Jun 1, 2015

QK Round 1: A Quest for Crumbs v. Elephants Never Forget

Entry Nickname: The Quest for Crumbs
Title: The Statue Says Spring
Word count: 88K
Genre: Young Adult


As the daughter of a conquering tyrant, fifteen-year-old Ida has everything but freedom: freedom to make friends, to eat, dress, and sleep unwatched, and—when her father banishes her mother to the slums for defiance—to be with the only person she loves. But her father’s guards won’t stop her this time. She smuggles her mother food and valuables until she’s caught and thrown out too.

At first, Ida is enchanted with her new freedom. She explores the maze of streets, befriending beggars and crypt-dwellers. But slum life is harsh: her mother slaves in a factory, their lascivious slumlord leeches most of their money, and small-time parasites devour what’s left. Ida sells everything she smuggled to keep a locked door between her and the predators outside, but when her mother loses her job, only debt remains.

Desperate, Ida asks her father for help. She hopes for crumbs, but in a moment of twisted conscience, he offers a vicious deal instead: return to her old home of wealth and privilege, but give up her mother forever. If she accepts, she’ll live a lie, playing the obedient daughter for a chance to steal for her mother again. If she refuses, she risks starvation. With a simple yes or no, Ida must choose: father or mother, privilege or poverty, subservience or the freedom to live on her own terms.

THE STATUE SAYS SPRING is set in a world that blends elements of Victorian and medieval England.

First 250:

Ida couldn’t wait until dawn; the pillory would be frozen by now. She collected the bag of supplies, put on her glasses, and snuck past her sleeping mother. The hall was deserted and she reached the back door without trouble. Stopping only to tie her leather shoestrings around her ankles, she hurried into darkness.

The icy sea wind was a slap to the face and she pulled her long, lank hair over her ears. It didn’t help. Why was it so cold tonight, of all nights? It was mid-September, but it felt like February and Mr Hanson was confined in only a thin shirt and breeches. He would be frozen half to death.

Ikshik,” Ida cursed as she passed the Basilica gates. Maybe he was frozen to death; it was cold enough. She cursed again and sped up. If only her mother hadn’t guessed she would sneak out, if only she hadn’t sat up to stop her, if only she had fallen asleep sooner, Ida would be wrapping Mr Hanson in a blanket right now.

Her mother never listened to reason.

“He’s your oldest friend,” Ida had argued. “We’ve got to do something.”

“No,” her mother said. “The streets aren’t safe at night and you can do nothing in the day. Remember that woman who was stoned to death for helping her pilloried husband?”


“No. It’s too dangerous, you’re too young.”

“I’m fifteen. You were married at my age. If I left now—”

“I forbid it.”


Entry Nickname: Elephants Never Forget
Word Count: 72K
Genre: YA Magical Realism


Continents apart culturally, sixteen-year-olds Chessie Charlton and Daniel Jomo Olanga should never have crossed paths.

Which would have been just fine with Denver teen Chessie. Bad enough she’s stuck wasting a whole summer with her ancient grandmother in middle-of-nowhere, Kenya. No phone. No friends. No fair. But when Chessie finds a priceless ivory needle in Gram’s attic, things take a total left turn toward weird. Chessie is contacted by the spirit of the elephant matriarch who was murdered eons ago for its tusks. Filling Chessie’s head with cryptic songs—and totally flipping her out—matriarch Jhelani’s desperate plea emerges: save the last of her once-immortal tribe before their species vanishes forever and Earth pays the price.

Meanwhile, Kenyan teen Daniel can’t feed his family when the rains never come and their last goat is dragged off by a starving lion. Desperate for work, Daniel is coerced into a gang of poachers with their sights set on a huge payday: the remaining elephants of Jhelani’s tribe. Just one job, he swears. Then he’ll find honest work. Finish his education. And hold his head up again.

By the time Chessie gets over herself and agrees to help Jhelani, it’s too late. She finds the elephants but the poachers are closing in. With elephants charging and bullets flying, Chessie is taken prisoner and her world and Daniel’s collide. To survive this deadly situation, Chessie must conquer her fears and seize any opportunity to escape. And Daniel must decide just how much of his soul he’s willing to sell for a payday.

The IVORY NEEDLE is told from the alternating viewpoints of the two protagonists.

First 250:

When your family falls apart, I suppose you shouldn’t expect anything to be the same again. Not even your mother’s smile.

Mom’s goofy I-love-my-life smile hadn’t been seen in months, and I’d become all too familiar with the distant impostor that had replaced it. But the smile she was wearing right now? Pretty sure I’d never seen that smile before. Like something you’d grab at the mall without stopping to try it on, it was too tight and way too bright.

The incredible aromas filling the air pulled my attention away from the strange smile for a moment. The kitchen smelled so good, the table covered with our favorite foods. Mom’s cooking and smiling? My stomach rumbled, my mouth watered, and my heart clenched. Something wasn’t right.

“Roast chicken? Dibs on the drumstick,” Bent shouted, slamming his scrawny ten-year-old frame into the chair nearest the chicken. He leaned in, freckled nose practically up the bird’s butt, and took a deep melodramatic sniff. “Look, Chessie, your favorite mac-n-cheese, too.”

“Are you sure this isn’t a mirage?” I teased. I dropped into the chair the chair across from him and watched my mother, still in her nice work clothes. She pulled something from the oven, her hair frizzed out in all directions from cooking in the early summer heat.​ ​
“Mom? What’s going on?”

And don’t you dare say nothing.

She set a tray of steaming cornbread on the table and sat down, smile still on high-beam. “How would you kids like to meet your great-grandmother​​


  1. Judges, reply here with your comments and votes.

    1. A Quest for Crumbs:

      You're missing your genre. Young Adult is an age category. You'll need to add that for later rounds or future contests. Is it historical? Fantasy? Historical fantasy? Whatever it is, it sounds fantastic. I really don't have much to offer on the query itself. You've got a good explanation of the character, a heart-wrenching conflict, and clear stakes. Maybe try to infuse a bit more of Ida's voice? But overall, this is a terrific query letter.

      It bugs me that "Mr" doesn't have a period, even if you're in a world where that's not how they abbreviate. This is probably my issue. I wish I had more to offer, but you've got a good set-up and, overall, I really like it.

      Elephants Never Forget:

      I love the voice in this query. Even more, I love that you've given me different voices for two different characters. You had me at "a total left turn toward weird." I want to read this book. You've got such an original concept, plus diversity, plus characters I'm already rooting for. Excellent job.

      I'm not sure this story starts in the right place. If everything happens once we're in Kenya, why are we starting before the family even gets there? It's better to start where the story starts and weave in the backstory later. Past participles like "was wearing" weaken your writing. And I want to experience what the main character experiences - don't tell me that the table smells good. Describe the odors so I can't help but think they're in my own nose. "And don’t you dare say nothing" also seems out of place - is she talking to the reader? I'd cut that line (or clarify it).

      You know, I really thought I knew how I'd be voting after I read the first entry. And then I got to the second. Both queries are so well-done. This is SO HARD. Elephants Never Forget has a slightly stronger query, diversity, and a concept I've never seen. A Quest for Crumbs has a main character I desperately want to see succeed, plus a more polished first page that drops me right into the action. For that reason, VICTORY TO A QUEST FOR CRUMBS.


      Here's why: This is an interesting premise and one not seen before. I agree you should start your 250 in Kenya. Ivory hunting is an awful practice and I'm glad to see she wants to save the elephants. I don't have much to say because I like it so much. Good luck!

      I want to have higher stakes here. Choosing between giving up your mother and going with a tyrannical father seems a given to me. And what category is it? It will make a difference if it's historical vs historical fantasy or magical realism or mystery. The writing in the 250 is strong but maybe if you want this to be your premise maybe start it after she's been thrown out? Just a thought. Good luck!

    3. Crumbs:

      I liked this immediately. The stakes are so very clear and your MC has an impossible choice. I love that in the 250, you show the reader how kind-hearted she and her mother are and how they don't care who they piss off helping others. The lack of clear genre is holding me back here, though. Why is the father so tyrannical? Maybe an addition of the genre--fantasy? magical realism? Historical + MR?--would help me feel more grounded in the world and why things are the way they are.


      The query is long, which happens a lot in dual POV books. I'd probably see if you can make it the bare essentials since both stories are necessary. I think this is a concept that a lot of readers will go wild about and is something I've never seen before, so you get points for originality. I do wonder if the elephant spirits might turn some readers off. The 250 has good voice, but leaves me wondering how quick she goes to Kenya. If it's right away, good, but if not, you could be wasting valuable space in getting the story going. I'm also curious where the other MC's story begins and if it isn't the better choice for the opener.


    4. Both of these were very strong. Excellent world-building in both.

      Quest for Crumbs:
      Query: Your query is very strong. I don't really think there is much here to criticize. You've laid out the conflict, the stakes, and the characters well. The book sounds really interesting, but I don't have a setting or a sense of place. Try adding a word or two that will help with that.
      Again, not much to fault. You can work on the opening paragraph to do less telling me what she's doing, and more like the first line about the frozen pillory. That's an arresting image, but you take me from there to a discussion of shoelaces.

      Great concept. This is the kind of unusual setting that agents are always saying they're looking for. You've managed to imbue the query with voice, and even managed to separate the voices for Chess and Daniel. Bravo for that.
      I think you can strengthen the sense of place here -- as that is your strength with your query. I can tell, though, that I'm in good hands here. You know what you're doing. Love the line about mom's smile off the rack at the mall. I instantly know what that looks like.

      Because I think agents are absolutely looking for something like it,

    5. Query Matchup:

      Crumbs, your query is beautiful in its imagery and subtle use of language. I think the "close" quality of the conflict is very appealing -- no one is trying to save THE world, just her own world, her mother, herself. The sadistic, tyrant father could be seen as something of a stock antagonist. His only motivation for tormenting the MC at the end seems to be the love of torment itself. If that's really all there is to him, you might think about the rest of the ms and if you're doing justice to your story in that respect. Also, your genre: YA is a category, not a genre, and you need to claim a place on the shelf. Because you're fusing time periods and apparently inventing some language flair for world building purposes, judging from the MC's expletive, this is a YA Fantasy.

      Elephants, the strength of the stakes for both your characters is great, and the query ends on a tense note that really draws a reader in. A thought: to what extend do these two characters have very different narrative voices? If they don't sound VERY different in how they narrate, I would suggest a limited 3rd person POV alternating between them, not 1st. Alternating firsts rarely (IMO) offer an intensity of language and voice to justify the confusion that changing "I" creates throughout. As to genre, you and Crumbs have in common some genre confusion, I think. If there's a voice that's following Chessie around that inhabits a magical needle, this isn't Magical Realism. That's Contemporary Fantasy. If you can concretely find, place, and explain (in some way) a magical effect, then you have a world of rules and magicks that is fantastical. Magical Realism tends to be highly literary in style with very limited fantastical elements that rarely interface directly with the MC.

      250 Matchup:
      Because the query for Elephants starts off with Chessie going to Kenya, that's where I expected the story to start, and so the setting was unclear to me. Are you starting your story close enough to the main action? Is there a reason we can't have Chessie being picked up at the airport, or even getting a tour of the family home in Kenya? The true inciting incident isn't the trip; it's the needle, after all, and so anything that delays its coming very long could be a problem.

      Crumbs, the do-gooder nature of the MC fallen on hard times is front and center in your 250, the better to demonstrate her character. The world is being built efficiently, too -- people in pillory are targets of pity, but little aid, for fear of reprisal. The idea of crossing the Basilica gates, though... A Basilica can be either an open courtyard used for formal legal purposes OR a kind of massive holy temple. It's a fine word, one that shows you've done some homework, but the reader will need to understand clearly if it's secular or religious power this place represents to avoid confusion, especially since the more commonly understood modern meaning is the religious space.

      For the sake of the 250 and the hopes of a well-rounded villain:



      Cute nickname. I’ll agree with the others-- I think this is a strong query. The stakes are clear, the character is well outlined, and the query is well constructed. Everyone will have a quibble for you, and here’s mine: you use the word ‘freedom’ three times in four sentences. I’d go with a synonym in there somewhere.

      I’m very intrigued at blending medieval and Victorian England. That’s the kind of detail I would usually suggest taking out, but my interest is piqued.

      I think the 250 is strong. I’m completely bowled over by it; it’s certainly not anything I haven’t seen before, but it’s solid and it seems like you know what you are doing. Regardless of how you do here, I think this is ready to send out.


      Another cute nickname, and another strong entry. I will say that this is a query that having the personal information stripped out of it probably damages it immensely. Whenever we’re dealing with African culture, I’m worried about authenticity, and particularly given the imaginative nature of this tale (ghosts of elephant matriarchs) knowing whether this story was researched or if you have spent time in Kenya, etc, would go a long way in quelling my concerns about the story.

      But, the rules of the contest (the kontest?) keep that stuff out, and that’s a tough break. Still, when you’re pitching it to agents, make sure your bonafides are in there.

      But, its strong, and well constructed. I think you know what you’re doing.

      The 250 is a strong, as well, but there are a few places that I feel it’s a little overwritten, and maybe trying just a little to hard to achieve a kid’s voice. At the same time, I feel it also has some wonderful turns-of-phrase, and the bit about the smile is wonderfully done.


      These entries are very evenly matched, despite being quite different in tone. I think both are ready for wider querying. …. You can’t feel it, but I’ve just spent five minutes at the screen trying to decide which of you to vote for. Grr.

      For the stronger 250, I’m voting for QUEST FOR CRUMBS.

    7. I didn’t look at the other comments, so I apologize in advance if I repeat.


      Query: Well written, good voice, interesting concept. One concern is the father coming across too trope. I’m not sure why he’s so opposed to her mother, then the MC helping others. I imagine it’s answered in the story, however. I also wonder if the stakes are true stakes, because it’s apparent from your query and first 250 that Ida is willing to endanger herself to help others, so I don’t imagine she’d choose the life of privilege her father offers.

      250: Nice beginning. I love how you use words, particularly the icy sea wind slapping her face. You do a great job building sympathy for Ida right from the start. What’s not to love about a character who is willing to risk herself to help someone else?


      Query: I lOVE the premise of this; so unique, like nothing I’ve seen before. It imagine you’ll get some interest when you query.

      I think you could easily cut the intro line and jump right into the first pov. With two povs to present in a query, why use words to tell us something that can be easily shown in the voice of one of the characters?

      250: Even without looking, I imagine other judges have said what I’ll say: I think you’re starting in the wrong place. From the query, I believe the most exciting parts of your story take place in Kenya. I think this is backstory that could be woven in as needed, i.e., on the plane or when she’s landing at the airport/en route to her grandmother’s. Unless the mother plays a significant role in the MS, why give her and her lack of smile much real estate in your early pages? You'll hook agents with your query, but you want to grab them and keep them reading right from your very first sentence.

      VICTORY to . . . (geez, another tough choice) . . . ELEPHANTS NEVER FORGET (for the exciting premise and my hope the action starts soon :) )

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


      Sounds like you've set up a really tough choice for your main character here and some high stakes - basically her mother's life for her own freedom.

      Definitely figure out what genre you're in. With the setting being a world based on Victorian and medieval, I'd say it'd lean toward historical or fantasy? It might help if we knew a little more about the world that she lives in.



      Wow, the premise here is certainly something I've never heard before! I really love the idea of a teen basically being haunted by the spirit of an elephant!

      Your hook isn't really hooking me - people who are culturally different cross paths all the time. You could simply start with "Denver teen Chessie is stuck wasting a whole summer..."

      Weird nitpicky thing, but do many houses have attics in Kenya?

      Victory to... ELEPHANTS NEVER FORGET!

    9. This is tough. I think ELEPHANTS has the stronger query, while CRUMBS has the stronger first page.

      For CRUMBS, the query is well-written. It delves a little into synopsis territory with the plot explanation, which works for a few lines, but you want to stay higher level by highlighting the main conflicts and the decision the character needs to make. This is included at the end, so great job, though I wished there was more on what the risks were to that choice and the lasting effect beyond what it means to the protagonist; are others affected?

      The first page is done well and captured my attention.


      The query drew me in right away. I get an immediate sense of the story, it sounds interesting, and I want to know more about Kenya and poaching and anything slightly mystical. Hooray for it actually sounding like Magical Realism and not straight up fantasy (difficult to capture!).

      The first page wasn't quite what I was expecting. The word smile is used a few too many times, so even though it's important, see if you can vary word usage. I think immediate immersion into being in Kenya would be great. Show Chessie as a fish out of water where we as readers can experience her "firsts" along with her. Maybe this means fast forward to a later scene or chapter 2, etc. And as a word of subjective advice, I would advise eschewing a transportation start with the character arriving at the airport or driving in since that is rather cliche. It can work, but it's a bit overdone.

      A close call, but ultimately:


  2. CRUMBS: Your query was good in that it set up the stakes very clearly but the repetition of the word freedom in your opening sentences, several times, made it a bit confusing. I had to re-read in order to grasp what you were saying. By removing one mention or making it a positive sentence ("She had freedom alright. Freedom to breath and to thumb her nose at the guards but that's about it.") I think you'd create a tighter opening. Your 250: Was great! Again, stakes were set up and we learn immediately who the MC is. A fighter, someone a bit reckless but with a moral compass and willing to defy her mother.

    IVORY: This query hooked me fast! I eagerly read your 250 based on the query and got distracted by all the smile mentions which broke the rhythm for me each time. Try removing one or two. I also was unclear on who was thinking "don't you dare say nothing." Moreover, does your story have to begin here? I'm assuming the setting of this chapter isn't Africa based on the description or if it is, try strengthening the imagery so we know where we are right off the bat.

    Both: Great concepts and great stakes!!

  3. Quest for Crumbs

    Query – The query is very clear about what’s at stake for Ida, but I’m struggling to understand the dad’s motivation (why is he tyrannical? why would he want her back?). Is there more there than megalomania? A glimpse behind the curtain would make him a more dynamic villain.

    But I love your 250 - tantalizing world building with a mood that sucked me right in. I would definitely keep reading this!

    Ivory Needle

    Query – Wow, this is intense. There’s a lot of information and I had to read it a couple times to get a grasp of the plot points and characters’ motivation. My only suggestion is to trim some of the less-essential details (ex: “when the rains never come and their last goat is dragged off by a starving lion”) to help streamline the query. You do an excellent job of establishing the character’s voices.

    Though the 250 didn’t start where I expected (I thought she would be in Kenya already), your first line was a sucker punch to my heart.

    Excellent work!!

  4. Crumbs -
    This sounds like an interesting story and the query sets out clear stakes. I wonder -- if her mother works/loses her job, is there a reason Ida can't work, too? The first 250 seems like it's starting after Ida's been kicked out by her father since only her mother is mentioned -- but I may completely wrong. While I admire Ida's desire to help her mother's oldest friend, wouldn't her mother's refusal to do the same at least spark a kernel of fear in Ida? I think adding in some worry for her own safety as she sneaks out would ground the scene.

    Elephants -
    I love the idea bout an 'average' girl being drawn into a mystical yet real journey to save the elephants. I also loved the voice: 'No phone. No friends. No fair.' In the first 250, there's a typo in the 5th paragraph: '...the chair the chair'. The following line in italics also stopped me. My first thought was this was the elephant spirit, but she hasn't gotten to Kenya yet. If it's the mc's thoughts, it needs a bit of fleshing out.

  5. THE QUEST FOR CRUMBS - Query is great. Honestly, I don't have much to recommend, except for a minor quibble at the end: Ida's two options are both awful, so I'm assuming she ends up going with a third. If I'm right, maybe provide just a hint of that? 250: Excellent job establishing the setting. My only suggestion would be to cut the line "Her mother never listened to reason" - your prose is strong enough that it's clear that the mother's not listening to reason now.

    ELEPHANTS NEVER FORGET - Query: you have one of the freshest premises I've seen in this contest, or elsewhere - well done! I'm not sold on the stakes you have for Daniel. Deciding how much of his soul he'll sell for a payday? His family's starving, which to me makes the choice a lot easier. 250: I really like the "everything seems great and that's a sign it isn't" opening. And the line about the smile being like one from the mall is pitch-perfect. Great voice. I'd suggest a minor tweak to the opening sentence: "you" is a stand-in for the narrator's "I", which is also used, and that's a bit clunky. "When your family falls apart, you begin to think nothing will ever be the same again" conveys the same idea but sticks to one pronoun.

  6. Quest: Interesting concept! It might help to know a bit more about what Ida’s world was like with her father. Regarding the stakes, it seems obvious to me what Ida will do; and if she didn’t stay with her mother, I’m not sure she’s very likable. Is there another way to add tension to the story? I really liked Ida’s determination and stubbornness in your first 250, and you’ve got some nice sensory details. The dialogue didn’t feel completely natural for me.

    Elephants: You’ve got a fascinating concept! The query was too wordy for me. I think making it shorter and punchier would be helpful. I get it that all the details feel important to you, but I think you can get your point across even if you omit some (e.g., cutting down the history of the needle). I really enjoyed your first 250 words. Your descriptions of her mother’s various smiles are fantastic!

  7. The Quest for Crumbs:

    At first glance I thought this would be a recycled dystopian, but I really like the concept and the conflict. I found the query to be clean and solid. I’m curious as to how she gets away with smuggling food to her mother when she can’t even sleep unwatched, but I’m not sure it’s necessary to include it in the query.

    I’m not sure the story started in the right spot, and the dialogue felt a little forced.

    Elephants Never Forget:

    The query does a great job introducing us to the two main characters. Consider omitting culturally in the first line to improve the flow, and instead of Denver teen, maybe use Denver-native or Denver-born since it’s already established that Chessie is a teen in the line above.

    The only line I thought needs to be reworked is the “Chessie must conquer her fears and seize any opportunity to escape.” It felt vague. Daniel has to decide how much of his soul he’s willing to sell for a payday--I want more from Chessie.

    In the first 250, the word smile is a bit overused. The line about his freckled nose and the bird made me laugh.

    I want to read both these stories. This was a tough one for me…

    Victory goes to: ELEPHANTS NEVER FORGET

  8. Wow - love the originality of both of these stories.

    Yes, you're missing your genre, and I do wonder about the medieval/Victorian mashup - but I'll reserve judgment there as I'd have to read it to know how successful it is. The concept is good, the query polished. As for the 250, you've got me wanting to read more. Though is conflict with the mother where you really want to start, if the main conflict is with the father? I wish I had more to feedback to give, but it's really strong.

    This hit all my buttons: original, diverse, and social issues. Just what my teachers are looking for in a "book club" read! I thought the query was very polished, but I agree with the above commenter that rewording "Denver teen" would be smoother. As for your 250, yes, the word smile is way over-used. I love the prose and would definitely continue to read more - EXCEPT I too think you may have started in the wrong place. But I love this, and I'm hoping to see it published.

  9. CRUMBS: I like this idea, but I wanted to see more world-building in the query, even if it's as simple as saying "The daughter of a conquering tyrant in post-apocalyptic England, Ida ..." Also, this may be formatting, but the "Mr" without the period threw me off. I also am hoping that there are twists - her mother has a secret, she finds a sibling she never knew about, whatever - because I'm not sure the set-up that I see here is enough to keep me engaged.

    ELEPHANTS: I like the premise and love that it is set in Kenya, but my big worry here is about authenticity. I agree with the comment that mentioned adding your research, background, etc. into the query. If Chessie is white, I'm a little concerned about her coming to save the day in Kenya. My other issue is around the line "selling the soul for a payday" because it sounds judgmental when you've set up the stakes pretty well - he believes he either has to poach or his family will starve and die, right? I did love the lines around her mother's smile and it's clear you have a great ability to frame family dynamics.

  10. The quest for crumbs

    I like the time period, the main character and the concept. I like the voice a lot! Yet I’m not sold, and I know I should be. I think some clarification and clean up would make the difference.

    The query: While the conflict is clear, the stakes are not. Ida’s father is a tyrant so, freed of him, why would she go back, even for crumbs? If he’s that cruel and controlling why didn’t she run away instead waiting to be cast out? The problem may be that he’s too coarsely drawn in the query, or that we haven’t seen what keeps Ida tied to her father’s world. If it’s his might, I want to see that clearly in the query. If it’s something Ida wants holding her back, I want to know that too. I think I want to know more about Ida’s internal makeup, not just what she’s facing externally. What makes her perspective unique?

    The 250: “Ida couldn’t wait until dawn” could be interpreted as excitement or anxious suspense and I took it as excitement because the query implied we’d start in her father’s compound/castle. That confusion rapidly clears up, but it set me off-balance from the beginning. I then stumbled as we leap backward in time into Ida’s memory of her confrontation with her mother, which didn’t carry any tension because Ida was already out of the house by the time she remembers, and nothing bad seems to be happening to her. The rest is so vivid that I want these little problems fixed so I can tuck in and read the book!

    The Ivory Needle.

    The Query: This is such a unique take on the teen girl and boy fantasy adventure. I get excited just thinking about it because it seems like story that should always have existed. I’m already imaging the cover and how it looks on the shelf. I love the concept of an ivory needle and an elephant matriarch, both of them have an immediate visual memory impact – I can see them. I only have two suggestions for the query. The first is to say “her tusks” rather than “its tusks” as Jhelani is a character in her own right and a matriarch. The second is to be more explicit about the threat to Chessie and Daniel from the poachers. I’ve read enough about the violence of modern Elephant poaching to be terrified on their behalf, but it might be good to spell it out a little more.

    The 250: I think some other people have objected to the disconnect between the query and the 250. That didn’t bother me because I like the voice so much (you expressed the teenage “oh this isn’t right” mindset so clearly). What you might want to do to get the best of both worlds is to have Chessie remember the experience as she’s flying to Kenya.

    I desperately want to read this.