrator?! Try starting with “It was shaping up to be a damn fine afternoon.” THEN tell us why. THEN we actually care when it gets ruined by mom. Moving down the page, I think this actually moves a little too quickly overall. I feel as though I’m playing catch up with the action. We’re in one place then another then another in the span of one page. Ease into your story. Let the words have the opportunity to settle onto the page.


Thank you Elena for sharing your expertise with us. Your involvement has help more than just the four writers who were chosen this month. It is very much appreciated.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I love these first-page reviews. I was wrestling with something for a picture book I am working on, and my question was addressed above. I always learn from these evaluations. Kathy, I appreciate the opportunity to share and read these, as well as those who do share and the agents who evaluate what is sent. It’s very helpful!


  2. Wow! Thanks so much, Elena for the great suggestions and encouragement! And thanks, Kathy, for hosting these first-page critiques! I always learn so much from them, no matter whose work is up.


  3. Thank you, Elena, for the feedback! I wondered how the ms read without the sidebars of “pro-mosquito” information interspersed, and now I know.


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