Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 2, 2016

Free Fall Friday – First Page Results

Kelly Delaney, Associate Editor at Alfred A. Knopf BFYR has agreed to be our featured Editor for December and critique four first pages.

For the last few years I’ve skipped first page critiques in December – people were busy and didn’t submit, so this provides a great opportunity and a higher chance of getting selected. Please note: The deadline to submit is December 15th. Send to: Kathy.temean (at) gmail.com – Put DECEMBER FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE in subject box.

Tanusri PrasannaTanusri Prasanna
tprasanna@hsgagency.com

Tanusri had a somewhat unorthodox transition into publishing. A lawyer by training, she has a PhD in legal philosophy & human rights from Oxford University, and a Master’s degree from Harvard Law School. Along the way she worked in the legal department of the World Bank in Washington and as a teaching fellow at Columbia Law School. An avid fan of children’s literature, Tanusri joined a book club devoted to kidlit in 2012, which sowed the seeds of her decision to become a literary agent specializing in children’s books. To this end, before joining HSG, she gained valuable experience interning at Knopf Young Readers and Foundry Literary+ Media.

She is interested in all sorts of kidlit, ranging from picture books and middle-grade to YA (including YA/Adult crossovers). Tanusri is drawn to storytellers who deftly inveigle readers into their intricately-crafted plots with great voice and a touch of humor, and to writers with a vivid sense of the absurd. And while her primary interest is kidlit, she is also open to selective domestic suspense (Tana French and Sophie Hannah are two of her favorite authors in the genre) and voice-driven narrative non-fiction on social justice issues.

You can follow her on twitter at @TanusriPrasanna.

Here are the Four First Page Critiques for November:

Christine Read – The Trouble With Queenie – Middle grade

“Queenie, please try not to get into trouble at this new school. Grade Five is a Very Important Year.”

That’s what my mom said to me this morning – and last night, and so many times yesterday, and at least a hundred times a day, every single day, all summer. And before that she told me Grade 4 was a Very Big Year and I should try not to get in trouble then.

But the thing is I never try to get in trouble. Sometimes trouble just happens. And sometimes it sticks to me, you know, like gum on the bottom of your shoe. Nobody wants gum there, but sometimes you just end up with it.

Mom doesn’t understand.

And neither did Mrs. Franklin, the principal at my last school, the public one.

And I’m not sure that Mrs. Payne, the Headmistress at this private school does or even Miss Parfait, my Grade Five teacher.

Whatever, I just want to make lots and lots of cool new friends.

Well, a couple anyways.

But you know I’m not scared, even though this is my first day.

No way, not me.

Just ‘cause I spilt milk on my school tie and ugly kilt at breakfast this morning. And somehow managed to leave a trail of strawberry jam on my white button-down shirt, I’m not nervous.

Nope, not me.

Except… well…I’m so darn petrified and wound-up and I‘ve got the jigglies! Wow, there’s Mrs. Payne waiting for me at the front door.

“Hi there Mrs. Payne! Hi! Remember me – Queenie?!”

HERE’S TANUSRI:

Christine Read – The Trouble With Queenie

““Queenie, please try not to get into trouble at this new school. Grade Five is a Very Important Year.”

That’s what my mom said to me this morning – and last night, and so many times yesterday, and at least a hundred times a day, every single day, all summer. And before that she told me Grade 4 was a Very Big Year and I should try not to get in trouble then.

But the thing is I never try to get in trouble. Sometimes trouble just happens. And sometimes it sticks to me, you know, like gum on the bottom of your shoe. Nobody wants gum there, but sometimes you just end up with it.

Mom doesn’t understand.

And neither did Mrs. Franklin, the principal at my last school, the public one.

And I’m not sure that Mrs. Payne, the Headmistress at this private school does or even Miss Parfait, my Grade Five teacher.

Whatever, I just want to make lots and lots of cool new friends.

Well, a couple anyways.

But you know I’m not scared, even though this is my first day.

No way, not me.

[TP1]There are quite a few isolated sentences and the problem with those is that they have to carry a lot of weight to be able to stand on their own. I think this is trying to reflect Queenie’s thought process, but having the same passage in paragraph form will have the same effect without interrupting the flow of the text.

Just ‘cause I spilt milk on my school tie and ugly kilt at breakfast this morning. And somehow managed to leave a trail of strawberry jam on my white button-down shirt, I’m not nervous.

Nope, not me. [TP2]This is a good isolated sentence, on the other hand, because it has the effect of making the passage funnier and makes sense on its own.

Except… well…I’m so darn petrified and wound-up and I‘ve got the jigglies ! [TP3]She sounds older here when she uses big words so perhaps have a bit more of those to age her up. Wow, there’s Mrs. Payne waiting for me at the front door. [TP4]At the front door of the school? Why is she surprised by that?

“Hi there Mrs. Payne! Hi! Remember me – Queenie?!” [TP5]But I thought this was a new school, so how would Mrs Payne remember her?  From an interview?

Overall comments: 

I really like the opening–Queenie sounds like just the right mix of endearing and naughty! It’s pretty clear that she has a history of getting in trouble and that we should expect more of it in grade five, though I’m sure she has plenty of saving graces as well. The voice is funny and interesting from the get go, but there are two points you should keep in mind: first, Queenie sounds more like a seven or eight year-old than a ten year-old, so the voice reads a bit younger than you may want. And second, related to that, it sounds a bit reminiscent of other protagonist in this genre like Clementine or Bean (from Ivy and Bean), so make sure you are making Queenie distinctive enough to stand out in this crowded marketplace.

________________________________________

Rosi Hollinbeck – Thomas Augustus Bartholomew Bloom Refused to Clean Anything Up in His Room – PB

Thomas smelled bacon and quickly awoke.

His stomach was empty and let out a croak,

then grumbled and rumbled and started to roar.

He stood on his bed, and he looked for the door.

Thomas Augustus Bartholomew Bloom

refused to clean anything up in his room.

Underwear jumbled in mounds near his bed.

Big piles of trash towered over his head.

Gym socks were scrunched up beneath some old jeans

on top of a plate full of stinky sardines.

His mother would threaten. His dad would implore.

But Thomas was able, it seemed, to ignore

dirty dishes and glasses and globs of dried mud.

A green vine took root and was growing a spud!

That was just fine with this slovenly boy

until he stepped hard on a sharp metal toy.

It lay underneath some wasabi-stained shirts.

Tom bellowed and hollered, “Owww, that really hurts!”

He hopped and he jumped and he hollered some more,

but his mom and his dad couldn’t get through the door.

HERE’S TANUSRI:

Rosi Hollinbeck

Thomas Augustus Bartholomew Bloom Refused to Clean Anything Up in His Room [TP1]I think you should change the title to something shorter and more catchy.

Thomas smelled bacon and quickly awoke.

His stomach was empty and let out a croak,

then grumbled and rumbled and started to roar.

He stood on his bed, and he looked for the door.  [TP2]This first paragraph seems a bit disconnected from the following paras. This is about Thomas waking up hungry and from there we go on to learn about his messy habits, but what’s the narrative arc here?

Thomas Augustus Bartholomew Bloom

refused to clean anything up in his room. [TP3]The cadence of this line is a little off.

Underwear jumbled in mounds near his bed.

Big piles of trash towered over his head.

Gym socks were scrunched up beneath some old jeans  [TP4]How old is Thomas supposed to be? Why would he have piles of trash near his bed?

on top of a plate full of stinky sardines.

His mother would threaten. His dad would implore.

But Thomas was able, it seemed, to ignore

dirty dishes and glasses and globs of dried mud.

A green vine took root and was growing a spud!

That was just fine with this slovenly boy

until he stepped hard on a sharp metal toy.

It lay underneath some wasabi-stained shirts. [TP5]Some kids may not know what that is.            

Tom bellowed and hollered, “Owww, that really hurts!”

He hopped and he jumped and he hollered some more,

but his mom and his dad couldn’t get through the door.

Overall Comments:

This is a pretty funny picture book! It reminded me a little of “Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore” by W.B. Rands, which I very much enjoyed as a child. I think it needs some restructuring so we get a better sense of the story and the character. At some points Thomas sounded a bit older than he would typically be in a picture book. Picture books are notoriously tough to sell and rhyming picture books are even harder, so it’s all the more important to have a strong hook to your story. But perhaps the ending is going to have a dramatic twist that teaches him the value of cleaning up!

_____________________________________________________

Sandy Green – My Little Gigantic Secret

Chapter One – What’s Up?

Fire ants scurried over mini mountains of mulch on their way to attacking a cricket. One part of my brain was amazed I saw the little buggers  so clearly. The other part of my brain joined my mouth in screaming because I was dangling head down from the monkey bars and wasn’t attached to them.

“Aaahh!” I flinched.

Theodore snickered. His peanut-buttered breath puffed in my face. “What’s up, Danny? Your feet?”

His two buddies loosened their grips on my ankles as they lay across the bars. I slipped another inch and watched the ground whirl under my head. Or over my head. My heart flipped in my ribcage, and my upside-down lungs smothered me.

My best friends, Franklin and Alex, sprinted toward me from the tetherball pole. Franklin thrust his arm in the air at a helicopter thip-thip-thipping  above the playground. “Get away from him. That’s Danny’s dad up there watching you. He’s got a camera.”

Theodore glanced at the sky and scowled. “You’re the boss. Let him go.”

Franklin rushed to wrap his arms around my back and braced. I flopped into his grasp, my legs waving in the air, as two pairs of sneakers from Theodore’s friends thudded on the ground. They kicked mulch in my face and sped off.

“Help.” I clutched my belt loops, slithering down Franklin’s arms like a snake shedding his skin. A few more inches and I’d have shown off my Superman whitie-tighties and what I had  for lunch.

HERE’S TANUSRI:

Sandy Green – My Little Gigantic Secret –  PB

Chapter One – WHAT’S UP?

Fire ants scurried over mini mountains of mulch on their way to attacking a cricket. One part of my brain was amazed I saw the little buggers [TP1]Word change recommended. so clearly. The other part of my brain joined my mouth in screaming because I was dangling head down from the monkey bars and wasn’t attached to them.

“Aaahh!” I flinched. [TP2]He’d do more than flinch in that situation, yes?

Theodore snickered. His peanut-buttered breath puffed in my face. “What’s up, Danny? Your feet?”

His two buddies loosened their grips on my ankles as they lay across the bars. I slipped another inch and watched the ground whirl under my head. Or over my head. My heart flipped in my ribcage, and my upside-down lungs smothered me. [TP3]Not literally, so perhaps add an “It felt like…”

My best friends, Franklin and Alex, sprinted toward me from the tetherball pole. Franklin thrust his arm in the air at a helicopter thip-thip-thipping [TP4]Are they talking about a drone? above the playground. “Get away from him. That’s Danny’s dad up there watching you. He’s got a camera.”

Theodore glanced at the sky and scowled. “You’re the boss. Let him go.”

[TP5]Will the reader understand later why Theodore would believe this is plausible?

Franklin rushed to wrap his arms around my back and braced. I flopped into his grasp, my legs waving in the air, as two pairs of sneakers from Theodore’s friends thudded on the ground. They kicked mulch in my face and sped off.

“Help.” I clutched my belt loops, slithering down Franklin’s arms like a snake shedding his skin. A few more inches and I’d have shown off my Superman whitie-tighties and what I had  [TP6]Perhaps instead “what I’d had” for lunch.

Overall comments:

This is a good opening because it puts us right into where the action is. Danny is clearly the target of some bullying by Theodore and his friends and we get to see that right away. The voice is funny and the writing flows smoothly, so this is a great start. The conflict facing the main character must be believable and internally consistent, so as you develop the chapter give the reader more details about Danny and his background, how old are he and his friends (that will determine the audience for your book), why is he being targeted in particular and what’s driving Theodore and his friends.

________________________________________________

Kristi Veitenheimer – A MATCH FOR ME – PB

Teacher posts another picture on the bulletin board. The whole class claps and cheers. I drop my head and try not to cry in front of everybody. {Art note: This is a school for monsters. The bulletin board is titled “Monster Matches” and has pictures of little monsters doing “monsterly” things they’re good at.}

Every monster has a picture on the board. Everyone but me. I still didn’t know what I’m good at. And school will be out for summer in four days.

Knocking on a neighbor’s door Tuesday morning, I picture myself as the best dog walker ever. An hour later, I hang my head as I return the wiener dog’s leash.

“I’m really sorry, but I got hungry.”

Stepping inside a haunted house Wednesday morning, I picture myself as the scariest creature ever. I raise my arms, bare my fangs, and growl…

“PURRRR.”

“What a wimp!” the kids shout. They want their money back.

At the circus arena Wednesday afternoon, I picture myself as the best, bravest lion tamer ever. I walk in just as the ringmaster and lion appear.

ROOAARRR!

A bunch of clowns help me down from a tree.

What am I gonna do? School’s out in two days! I’ve just got to get my picture on the board.

That night, I toss and twist in bed.

After breakfast Thursday morning, I have an idea.

HERE’S TANUSRI:

Kristi Veitenheimer –

A MATCH FOR ME [TP1]Perhaps think about slightly more specific title that has monster in it?

Teacher posts another picture on the bulletin board. The whole class claps and cheers. I drop my head and try not to cry in front of everybody. {Art note: This is a school for monsters. The bulletin board is titled “Monster Matches” and has pictures of little monsters doing “monsterly” things they’re good at.}

Every monster has a picture on the board. Everyone but me. I still didn’t know what I’m good at.  [TP2]Some examples here perhaps of what the others are good at? What are their “matches”? I know you have an art note above but when you submit the text of a picture book typically you wouldn’t want to include a lot of art notes. The text should speak for itself. And school will be out for summer in four days.

Knocking on a neighbor’s door Tuesday morning, I picture myself as the best dog walker ever. An hour later, I hang my head as I return the wiener dog’s leash.

I’m really sorry, but I got hungry.”  [TP3]This may be a bit scary for kids –the idea that he ate the dog!

Stepping inside a haunted house Wednesday morning, I picture myself as the scariest creature ever. I raise my arms, bare my fangs, and growl…

“PURRRR.”

“What a wimp!” [TP4]Word change recommended the kids shout. They want their money back.

At the circus arena Wednesday afternoon, I picture myself as the best, bravest lion tamer ever. I walk in just as the ringmaster and lion appear.

ROOAARRR!

A bunch of clowns help me down from a tree. [TP5]Let’s have one more example of something going wrong before he hits upon the right idea.

What am I gonna do? School’s out in two days! I’ve just got to get my picture on the board.

That night, I toss and twist in bed.

After breakfast Thursday morning, I have an idea.

Overall Comments

This is a really cute and funny picture book with a great message! I think it may read a bit better if you give the little monster a name and write it in third person. Provide a few examples within the text of what the others have been matched with and perhaps one or two more examples of what the protagonist has tried but found hard to do.

_____________________________________________________

Thank you Tanusri for sharing your time and expertise with us. Please keep in touch.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Kathy, I just want to thank Tanusri for the helpful feedback! And Kathy, thank you for the opportunity to send in first pages! Your site is so full of valuable information.

  2. I really appreciate having the first page of my middle grade manuscript critiqued by Ms. Prasanna and incorporating her helpful comments! Thanks for all you do, Kathy, for the writing and illustrating community.


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