HH Com Rd 3 -#2 (29)

Leonardo's Secret (hook here)

Yesterday, Richie Parsons had returned his very overdue books—"Football Stars of the 1970's" and "Extreme Board Game Review"--to the library.

Today, Richie had to face the consequences.

"Dude, they're gonna make you clean out trash cans!" his best friend Jackson Gomez whispered to him in the cafeteria. Jack's eyes darted left and right.

"I don't know what they'll make me do," Richie said, biting into a ketchup-soaked fry.

"I heard a bully girl hangs out there and she like eats sixth-graders for snack!" Jack said.

"Who told you that?" Richie asked with a gulp. Maybe he could just quit school, escape to South America and grow a beard.

But since he'd spent his allowance on comic books, he really had no choice. After school, Richie walked into the Summerville Public Library with Jack's words echoing in his mind.

Librarian Jessica Goodwin sat at the desk adjusting the spines of old books. She didn't seem to notice Richie as he opened the wooden gate separating the librarians from the children sitting at the tables with faces drooped in their homework. (We're in Richie's POV-"Mrs Goodwin sat" has a better feel. We know she's the librarian and Richie doesn't know her full name probably)

Richie sat down in a chair opposite Mrs. Goodwin. She was now flipping through the books. She ignored him while Richie cleared his throat and fidgeted.

"Please don't just sit there like a rock, young man. Pick up a book and inspect it," Mrs. Goodwin said. She never did take her bifocals (does Richie know what bifocals are?) off the book she was looking through. Richie picked up a book with a green binding ("V is for Victory Garden") which looked as old as the librarian. He opened it and flipped through the pages. The musty smell came back at him in a flurry. At the section on tomatoes a small bookmark fell out and Richie threw it in the trash. So far, so good.

Just then, a girl walked up to the gate. She had long brown hair pulled back into a tight ponytail . Her face was full of freckles and she wore a baseball shirt with half sleeves. "Aunt Jessica, do you want me to wait for him or should I shelve now?" she asked Mrs. Goodwin.

"We'll just be a minute, Shirley Temple. Why don't you get something to read until then?" The librarian went back to work on her stack of books as the girl left.

Mrs. Goodwin's hands worked on the old books as if they were on autopilot. She unfolded the dog-ears, smoothed out the wrinkles and adjusted the spines. More than just a book doctor, she was a book nurse who gave them tender loving care.

"Mrs. Goodwin, what should I do?" Richie asked, after a few moments.

"Fiction is alphabetical by the author's last name, so take this stack." She stood up and pushed the cart over to him. "And remember, if the first letters are the same, use the numbers."

Maybe cleaning trash cans would have been more fun. Richie rolled the cart to section A-C and shelved one by Anderson, and another by Anthony. The third book was written by O'Malley, so he turned the corner and headed to the "O-N" aisle. But the girl with the strange name blocked him, and in fact she sat exactly where he needed to shelve O'Malley.

"I have to shelve this," Richie said.

"Then shelve it," the girl said. She wore jeans that bell-bottomed around her canvas tennis shoes. She had drawn pictures of winged horses on her pants.

"The shelf's behind you."

"I'm reading," she said.

"Well there's a whole library for you to read…" he bent over to read the title of her book, "The Bride of Donnigan."

She seemed to get even more irritated. "It's 'A Bride for Donnigan' and it's none of your business what I read, so get!" (you don't need to describe how they talk-what they say, and your sentence structure should tell us)

"Just move your butt for a second and I can put the stupid book on the shelf!"

"You mean this book?" The girl stood up and snatched the book right out of his hand. Now she'd done it!

"Give it back!" Richie hollered. (again with the description) An unseen librarian shushed him as she put the book up nearly to his face to taunt him.

Richie was set to grab it from her hand when he felt the hardcover of O'Malley smash his nose as the girl punched the back of the book. He yelled and felt the blood drip out of his nostrils. While he bled all over the Summerville Public Library rug, Richie remembered Jack's words: he'd met the library's bully girl alright.

You're telling not showing in key places. At the climax of this scene, you've got long ass sentences when shorter more focused ones will SHOW us what's happening. This needs some of that book nursing.


Stacia said...

Do librarians tell children to "inspect" books? Wouldn't "read" be better there?

Richie was set to grab it from her hand when he felt the hardcover of O'Malley smash his nose as the girl punched the back of the book. He yelled and felt the blood drip out of his nostrils.

You're removing immediacy by telling us what Richie feels. Instead of, "he felt the hardcover of O'Malley smash his nose, "the hardcover of O'Malley smashed his nose." (Or really, just "the book smashed into his nose", we know it's a hardcover). "He yelled through the blood pouring from his nostrils" or "he yelled as blood started pouring/dripping from his nose" (I think nose injuries bleed a lot, so pour is more likely than drip) instead of "He yelled as he felt blood drip..."

See the difference?

I like the "kids vs. adults" feel here, and I like the last line.

Anonymous said...

So I didn't suffer very much from this critique! *exhale*
Thanks Miss Snark!
-the author

Anonymous said...

The first 140 words appear to serve no purpose but to make Richie fearful of going to the library. This is prime real estate; cut to the library right away, and let Richie's reactions to being there bring out his misgivings. This will get you to the conflict faster.

Also, you have a POV leak here: "More than just a book doctor, she was a book nurse who gave them tender loving care."

Although I liked your premise and the writing's not bad, it didn't particularly draw me in. But I'm not into middle grade (is that a category?), so I'm not the best judge of that.

Good luck with it.


Anonymous said...

The very beginning confused me. The books are "very" overdue, and obviously from the seventies, which made me picture an adult now returning twnety-five-year late books. But then it was clear that they were kids. So I made the adjustment to them being *in* the seventies--at least, I think they are--are they? Or is he into retro? I'm still not sure!

LindaBudz said...

Good job! I like the voice and the setup ... especially having a girl as the bully. Some great suggestions from Miss S and the snarklings. Good luck with it!!!

Kiki said...

I was looking forward to these pages from the hook, but the opening confused me.
I'd keep going for a little longer to see where the actual story takes off.

The POV descriptions feel a bit big and flowery for a male sixth-grader. They sound a bit too female/adult to me (one of my pet peeves in middle grade/YA writing).
I'd try and get more mileage out of each description by using punchier verbs and more evocative, short imagery. It would also help pick up the pace.

So far, all that's happened is that Richie returned some obscure books late (how late?), watched the librarian pet books, and got punched by a bully for trying to shelve a book.

Sherryl said...

This has a nice feel to it, and I like when the conflict starts with the girl. All the stuff at the librarian's desk seemed unnecessary, and the tension dropped away.
Kids need action and lots of story questions right away to hold their interest. There are some here, but if the first 400 words were really tightened up, they'd work better.
Good luck.
(and these 750 words are all great for learning what works and what doesn't!)

A Paperback Writer said...

I was quite interested in this, but I still think the use of the name Shirley Temple is confusing. Very few kids this age will know who the original child was, and the way you've used the name makes it sound like a full name, not just a given name -- so it really sounds odd in the sentence. Perhaps you have a truly excellent reason for using this name; I hope it'll make sense to kids.

McKoala said...

This didn't work 100% for me, but I'm having difficulty in seeing exactly why. POV shifts do bother me, so does telling not showing, and yes, perhaps it takes too long to get to the conflict with Shirley. Maybe it's the tone? Mostly it's Richie's POV, but it doesn't sound like a young boys' voice. Is it omniscient? I'm not quite convinced of that either.

I'm a bit torn. I like the sassy 'heroine', though, and I think I'd read on, but I'm not sure how far I would get.

Fuchsia Groan said...

I love Shirley Temple as a name for a "bully girl." I'm hoping you'll have some backstory on that eventually. (And I'm guessing the name comes from a grandma or great-aunt or something, unless your story really is set in the '70s. Speaking of which... I edit for a gaming mag, and "extreme board games" still exist! They're pretty nerdy, though.)

Anonymous said...

I don't buy that a public library would let a 6th grader shelve books.