Jun 1, 2015

QK Round 1: Super Flynn's Super Fan V. Eavesdropping Monkey (New Matchup!)

Entry Nickname: Super Flynn's Super Fan
Title: You Can't Carry THAT on a Moto!
Word count: 836
Genre: Picture Book

Query:

Flynn isn't sure about his new home all the way across the world. His yard smells like pineapples and the grocery store only has gross, grown-up cereals. Worst of all, his toys are still sailing across the sea on a big boat. All Flynn has to play with are the red cape and small sword he brought in his suitcase.

Outside fighting imaginary bad guys, Super Flynn meets a noteworthy neighbor. Mr. Theo doesn't even have a car, just a motorcycle, and Flynn can't believe all the things Mr. Theo carries on it. A big bunch of bananas! Boxes of 6,000 bouncy balls! And more!

"You can't carry THAT on a moto!" Flynn exclaims. But day after day, Mr. Theo's moto carries crazier and crazier cargo. When Flynn shares these surprising sights with his family, they don't believe him. Even he starts to question what he's seeing. Then Mr. Theo lets him in on a seriously super secret, one so special that Flynn decides his new home might be all right after all.

YOU CAN’T CARRY THAT ON A MOTO! is an 800-word picture book with a super hero hook. It’s inspired by the experience of living in West Africa as an expat family.

First 50:

On Monday, Super Flynn swatted imaginary bad guys with a small sword. His red cape swayed with every skip through his new front yard.

"I didn't know Superman moved to the neighborhood," said a man from next door.

"Super Flynn,” Flynn corrected. “Are you a bad guy?”

“Nope, just your neighbor Mr. Theo.”

V.

Entry Nickname: Eavesdropping Monkey
Title: Family Reunion
Word count: 650
Genre: Children’s Picture Book Funny

Query:

The elephants are planning a family reunion and when the monkeys overhear they decide to have one too. But they’re not the only ones, the whole family reunion concept is too good to miss out on and it snowballs throughout the jungle. Soon the watering hole is filled to capacity with animals of different species, and tempers begin to flare. Finally a wise frog speaks up and introduces a new concept. . . Block Party!  FAMILY REUNION is an amusing tale of diversity and acceptance. It is approximately 650 words and lends to lots of fun illustration.



First 250:


On a hot, steamy day in the Jungle of Kree,

A sly, nosey monkey swung from a tree.

He was eavesdropping on a large elephant herd,

And he hung there and listened to every last word.


“We’ll invite all our cousins from near and afar,”

Said the matriarch queen named Ali Dalmar.


Niki Masse Schoenfeldt, Author

NATURE'S LULLABY, 2007 (Orchard House Press)

DON'T LET THE BEDBUGS BITE!, Available Now (Shenanigan Books)

23 comments :

  1. Hey SUPER FLYNN! Since we moved around the match-ups, I've pasted your old critiques below:


    Super Flynn -
    This looks like a fun idea. In the query, though you let us know Flynn has moved halfway around the world, I wanted to know where he moved from and were he moved to. But, from what the query gives us, I'm already imagining the moto piled with its impossible loads of amazing things.

    - Peggy Rothschild

    Super Flynn: Loved this concept! Personally, in the query I'd love to know which country we are talking about in West Africa. I could see this being a great manuscript geared toward military and/or expat families. This was a PB where I could immediately see illustrations and the words on the page. Nice job.

    - Anonymous


    Super Flynn: A very cute concept, and multicultural manuscripts are hot. Writer B has a good point about your opening and how that could be negatively perceived. Rewrite with that in mind, and I think you'll be fine.

    - Anonymous

    SUPER FLYNN - the "new kid on the block" theme has wide appeal, but with Flynn being in a *very* different block, there's the additional challenge of navigating the different cultures sensitively. Without art instruction, I'm left guessing based on demographics (expat family living in West Africa), and the image I'm left with in your first 250 is of a little white boy asking a dark-skinned black man if he's a bad guy. That's not a picture I'd want the small children in my life to see, even if it's subverted later.

    - Writer B

    SUPER FLYNN - I'm not much of an expert on PB queries, but I think I'd like to maybe see a bit more stakes in the query? At the end you say Flynn might decide his new home is alright after all, but you never said before that Flynn wasn't liking it to begin with. Maybe make sure to mention that before hand so the ending idea feels a bit more organic in the query. I loved the first page. Less and less longer PB's are published these days, but this sounds like a lovely one I'd want to read to my daughter.

    - The Hills

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Note: For round 1 since there's so many entries, I'm judging based on the query only!

      SUPER FLYNN'S SUPER FAN

      Books about kids having to move are always going to be relevant, particularly in today's world. I love the concept here - a little boy being amazed at what his neighbor carries on his motorcycle. Kind of a more modern "To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street"? And I love that it's based on personal experiences.

      I was REALLY curious though about WHERE the story takes place, and that info isn't given until the very end. I think that info should be given earlier.


      -vs-


      EAVESDROPPING MONKEY

      This sounds super-cute and animal stories are always fun to read to little ones. I can just picture the scene!

      Check your query for run-on sentences (the second one in particular) and ones that could be tightened up. You have plenty of words to spare, so you could add more details about the characters and what kind of conflicts come into play when they're at the watering hole.


      Victory to...SUPER FLYNN'S SUPER FAN!

      Delete
  2. EAVESDROPPING MONKEY - what an adorable concept! I think your query could be vastly improved with some simple punctuation changes make it clearer and more dramatic. eg, "The elephants are planning a family reunion - and when the monkeys overhear, they decide to have one too. But they’re not the only ones: the whole family reunion concept is too good to miss out on, and it snowballs throughout the jungle." 250 is great - those are some clever rhymes you have (though the last line doesn't quite scan).

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  3. Judges, please comment and vote here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. VICTORY TO SUPER FLYNN

      Here's why-super fun premise and idea caught my attention right away. In your query I'd cut the line "And More!" it doesn't add anything. Also cut the part about how you were inspired to tell the story unless it's a retelling of a local myth. I'd also cut the part where you quote Flynn. You don't put quotes from the book in queries. Tighten it up. The 50 word sample is good. This sounds like a fun book for parents to read to children. Good luck!

      EAVESDROPPING MONKEY

      I'm not a fan of rhyming picture books. That being said, I do like the concept and it would be interesting to see how it plays out. Your query needs to reflect your book (no, don't make it rhyme) with shorter sentences overall. Good luck!

      Delete
    2. I mentioned this on another entry, but I'm really not the best person to critique picture books. I can tell you that I like superheroes, and I like monkeys, but I don't have a ton to offer beyond that.

      I really wish I had illustration notes to help me, but I don't, so- oh well.

      Super Flynn: I'd really like to know which country this is in rather than just "half a world away." I'm suffering from a bit of exclamation point overload in the query. Also, a query shouldn't quote the book - it should show us about the book and make us want to read more.

      The first page is fine, but the voice just doesn't really work for me (I'm well aware I'm not your target age group).

      Eavesdropping Monkey: You tell me that the book lends itself to fun illustration, but I don't see that on the first page. I actually like things that rhyme, but my understanding is that the market is saturated, and something has to be really different to stand out. Still, well, I really like monkeys. That's all I've got.

      VICTORY TO EAVESDROPPING MONKEY.

      Delete
    3. Super Flynn:
      Query:
      I think the query includes too much information, though I'm not a PB author and freely acknowledge I may not know. It sounds like a fun concept, but it's hard for me to judge without the art. Most of my PB buys have been based on the art, and then secondarily about the concept.
      First page:
      Cute concept. I can see Super Flynn swinging the sword.

      Eavesdropping Monkey:
      Query: Cute idea. The whole party concept sounds fun. I can almost envision what kind of art you'd be using. One caveat - my understanding is that agents prefer not to be told what the child reader will learn. I don't think you need to beat anyone over the head with that.
      250:
      I love rhymes! And yours are so cute.

      VICTORY TO EAVESDROPPING MONKEY

      Delete
    4. As a confirmed lover of all things animal (ahem... Judging Nickname *cough cough*), I suppose I could be accused of bias in this round, but I'm doing my best to be objective. I have super heroes in my blood, too, after all.

      Query Matchup:
      Despite a comma splice which creates a run-on sentence in Eavesdropping Monkey's entry ("But they’re not the only ones, the whole family reunion concept is too good to miss out on and it snowballs throughout the jungle." - you need to separate this into two sentences, use a semicolon, or replace the comma with ", and" to avoid the run-on), I find it to be the stronger query because, frankly, it's brief. In a picture book entry, trying to tantalize with the "what's on the back of the moto?" teaser of Super Flynn's entry seems frankly inefficient. With a lot more words, Super Flynn ultimate tells me a lot less about the story, and (voicey though it is) doesn't give me as clear a snapshot of the tone and style of the story.

      Writing Sample Matchup:
      Rhymes can be pretty polarizing. I know of many PB-repping agents who prefer to steer clear, but there's no accounting for taste, right? There's more fun language play going on in Eavesdropping Monkey, and without the benefit of illustrations or a larger sample of the text to judge Super Flynn's writing by, it doesn't stand out and grab my attention in the same way.

      VICTORY TO EAVESDROPPING MONKEY.

      Delete
    5. SUPER FLYNN

      Query: Consider cutting some of your exclamation points. If you use “exclaims” as a dialogue tag, the exclamation point comes across (to me) too strong, as if you’re shouting.

      Generally, you don’t put quotes in the query; just retell goal/consequences/stakes from the story.

      50: I really enjoyed this. Flynn has a great voice. I’d love a little visual, however, with “said a man from next door” because I can’t picture where the man is. Is he speaking from beyond the hedge/fence, etc.?

      You’re missing a comma after neighbor.

      EAVESDROPPING MONKEY

      Query:

      You’re missing some commas and some of the sentences are a bit long. Consider fleshing this out a little, since it’s short.

      I’d love to see a few more words in your query that describe the “amusing tale of diversity and acceptance”, rather than being told this is what the story is about.

      50: Great rhyming! I can easily picture myself reading this aloud to children. And kids love animals.

      VICTORY to SUPER FLYNN (because I loved the voice in the entry)

      Delete
    6. This one is subjective guys. On the one hand, I'm a librarian, and I order children's picture books for our collection. On the other, I really have no idea how a PB query is supposed to look. So this is one is based more the execution of the 250 and the concept.

      Which are both lovely. I love the little details in SUPER FLYNN (weird grown-up cereals) and the overall concept of MONKEY is clever and well-done. The good news is that (depending upon the art) I would order both of these for our collection. I'm inclined to pick SUPER FLYNN for its novel concept (whereas MONKEY is treading much more familiar material) but I really appreciate a good rhyming book, and the 250 of MONKEY gives me confidence that you know what you're doing.

      Victory goes to EAVESDROPPING MONKEY

      Delete
    7. Princess of LlamasJune 4, 2015 at 11:49 AM

      Chiming in because this one needs more votes. I know nothing about PB, but:

      SUPER FLYNN: I love your query, and I can see the art work as I read it and your first 250. It's a good concept -- moving to a new country, while still having a hint of a super hero theme.

      EAVESDROPPING MONKEY: Your query reads more like a synopsis, and with picture books, which are so short anyway, I think there needs to be more punch to the query to bring it to life. I could take or leave the rhyming. The idea is cute, but with so many animal books on the shelves, I'm not sure it's original enough. That being said, I'd read it. Especially if there were llamas, of course.

      Victory to SUPER FLYNN!

      Delete
  4. FUN PB entries. Love them!
    Super Flynn: Love your query, love your first 50 words. My only quibble is that 830 words seem on the high end for a fiction PB and it might be worth double checking that every word deserves to be there. But no doubt, based on your query and first 50, I would want to read the rest of your book.

    Eavesdropping Monkey, love the concept. It sounds super fun. And I do love rhyming books. In your query, you have a lot of long sentences. Maybe consider if you can break some up? In addition, and this might just be me, but I would omit "lends itself to fun illustrations." I think an agent can assume we are all striving to write PBs that lend themselves to fun illustrations, so it seems kind of superfluous to mention it. In your first 50 words, the meter doesn't work for me in the third line, the one about eavesdropping on the elephant herd.

    But congrats to both of you! Overall, these are great!

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  5. Super Flynn: I want to hang with this kid! Love a bit more detail about his house around the world, where exactly and what's wrong with the smell of pineapples?

    First 50: Love love love. As I said, I want to hang out. The spirit of fun comes through loud and clear and I can imagine little kids wanting to be Super Flynn.

    Monkey: What a fun idea. As others have mentioned, perhaps shorter punchier sentences in the query, and more of a sense of what goes wrong than just "tempers start to flare."

    First 50: Love the rhymes, it has a great flow, and kids never get tired of animal stories. The fact you've got an important message in there as well makes it even juicier.

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  6. Super Flynn: Agree that you could stand to tighten the query and the book to lower the word count, but it's a winning idea that deserves to see an audience.

    Monkey: I'm not an expert in PBs but hear that rhymes aren't selling well nowadays. Hopefully that's not true, because it's a sweet story. I do think that your query could use some editing and shorter sentences to better advocate for your story.

    ReplyDelete
  7. These are both so sweet! I'd read them to my kiddos in a heartbeat.
    SUPER FLYNN: I love this concept, but I think the query is too long/involved for a PB. The voice kind of alternates between grown-up and kid. I personally prefer kid. :-) A few missing commas.
    An idea: what if you started with "You can't carry THAT on a moto!" But day after day, Flynn's new neighbor Mr. Theo proves him wrong. [list with exclamations].
    BUT I adore the last paragraph, especially the alliteration!
    First 50: love it!

    MONKEY: sweet idea. I love rhyming books, love reading them to my kids, and I don't have to worry about the market because I don't write them. :-) I hope this is ok, but since your query is so short, I pasted and edited instead of writing sentences about my suggestions. ;-)
    The elephants are planning a family reunion. When the monkeys overhear, they decide to have one too. But they’re not the only ones, as the family reunion concept snowballs throughout the jungle. Soon, the watering hole is filled to capacity with animals of different species, and tempers begin to flare. Finally, a wise frog speaks up and introduces a new concept. . . Block Party! FAMILY REUNION is an amusing tale of diversity and acceptance. It is approximately 650 words and lends to lots of fun illustration.

    First 50: like I said, I love rhymes. Only one suggestion. I think it flows better if you cut "large" and just say "an elephant herd."

    ReplyDelete
  8. great PB concepts...we need more diverse books and i love that both of these fit that bill!

    SUPER: you have a terrific story premise, but i think you can get mediaeval on your query and story itself to get the word count down. take what i like to call the "50 and under challenge" to get you story pitch out in 50 words or less. look at jacket flaps for your inspiration. the story itself has a fun opening but keep it tight. pull back, make ever word count and remember that illustration can relay just as much as your words.

    FAMILY: i love your story idea as a way to covey acceptance, but you will want to hit me when i say that i almost want to see a version in prose instead of rhyme. I think the rhyme limits your story and creates a sing-songy nature. you can certainly stay with rhyme, but think about ways you can vary your pattern and incorporate the three elements that are key: story, rhythm and rhyme. words should jump off the page and each should help move that story forward. a fellow scbwi member has a great article on rhyme: www.dorichaconas.com.

    you both have gems happening here--just add a bit more polish! good luck.

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  9. Super Flynn:
    I love this concept! Think about taking out "small" in "small sword." Let the illustrator show the size--your mc is the mighty Super Flynn, so the text can honor that while the illustrations fill in "small." Also, the word "corrected" sounded quite adult. I would stick with the invisible "said," or change it up with a physical beat. "I'm Super Flynn." He looked up at his neighbor. "Are you a bad guy?" I was part of an expat family myself, I lived in Malaysia for a year (5th grade) and I can imagine the wonderful, vibrant illustrations! Your story promises a lot of humor, as well as a peek at another culture's daily life. As far as the query, some lines can be deleted completely or tightened--we don't need to know that his family didn't believe him, etc. Below is an idea for a shorter version:

    Flynn isn't sure about his new home all the way across the world. His yard smells like pineapples and the grocery store only has gross, grown-up cereals. Worst of all, his toys are still sailing across the sea on a big boat. All Flynn has to play with are the red cape and small sword he brought in his suitcase.

    Outside fighting imaginary bad guys, Super Flynn meets a noteworthy neighbor. Mr. Theo rides a motorcycle, and Flynn can't believe all the things Mr. Theo carries on it. A big bunch of bananas! 6,000 bouncy balls! Cool other specific thing! "You can't carry THAT on a moto!" But day after day, Mr. Theo's moto carries crazier and crazier cargo. One day Mr. Theo lets Flynn in on a secret, a secret that is so super special that Super Flynn decides his new home might be super, too.

    YOU CAN’T CARRY THAT ON A MOTO! is an 800-word picture book with a super hero hook. It’s inspired by my experience of living in West Africa as an expat family.

    # # #

    Eavesdropping Monkey:
    What a fun story! The query works great, but I tripped a bit on "snowballs" and "tempers begin to flare." I would go with spreads/spreads like a savannah fire, or something similar to keep it a jungle metaphor. I agree with others about not adding the line about illustrations--that is implied, or it would not work well as a picture book. The 50 words are fun and charming!

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  10. Super Flynn's Super Fan:

    Your query is solid, and I like the sensory detail with the pineapples. You give away enough info to make me wonder about Mr. Theo’s super secret that I want to read more.
    Where does Flynn live now? Perhaps include it in the query.

    When I hit the 250, I immediately wanted to know whether Super Flynn’s parents have met this friendly neighbor, and if they know he’s talking to their kid in the backyard. I know I’m only seeing the first 250—and without illustrations—but it made me pause.

    Eavesdropping Monkey:

    I can easily picture this story in my head and all the fun illustrations that would go with it.

    I’m by no means a PB expert, and stories are a great way to help build a child’s vocabulary, but I wondered about matriarch and eavesdropping and the target age group.

    Victory goes to: EAVESDROPPING MONKEY

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  11. I commented in the previous match-up about Super Flynn, so I'm just commenting on Eavesdropping Monkey here -
    In the query, I suggest a couple punctuation changes: '...have one, too.' and 'But they're....ones(,). (t)The whole....' I like the contrast in the line 'snowballs through the jungle' and thought it was fresh. Suggest cutting 'amusing' from the 2nd to last line and letting the pages convey that. The opening 50 - I thought this was so much fun. I read it aloud and can imagine children enjoying the rhythm as well as the story.

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  12. Hmm. Guess my comment didn't post. 2nd try..

    Super flynn - LOVED THIS QUERY. Such great visual descriptions, voice, and plot. Esp. loved the premise of the neighbor carrying one crazy thing after another. too cute! Made me want to read this.

    First 50: It felt like this was the middle of the story instead of the first. I half expected to start with the MC spying on the neighbor working up the nerve to approach him.

    Monkey:
    Query - I love this premise! Super fun idea. However, I felt this query was too short. Who lost their temper? Who didn't? What started the fighting? Maybe needed some visual descriptions too.

    First 50: The voice is awesome. I could definitely see parents and kids reading this together. This was where I wanted to read this story.

    Good luck to both!

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  13. Super Flynn: I don't know much about picture book queries, but I thought this one was really good. I think especially since you managed to make it enticing and also somehow captured the voice of a young voice, you've got something good here. I don't know much else about picture book queries, but I do like yours.

    Monkey: Honestly, I feel like your query is less of a query and more of a summary. Instead of being enticed by it it just seemed sorta stilted and to me, it didn't look like something I'd give my kid, mainly because it just didn't have enough description and characterization; it was more like a summary of events.

    Good luck to all of you.

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  14. Super Flynn:
    I liked both the premise, query and story. I would've liked to know where Flynn is from and where is he at now. It'd be more helpful if you included names of these places, especially where the story is taking place. Then you could talk about how the pineapples grow in their yard and how Flynn is stuck with grown-up cereal. It'll help paint the picture better and put a name to a face, per se.

    Easedropping Monkey:
    The query had a lot of long lines and seemed a little stiff. I would suggest shortening them and jazzing it up. They're having a party so if you can, make it a little more enthusiastic. I thought your 50 was great. I love rhymes and it flowed easily while detailing them preparing for the party. Nice job.

    For both entries, I was curious about the story's setting and would've liked a mention of an age category in the queries.

    Good luck to you both.

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  15. Thanks to everyone for all the great comments! I can't wait to dive into revisions!

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