Sunday, March 15, 2009

First Pages: PB / A Very Nice Rock

Abby found a rock.
It was the size of a plum, dark gray, and roundish.
Good voice, nice pace.

I would like to pause and just remind writers that editors really can tell stuff like this from your first two lines. Already this manuscript has made a good impression... and there are plenty of other manuscripts that I've rejected based on the first two lines. Never underestimate how closely your editor will be reading what you've written.
A very nice rock. Abby took it inside and washed it with soap and water.
I don't think you need that last sentence. Most kinds will feel a rock that doesn't have obvious dirt on it is "clean." And this story isn't about relative cleanliness, is it?
She put the rock on the table next to her plate.
“Abby, rocks do not belong on the table.”
“You’re right, Mom. Pets should eat on the floor.”
Cut that last sentence, too. You're handing it to us. Show, don't tell. It's ok if she just puts in on the floor without comment and it takes us the next couple scenes to see that the rock is a pet/friend.
“That is not a pet,” Mom said. “That is a rock. And it’s dirty. Please wash your hands.”
“He’s clean, Mom. I gave him a bath.”
You could cut these lines, too, I think.
The next day during recess, Abby sent the rock down the slide. She buried it in the sandbox. She pushed it on the swing.
Walking home from school, Abby heard a sound. Rumble, rumble. But when she looked, nothing was there.
“Abby, come here!”. Mom was pointing into Abby's room.
The transition here from street to indoors was confusing. Does she need to hear the "rumble rumble"? Other solution?
Abby's eyes opened wide. The floor was completely covered with rocks. Big rocks, small rocks, tiny rocks. Bumpy rocks and smooth rocks. Rocks of every shape and color.
Abby saw the open window. She remembered the rumbling. “They must have followed me home from school.”
"Don’t be silly,” Mom said. “Please pick them up.”
Abby piled all the rocks in the corner of her room. “Maybe I’ll start a rock collection.”

Well, I'm certainly turning the page. Good storytelling, overall. I'm very curious about how this wraps up. If it's clever, you may have something quite publishable here.


Deirdre Mundy said...

I like it! Abby's character seems very likeable and like someone my pre-schoolers could relate to.

If the solution to the problem is as great as its beginning, I'd definitly pick it up/ give it as a gift!

Laurel said...

Yayy! Another first page!

Author: Great beginning and end of your excerpt! I love the rock pile in the bedroom. I also like the scene with the child and the rock at the playground a lot.

You lose me in the traveling scenes; the parts where the child is moving from house to school, etc. The transitions aren't smooth enough, in my opinion.

Overall, a fun piece, though!

Merry Monteleone said...

I really liked this... again, I don't write picture books, so I've got very little in the way of critique help... but my son found a rock when he was four that he named Sham Rock - I kid you not, and it's odd this story would pop up around St. Patrick's day...

He called him Shammy. Drew a face on him, made him a bed. Later, when he started kindergarten, he drew a backpack on the back side of the rock and brought him for show and tell.

My son's six now. Shammy still sits on his nightstand. It's the one thing that never gets lost - if you ever saw his room you'd know how impressive that statement is.

That was a huge digression, but at least you know there are four to six year olds out there that could get into a story about a girl and her rock.

Good luck with it!

Chris Eldin said...

Kudos!!! Very, very nice!!

(Can you give us a peek at the ending?)

ae said...

This is nice.

I love Abby's slight defiance; and I am so happy that you made your protag a girl.

And the language is great and heartfelt.

Reminds me a bit of a younger Scout (my favorite book character of all time).


Thanks EA. These critiques are so helpful.

Yat-Yee said...

Intriguing story, simple and engaging voice: congrats.

Anonymous said...

This is mine. Thanks for all the nice comments everyone (and for your encouraging critique, EA). It makes me feel like I don't suck. And the that's very important. EA, all these first page critiques are so wonderful and informative. Thank you for your generosity.

And, Merry, I don't know why, but kids love rocks. When I put this through my critique group, at least four members commented on how they find "stray" rocks all over their house. My husband collected rocks long after he was a little boy.

150 said...

I had a pet rock. Made her clothes and a house and everything.

Nothing constructive to say, just thanks for the memories. :)

Nerd Goddess said...

I really like it so far! It seems like it's going to be an adorable sort of book. And Abby is definitely a child, not an adult looking back on childhood. :)

reader said...

I hope this gets published, Anon! Wishing you luck!

Anonymous said...

Rocks following a kid home is a nice, original premise. I definitely want to know what she's going to do about it. And I agree with EA's cuts -- the storytelling is just a little loose for a picture book, and the dialogue just a little too naturalistic.

The sequence of events at the end is seeming unlikely to me. The rocks follow Abby home, and then somehow get past her to arrive before her, and she doesn't notice them? She hears the rumble, but doesn't look around to see what's causing it?

Piling all the rocks seems like a big job, and big jobs are interesting to young children. Maybe you could make this more exciting, by playing up how long it takes, how heavy the big ones are, how much room the pile takes up, etc.

Maybe this is just a matter of taste -- but I'd like Abby to have a name that's not one of the most popular little-kid names right now. "Abby" kind of dates the story. And a less-common name can signal that the protagonist is somebody special and interesting.

This is maybe a matter of taste, too -- I think the totally, pointlessly unsympathetic parent is a little bit boring and overdone. Obviously, I don't know whether it's necessary to your plot that Mom be that way.

There are some really nice, specific and interesting bits in here -- the opening, the way she plays with the rock, Abby's decision to keep all the rocks.

Stephanie Denise said...

I loved this first page and I wanted to see more! I hope it gets published someday soon. :)

Sheila said...

Very cute. Like your critique group parents, I was finding rocks in my house all the time. Then I read a story to my kids called Everybody Needs A Rock. Emphasis on "A rock" as in, ONE. It didn't help.

Good luck with this!

Buffra said...

From the first page, this is one that I'd buy for my small friends. I love the idea of her playing with the rock on the playground and am curious what happens when the other rocks follow her home.