Jun 1, 2014

QK Round 1: Who Cut the Cheese vs Trailer Trap

Entry Nickname: Who Cut the Cheese?
Title: From Inside the Damp Drawers of Rupert P. Spittleton: Who cut the cheese?
Word count: 21K
Genre: MG Humorous Adventure


Wilbur “Reekie” Strange isn’t your typical paranoid, delusional Michigan fifth-grader. Under that tattered CIA t-shirt beats the heart of the next Sam Spade, a boy using his superhuman nose to be the greatest detective the world has ever seen, cracking cases and jokes with equal ease. In short, somebody who can even find the dad who walked out seven years ago.

When a necklace of ancient Carthaginian coins prove to be cheesy(smelling) fakes, Reekie’s on the trail and off to Sardinia over spring break. The one hitch in the plan: his homeroom nemesis Camila, a girl who spends far too much time worrying about “facts” and is as hard to shake as a bad habit.

Off the plane the kids walk into a scene right out of The Godfather. Reekie knows something fishy is going on. The catch is figuring if it’s the dollar-store Romeo trying to net Camila, their art-expert host, or the maggot-filled cheese squirming on the dinner table.

First 250:

Some people say I have a nose for trouble. The problem is, trouble doesn't smell. Well not most of the time anyway. I guess this all started as soon as Mrs. Huey's art class was over. I shoved my planner into my locker, slammed the door and raced for the lunch line. You snooze you lose on chicken chunk day. Lefty and Hondo were there already and let me cut in ahead of the Mary Jane Mafia.

“Reekie Strange! Cheaters never prosper!” the glittery minions sang on cue. They might have been right though because when we finally got our trays the chicken chunks were sold out. Grilled cheese, sold out. Damp clods of tuna surprise, the lunch of last resort, fell onto our trays like huge spitballs - but without the fresh paper taste. Worse yet, there was more on the way judging by the cases stacked to the ceiling marked Treasure of the Sea Prime Tuna.

After cracking an art forgery ring and flooding the playground with new kickballs you'd think a guy would get some props around here. But no, not so much as a pudding cup. I made do with an apple as I dumped my tuna surprise, adding to the grayish glob taking over the trash can. My stomach was growling already.

“Later dudes!” I said, swinging my backpack over my shoulder and heading out the door. I'd only gone about five steps when I heard a loud hissing sound, like a balloon somebody couldn't knot. I stopped, it stopped.


Entry Nickname:  Trailer Trap
Title:  Experiment in Progress
Word Count:  40,000
Genre:  MG Contemporary


Alexis Reed is going to make her school sorry for sticking her in a trailer. Thanks to overcrowding, her fifth-grade class has been assigned to a portable classroom with defective air conditioning and a cockroach problem. She’s stranded across the soccer field from her quirky little brother, who tends to wander out of classrooms and hide in storage closets. When she can’t stay close to him, it’s a lot harder to keep Lucas from getting himself expelled.

Determined to get back in the main building, Alexis designs an experiment for her school science fair to prove that the trailer is dangerous. She and her partner Jaelynn demolish a model of the trailer with a leaf blower to show what would happen if a tornado hit Glenwood Elementary. The project wins the girls a third-place ribbon, an appearance on the local T.V. news, and an invitation to speak at the next school board meeting. Alexis thinks she’s won—until she learns that the school board plans to empty the trailer by transferring a busload of kids out of Glenwood. A busload made up of low-income students from the “wrong” side of town. A busload that includes Jaelynn.

Caught between her brother and her friend, Alexis must decide if she still wants out of the trailer at any cost.

First 250:

If you ever run across one of the newspaper stories about my science project, don’t believe a word of it. Every single reporter got the story wrong.

Take The Canlaston Chronicle. That reporter asked why I decided to work with my partner, Jaelynn. He scribbled notes while I talked, but I don’t know why he bothered, because he must not have believed my answer. His article began, “A pair of rebel fifth graders, Alexis Reed and Jaelynn Moore, teamed up to create a controversial project for the annual Glenwood Elementary Science Fair.” But I wasn’t being a rebel when I asked Jaelynn to be my partner. I mean, I wasn’t thrilled with the start of the school year. Glenwood was more crowded than it had ever been before, so the fifth grade classes had been stuck in a portable building across the soccer field. My principal called it the “learning cottage.” Most people called it the trailer. Its classrooms had streaky dry erase boards with dried-out markers, while the classrooms in the main building had Smartboards. The air conditioner had broken down twice, and we’d only been in school for three weeks. And when I thought of my brother Lucas, left in the main building without me... well, I was trying very hard not to think about Lucas. But I wasn’t planning a rebellion. Not then.

I told the reporter the real story. The truth is, I became Jaelynn’s partner because of a boy band.


  1. This space reserved for judge feedback and votes.

    1. Who Cut the Cheese? This has a fun, lively voice. I like the first para of your query, but I think the rest could do with a little bit of tidying up. First of all, where does the necklace come from and what is the MC’s connection with it? If it’s a fake, why does he need to investigate it? And is this a school trip to Sardinia, or have the MC and Camilla just gone to the same place by chance? And most crucially – what are the stakes? Why does he have to find out about this necklace so desperately? What will happen if he doesn’t? Or is finding his father the real stakes? If so, circle back to mentioning him again. Also, 21k is a little bit short, even for MG, unless you foresee it being illustrated.

      Opening page: I think you need a new para after the opening three sentences, to take us into a new scene. Having said that, I’m not quite sure what the purpose of this scene is. He goes to lunch but then leaves straight away, so why are we giving valuable first page real estate to tuna mush? Just so you can introduce the school and some of his friends very briefly? Also the mention of the art forgery ring and kickballs are thrown in a bit suddenly, I’d like some more information about that. At the moment that line reads a bit like a sequel that’s referring to things that happened in a first book. The voice overall is fun, the scene comes alive, and I’d read on as is, but I think there might be a better place to start your story.

      Trailer Trap: Very nice query, and perfect MG stakes. The only thing I’m confused about is that I presumed Jaelynn was in Alexis’ class and already in the trailer, since she was her partner in the science project, so you might want to clarify that. Otherwise, it’s clear and well done.

      Your opening page is great. I think the long middle paragraph might benefit from being broken up a bit, but otherwise I really don’t have any comments – you’ve made me want to read on, and the final line made me laugh, so nice work!

      Victory to Trailer Trap.

    2. Who Cut the Cheese:
      Query: It sounds like you have such a fun main character! I'm seeing a lot of cool elements (a smell superpower, a middle-school detective) that make me want to read on. However, after reading your query, I'm not really sure what your main conflict is going to be. Is it finding the father? (That somewhat heavier element also seemed strangely placed, right after the lighthearted line about cracking jokes and cases--it makes it feel like the lost dad isn't that big of a deal.) I suspect the actual conflict is what you're describing in the last paragraph of your query, but I can't be sure, because I can't tell what you're talking about there. You're throwing a lot of disjointed elements and images at your readers very quickly, with nothing to really connect the dots: they walk into a scene from The Godfather (which scene? How is this related the plot?), there's a dollar-store Romeo trying to net Camilla (Who is he? Is he important?), an art expert, and maggoty cheese. I have no idea what the plot and stakes are. What does he want and why? What will he have to face to get it--what will happen if he fails? Is he doing all of this to try to find his dad? (If so, be clearer about that--and what do the coins or Sardinia have to do with his quest?)
      First 250: Your first paragraph is somewhat choppy, and you change tenses (present to past and back again) several times. I do like the first three sentences--they give a good sense of your character's fun voice! However, I don't think you need the line starting "I guess all this started..." because it takes me out of the story, and to me it sounded more like a narrator doing a voice-over than a story being told in first-person. It might also make for a smoother transition if you started a new paragraph with "I shoved my planner...", as the other judge has already stated. As for the rest of the paragraphs, the fun voice made me smile, and you have great (icky) cafeteria food imagery. Do, however, think about where you're starting and why--this is a fun scene, but does it really pack enough OOMPH to be your all-important opener?

      Trailer Trap:
      Query: Excellent work! I see character (and the bit about her caring for her brother in the first paragraph was very sweet), conflict, and stakes. The only thing I'm wondering is, what would she have to do so that all the kids could stay after all? I'm sure the choice of whether or not the trailer stays wouldn't be up to her once it's proven unsafe. What's she going to have to do now to fix things? Will there be hijinks? Lobbying? Sabotage?

      First 250: I was a little confused at the lines: "But I wasn’t being a rebel when I asked Jaelynn to be my partner. I mean, I wasn’t thrilled with the start of the school year." I'm not sure how these two thoughts are linked--after she mentions that it wasn't a rebellious act and then the next sentence starts "I mean," I was expecting her to explain why picking Jaelynn wasn't rebellious (like "I mean, she'd been my best friend since pre-K. Who else would I have teamed up with?"). After I read on, I realized that you seem to be talking more about the experiment itself than being Jaelynn's partner. So you could fix this just by replacing "being Jaelynn's partner" with something like "designing the experiment."

      My decision: Man, this is hard! Both of these entries have such great (and very different) voices. I see a ton of potential in Who Cut the Cheese, and I also *love* the humorous voice. However, I'm still not sure what the story is actually about (because the query was cluttered and never clearly stated the conflict and stakes), and the first paragraph of the first 250 was a little disjointed. I feel like Trailer Trap reads very smoothly, has a good plot, and the query feels professional and clear. Because of that, my vote is: VICTORY TO TRAILER TRAP!

    3. Allusion AssassinJune 1, 2014 at 8:39 PM

      As others have said already, this drips with terrific voice. But, also as the others have said, we need more than that to move you forward.

      The hook here is good, strong, but then disappears (like his dad) how is that connected to the rest of the story? Why is he looking for this necklace, how does he get to Sardinia, what does Camilla have to with it...on and on with the questions. It's good to give some mystery, but as is, your query leaves us scratching our heads wondering what actually happens in your story.

      The opening scene suffers the same fate. Again, the voice is outstanding. You have a terrific way with middle grade words. But I don't get the point of the scene. Why are we going to lunch when nothing important apparently happens there? That's a pretty big waste of an opening scene. Then there's the whole kickball thing. Is this a sequel? If so, that will need a bit of explaining.

      Finally, 21K is short even for MG. Is it illustrated?

      With a bit of tweaking, I feel this could be really excellent. Keep plugging.

      The query is really excellent. The hook hooks, the stakes are clear and I like your MC. Nice job.

      My issue with your entry is more with the opening.

      First, this has terrific voice, so points awarded. I love the way you set it up. But when she goes off on the tangent of "Why Jaelynn" we get a bit lost, sidetracked. By the end it becomes clear that you are answering the rebel part of the reporters statement. But that's not what he originally asked. Originally, he asked why you chose Jaelynn. I was expecting an answer to that. Instead, it felt like we went a bit down info dump lane.

      I feel like this is an easy fix though. Put something in about Jaelynn and a simple sentence redirecting us to what a moron the reporter was for getting it all wrong and you're good to go. As is, the reader gets a bit lost and has to take it on faith you'll lead us through. You do, but it's an easy fix.

      Despite how much I love the voice in CHEESE, in the end, I'm left not understanding what the story is about. It's all window dressing. I'm not saying the house is ugly, it's just too unclear. TRAILER on the other hand has the full package already.

      Victory TRAILER TRAP

    4. Who Cut the Cheese: Great voice in your query. I can definitely tell that this is a fun middle grade story- humorous adventure indeed! However, there are some loose threads here, like the part about Reekie's missing father. Your query also raised some questions, like how does he get this fake necklace and why does he want to find the real thing? Also, do the kids travel on their own, or who's accompanying them on this adventure? Consider clarifying the stakes at the end as well, so we know what Reekie stands to lose if he doesn't figure out what's going on in Sardinia!

      In your first 250, I was pleased to see the same fun MG voice from your query! But I'm worried you aren't starting the story in the right place. What's the moment where your story really takes off? Is it when Reekie finds the fake necklace? That might be a good place to start. The lunch scene, while full of fun language, is rather low action and doesn't make me feel a need to read on.

      As a side note: I'm a little concerned about your word count. 21K is thin, even for MG, so I wonder if you have scenes in your story that could benefit from some additional detail! Or maybe there are additional scenes you could add for character depth.

      Trailer Trap: Wow, I absolutely loved this query and was ready to read the book! Something about the tone and the conflict you've set up here, with Alexis having to fight for Jaelynn to stay at her school, reminds me of all the emotion in Bridge to Terabithia- my favorite MG story. The only thing I think you could add or change about this query is giving us a brief idea of how Alexis tries to make things right.

      I loved your first 250! My only suggestion is to follow Allusion Assassin's advice to fix the slight 'info-dump' feeling in the second paragraph.

      Victory to Trailer Trap!

    5. Wow! Both these entries are dripping with voice and I LOVE it!

      Who Cut The Cheese: You've got a great query started here, but I too was confused by many of the plot elements and wondered what Reekie's ultimate goal was. Some other things that need clarification: How are two Michigan fifth graders getting to Sardinia? And the line about the dollar-store Romeo trying to romance Camila seemed a little too adult for MG.

      Your first 250 had me laughing, but I too was wondering what the point of this scene was and how it was driving the plot forward? Was it set-up to show us that Reekie's already built a reputation as a sleuth? If so, I would make this point a dominant part of the opening.

      Trailer Trap: I think you have a unique twist here as far as what your MC wants. Your character, voice and stakes are clear, and I found myself wanting to know more. Way to go!!

      Your first 250 was a little slow for me and seemed to mirror your query too much. Instead of talking about the reporter so much, I would have liked to have seen Alexis in the portable already contemplating how she was going to change things. To me this seems like a more logical place to begin and would help you lead into back story without the intro feeling like an info dump.

      Both these entries were great, and I wish I could call a tie. But if pressed, I'd say the victory goes to: TRAILER TRAP.

    6. Girl with the Golden PenJune 4, 2014 at 2:40 AM


      The query- This is a quirky, imaginative query with a lot of fun voice. But it does feel a little muddled. The detail of the father doesn't seem to come into play and the images in the last paragraph, while good, were a little confusing to follow. Also, I'm not sure referencing THE GOD FATHER is an appropriate reference for a middle grade. I doubt your MC has seen the God Father (most middle schoolers would be bored to pieces with that movie). Also, this seems like a lot of content for a story that's only 21,000 words. That's low for MG and I don't see how this story can be crammed into that space.

      First 250- Lots of good voice here and images that would appeal to your demographic (yay gross things). I get a good sense of your character and he's someone I could follow for a whole story if he keeps that voice up.


      The query- is very well written. I understand the character, the stakes and how she takes action to improve her situation. She's an active character which is good and I think its a really unique problem and solution. The story comes off as quirky but likable and fun.

      First 250- GREAT voice here. I love how this character talks. I like her observations about the false articles and how she got together with her partner because of a boy band. Its a cute detail that hooks me in and the first 250 leave me wanting more.

      Difficult decision but I think TRAILER TRAP is just a bit clearer in its stakes. They both have great voice and I like them but victory goes with TRAILER TRAP

    7. ghostbuster_extraordinaireJune 4, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      Who Cut the Cheese?:

      Solid query. I was drawn out a bit with Sam Spade--not sure who that is. Be careful with using examples like that, because not everyone will be familiar with them. Love the line about cracking cases and jokes with equal ease. I would switch up the 'fishy is going on' cliché.

      Excellent 250 words. I don't normally read MG, but this held my attention. Your MC's voice is unique.

      Trailer Trap:

      Great job on the query. The stakes are clear, and the conflict is solid enough to hold the story. I'm intrigued.

      Excellent 250 words. Already I'm an Alexis supporter. Great job!

      Seriously hard choice here, but…

      Victory goes to Trailer Trap

      I like the premise - it sounds like a lot of fun. But I'm a little confused, too, and I think that some of it is probably just due to the unusual turns-of-phrase that doesn't really *sound* like a 5th grader (though maybe a 5th grader pretending to be a in a noir movie?) Also, I don't know that the "scene right out of The Godfather" is a great analogy b/c the first scene that pops into my mind is the one with the horse head, and I'm pretty sure that's not what you mean.

      I like the concept, and the query sets up the conflict, stakes, and character very clearly. Being caught between family responsibilities and loyalty to friends is a really good MG conflict.

      Victory to Trailer Trap

    Love the idea of a smell-driven detective (who presumably solves crimes by following his nose), and the tone of the extract is just right for it. Will the only "hard-boiled" things in the stories will be gobstoppers? I think the last para of the query needs some slight rewording as it doesn't quite flow (although the concept there is good).

    Lots of detail on the setup of the story, if I was an agent I might be asking how Alexis goes about trying to change things perhaps? The 250 does an excellent job of pulling you in, and I'm guessing "the rebellion" answers my question about the query - so maybe it should be in there?

    Anyway, I enjoyed them both and I'd certainly read both of them - good luck!

  3. Who Cut the Cheese?: What a fun story! I enjoyed the query and the 250 a lot. They both made me laugh, and you had original images ("without the fresh paper taste") that were great. One nit pick in the query: should be "proves" with an "s" since it's about the necklace itself and not the coins. Also, why is Camila also on his spring break? She may be hard to shake, but I'm still not sure why she is there. Also, the last paragraph is a bit confusing. I think I know what you mean, but perhaps some rewording could help clear things up. Funny stuff, and I know some kids in my house who would enjoy reading this kind of thing! :)

    Trailer Trap: Love this idea, because I've seen those trailers! Yuck. The voice is very clear, and I already identify with your MC. I'm not quite sure why she's stuck between her friend and her brother -- leaving Glenwood isn't her choice, right? So what is the issue between them? Also, a query nitpick -- could you add "also" to "She's also stuck across the soccer field.." Could help the flow of problems of being stuck in the trailer. Great fun. Good luck!

  4. Who Cut the Cheese?

    I’ll be honest—the title is not my favorite, and based on that, I didn’t expect to like the entry, but I do. The voice is terrific. The “gross out” type of humor isn’t really my thing, but I know there’s a market for it. Also, I was left wondering—if this Rupert Spittleton person is important enough to be in the title, shouldn’t he be in the query somewhere?

    Trailer Trap

    The query is great, good voice, clear stakes. I would agree that it would be good to know what she can actually do to stop the school from sending her away. A fundraiser for more permanent class rooms or what, exactly?

    I’d like the middle paragraph of the 250 broken up some; it’s a little overwhelming. I’m not entirely sure about the “this is what really happened” framing device. It feels a little old fashioned, but that’s one of those subjective things. The description of the trailers and the contrast with the real classrooms is well-done, but I wonder what would happen if you started with the last sentence, about becoming Jaelynn’s partner because of a boy band. Now that’s intriguing!

  5. I have a 9 year old son. He read both of these entries and here are his thoughts:


    "I love the title. It's funny. Is it about farts?"
    "No. It's about a detective. Well, that could be good."
    "The kids have funny names. That could be good, but it might be weird. Most kids I know are named Caleb or Ethan."
    "Is there another book before this one? He talks about cracking an art forgery ring. When did he do that?"

    "Oooh. Trailers at school. Everyone hates those. I think kids would relate to this book."
    "I like science projects. And hers is a good one. That's a great idea."
    "But I don't understand why a science project would mean that her friend would have to change schools."
    "I like this book. I thought it might be a good book for boys, but then she talks about a boy band. I hate One Direction."

    For what it's worth. :)

    1. Hi Kristin - Thanks for that! He's a sharp kid, this is actually a second installment :) I wondered if anyone would catch it. I put this one out as a test to see what people thought. The coins end up being smuggled in niches cut in wheels of cheese (i.e., someone is cutting the cheese to hide things). That said, Reekie comes by his name for a reason. . .

  6. Both entries have a great voice (in both queries & first pgs), and both sound like fun books. Excellent job to both of you!

    Who Cut the Cheese
    On the 21k - if you're set on keeping the length (there are plenty of shorter, illustrated humorous books, maybe not quite this short, but short), then I think you need to start right in the action. With a book this length, we almost need to see that necklace on the first page. But what you do have on this page is lots of fun to read. In the query, I'd like to see some hint as to why he needs to track down the truth.

    Trailer Trap
    The query's great! I have nothing to add and it sounds clear to me. I'm torn on the 250. I love this MC, but that second paragraph does feel long and infodump-y. And I want to get to the start of the story. What's happening *now*. That said, It's still fun and intriguing and I can tell already I'm going to like this girl!

    Great work, both of you!

  7. Hi, and best of luck to both of you!! :) Here are my thoughts on queries and 1st 250s:

    Who Cut the Cheese: Really fun idea! I love MCs with a lot of quirk and Reekie is chalk-full! This sounds like a great mystery/adventure. Although, I will admit that, while the query and 1st 250 have great voice, the voice sounded a little older than 5th grade to me. References to the Godfather, dollar-store Romeo, "Cut a GUY a break", etc. made both seem a little older to me. I also had a lot of questions from the query - does he really have super-human smelling? How exactly does that figure into his sleuthing? In his world, do crimes literally stink? I was also a bit confused about Camila. Is she actually following him? Why? But - it's clear that you have a lot of fun stuff to work with here and sounds like a story I'd enjoy reading!

    Trailer Trap: Really strong query, here, imho. I know about Alexis and her goals and stakes are clearly drawn. Nice job! I can further tell from the 1st 250 that she's a thoughtful, responsible girl who knows what she wants. I did wonder if her voice was a bit older than 5th grade, however. She might almost be a little too put together for her age. Maybe not. The 1st 250 was also a little back-story heavy. I love that she realizes that adults often get it wrong, but I think it would be so much stronger to see a glimpse of where she is now, in the story, while weaving in the back story info about the news article. Strong entry - best of luck!

  8. Who Cut the Cheese?
    Oh, you have me smiling. What a fun idea!

    The word count is low for middle grade (is that a typo?), especially one that seems upper middle grade because of the sophisticated terms and references in the query. For example, CIA, paranoid, delusional, Romeo (and that there is a romance), and especially The Godfather.

    Even the “hard to shake as a bad habit” which I believe is an intentional literary decide to use a cliché from a detective story, seems like it might be a lost reference on a middle grader.

    As for the end, I would like more of a clue on what the something fishy is. What does Reekie see? A scene from the godfather - a dead fish head in someone’s bed?

    In general, I’m confused on the stakes. His father? The necklace? If the necklace, why?

    I do like the voice and flow of the query.

    On the 250:
    Love your first sentences. Funny, and great voice! I somewhat am questioning if this story is starting in the right place. There are not enough words for me to get the real purpose of the scene, but it seems like it just might be set up?

    Trailer Trap

    The query is nicely written, but has left me with a few storyline questions. First, it seems unlikely that Alexis can really keep close to her brother, even in the same building. They would be in different grades, maybe even a different wing. She can’t just leave class whenever she wants to supervise him. And with Lucas being less than fifth grade, it seems unlikely he will get expelled for hiding in closets. This would sound like a problem with the teacher. Does Lucas have special needs?

    Love the idea about the science experiment. Can’t help but love characters that come up with that idea to make some change!

    My next concern is the idea of Jaelyn being bused out of the school. She is either in the district or she isn’t. The query makes it seem they have decided to target low-income kids. Maybe that is their real motive, but do they really come out and say that? Maybe they decide to switch “Glendale Village” to another district, which happens to affect only low-income students. Is it really so blatant?

    The last sentence, I feel like I already know the answer, but don’t really believe Alexis has any real control over a school district. I don’t believe for a second that she would decide that Jaelyn has to go so she can get out of a trailer. It seems more likely she would try to change the course of what is happening to save both Jaelyn and herself. She is clearly a smart and resourceful character.

    The first 250,
    I like the voice. But I am still confused why the reporter would ask and why he would think she’s a rebel for teaming up with a low-income student.

    Really, both girls are rebels. They used their smarts to prove a point and try to make social change. They’re genius! I love these girls! Who cares that Jaelyn’s poor?

    I’m still not sure what Alexis thinks she’s going to do for Lucas. What are his needs that she is THAT worried?

    Great job to both stories. Good luck!

  9. Who Cut the Cheese
    Okay, this query has me all kinds of intrigued, but I don’t think it sets up the stakes quite as well as it could. It mentions a missing dad in passing, but that doesn’t seem to be the thrust of the story. It also doesn’t really indicate how two fifth-graders up and hike off to Sardinia on their own. Anyway, basically saying as it stands the query feels a little unfocused and I’m left with too many questions.

    Really enjoyed the 250. Great voice. I had a number of good chuckles from it. I’d definitely keep reading this one. Will say, however, that 21K seems very low for a word count, even for MG.

    Trailer Trap
    Very neat premise. I very much like that here we have a main character who is actually out to protect her little brother instead of the more typical annoying sibling scenario. The only part that lost me in the query was the final sentence. I don’t understand how anything we’ve read so far leads to her having to make a decision between her brother and her friend. Is it because her friend wants to leave Glenwood and so wouldn’t want Alexis to stand in the way of that? I’m just guessing, but if so then it needs to be made clearer IMO.

    Great opening line in the 250. In fact, I liked the whole thing. I would suggest breaking up that huge paragraph in the middle though. It made reading a bit of a slog, and even though the voice is captivating I found myself having to reread just to make sure I was following everything correctly.

    Best of luck to both!

    First of all what a fun concept, especially for your age bracket. A kid who can smell out bad guys opens up all kinds of possibilities for fun illustrations. The tie-ins could be fabulous, I can practically smell scratch and sniff bookmarks now. Your query though is all over the place. I had to reread a few sentences to follow along. I’d like to get to know your MC better. Loosen up and show him and his abilities.

    First 250:
    I have to say the dreaded thing. You’re not showing me this scene. Eight year olds need short, quick scenes. Lots of white space and a book chock full of illustrations. I love your line, You snooze you lose on chicken chunk day. Make this dialog as he runs down the hall. Take the time to introduce his friends. I can’t see anyone because of how fast you pass everyone and I want to. I want to see these characters.

    Your query starts out with me wanting to know more about the relationship between Alexis and her brother. Your second paragraph is a little heavy and takes me off in another direction. The science fair sounds like a fun part of your novel. I don’t see how these girls will change the busing. I guess I’ll have to wait and read the book.

    First 250:
    You had me in the first line, then I feel like you forgot who your audience was. The next paragraph is a huge block of text for eight year olds. I don’t know any of them who want to read a news article. I wish there was more of the story here and less of the article.

    Best of luck to both of you.