Sunday, June 24, 2018

QK Round 4 Match 1: Got Me A Daddy Map vs. Shiver Me Timbers

Title: Mama's Chicken & Dumplings
Entry Nickname: Got Me a Daddy Map
Word Count: 38K
Genre: #Ownvoices MG Historical 


Ten-year-old Allie’s anger can be a hot-comb sitting on the flame of a stove. Sometimes that copper pressing comb of emotion turns red hot and she does things she later regrets. She wants to stay calm. But emotions are hard to handle, especially when people think your mama’s an improper woman. Allie knows—it’s not Mama’s fault she isn’t married yet has a child. The only reason Allie’s breathing is because of that no-good man who forced himself on Mama. Why Mama didn’t leave her on the steps of the A & P when she born, Allie isn’t sure. But one thing’s certain. Allie’s full-up with empty inside because of it, and she’s going to fill it by finding mama a decent husband.

That’s why she and her cousin Julius Caesar create a daddy map and hunt for potential suitors for Mama. When they find a good prospect—men who like to sing, have a kind smile, and most importantly love Mama's chicken and dumplings—Allie draws a red crayon heart above their names. Before long, Allie and Caesar fix their mind on Mr. Rawls, their band teacher, The One! But when Allie discovers who Mr. Rawls is related to, she throws out his jar of chicken and dumplings and covers over his red heart with a black crayon.

Mama’s Chicken & Dumplings is a 38,000-word, middle-grade novel with a colorful backdrop of Chicago's South Side’s better days of the early 1940s.

First 250:

I’m sitting on the stoop of our brownstone, brushing my old doll’s hair when the fat man comes, smiling his fat smile. He’s come to collect the rent. But I ain’t worried. Whenever Mama comes home from cleaning, she goes straight to her coffee tin and in goes her money. Clink. Clink. She ain’t spared not even a penny, not even to me, though I shed me some tears.

“Please, please,” I’d say. “Let me run down to Mr. Malone’s store and get me a Mary Jane.” Mama’s real tight with pennies, so I’m sure she’s got enough. Least, I hope.

The fat man rings the bell. Ring. Mama will know that’s for her. If he’d rung it two times together—ring, ring, like that—loud-mouth Miss Zelda in her housedress with shout-out colors and a scarf round her head would’ve come from the second floor. Had it been three times, old Mr. Potterfield, who’s up on the third floor, would’ve opened his window and hollered “Who!” And if it wasn’t anybody he knew, he’d grumble like the back of a garbage packer squeezing down trash and slam the window.

One ring is all, and Mama will be at the door, letting the fat man in.

Course, I could let him in, but since he’s acting like he can’t see me sitting here, right up under his feet, I decide I ain’t paying him no mind at all. And I ain’t letting him in. He’ll have to wait for Mama.


Entry Nickname: Shiver Me Timbers
Word Count: 48000 words
Genre: Middle Grade, Adventure/Fantasy


Twelve-year-old Ollie Bancroft is a kid genius and engineering prodigy, but in his sleepy coastal town of Deadmen, Newfoundland, people couldn’t care less. Ollie is a Bancroft after all, descendant of William Bancroft: the man who killed the infamous pirate Black Bart and ended his reign of terror. No matter what Ollie does he can’t escape the legendary pirate connection, and to make things worse, he’s the only one in Deadmen who doesn’t believe it. As far as Ollie’s concerned, the legend is nothing more than a fairy tale to attract tourists to a dying town.
When Ollie stumbles upon a supposedly cursed compass with the power to bring Black Bart back to life, he sees his opportunity to finally stop all the pirate nonsense once and for all. Like a serious scientist he conducts an experiment to prove the curse is bogus, only to prove that the curse is very real. Black Bart and his crew of rotten goons return from the dead — just in time to spoil the town’s annual pirate festival — hungry to wreak revenge upon Deadmen, especially anyone unlucky enough to be named Bancroft.
With the help of his best friend Emma, his sea dog grandpa, and his reluctant mom, Ollie must use his wits and considerable knowledge of booby-traps to thwart Black Bart before he resurrects his entire pirate army and plunders the seven seas.
OLLIE BANCROFT AND THE UNDEAD PIRATE PROBLEM is a MG novel complete at 48,000 words. It is fast-paced and jam-packed with adventure, combining S.T.E.M elements with actual history into fantastical, spooky fiction.


“You know how you’re always asking why kids think you’re weird?” Emma whispered in Ollie’s ear.

Ollie’s shoulders slumped. He scuffed his boot against the glossy convention center floor. “Yeah,” he sighed.

“This, Ollie,” Emma said, patting him on the back. “Stuff just like this.”

A girl stood before them, crying so hard a snot bubble inflated unnoticed from her right nostril. Just behind her loomed her science project, a bright diorama covered with glitter, out-of-focus poodle photographs, and the title: ‘RUFFLES: EVERYDAY POODLE, OR MUSICAL PRODIGY?’

Moments earlier, the girl had enthusiastically given Ollie and Emma a sneak-peak at her presentation. She hadn’t even been a minute through before Ollie criticized it in a dozen ways, causing her freckled face to burst like a ruptured dam.

“I’m sorry,” Ollie pled with the girl. “I’m really sorry, okay?” He awkwardly put out his hand and patted the air above her shoulder. “I could be wrong. I’m probably wrong. Maybe it is a real science project? Maybe … your dog barking along to boy band songs is science, after all?”

With a whimper, the girl wiped her eyes and stopped crying. Her snot bubble burst.

“Of course,” Ollie said more to himself than to her, “a person’s musical taste doesn’t really factor in the scientific method, so I don’t see why Ruffles, would matter to any —“

“Ollie!” Emma said, smacking him on the arm.

“Ouch,” Ollie winced.

Beneath the table, Ruffles — easily identifiable by the sparkly letters on his name tag — growled ferociously behind the bars of a pink kennel.


  1. Judges, please vote here. Good luck.

    1. Two excellent entries in this round.

      Got Me a Daddy Map: My only suggestion regards this line in your query: "it’s not Mama’s fault she isn’t married yet has a child". Consider rephrasing because the placement of "yet" feels awkward. I love the voice in your first 250. Well done!

      Shiver Me Timbers: I remember this entry from round 1. I loved it then, and I love it now. Pirates!

      Tough choice, but I award...

      Victory to DADDY MAP!

    2. What fantastic entries! In Mama's Chicken & Dumplings, I would suggest combining 'But one thing's for certain' and the following sentence 'Allie's full-up...' Also, capitalize mama in the last sentence of the first paragraph: '...finding Mama a decent husband'

      I love the voice in the first 250 words and already have a great feel for the main character. The tone is set, and I'd love to read more.

      In Ollie Bancroft, what great stakes! The query is very clear and concise. I love the snot bubble in the first 250-great visual!

      This was a tough choice, but my vote is Mama's Chicken & Dumplings for the win!

    3. Wow. This is tough! I've never seen the Pirate one before now, and it's fantastic!! Totally want to read. And for Daddy Map, I love this even more now that you've clarified in the query why Mr. Rawls gets a black heart. Shoot! I have no idea which one to go with. I love these equally.

      This could really go either way. Good thing is, you've both been to the agent round so this is really just a cherry on top of the sundae. I don't know.

      Let's do Victory to DADDY MAP!

    4. The voice of GOT ME A DADDY MAP hooks my attention immediately. The premise is clear and entertaining. My only regret from this query was not knowing who Mr. Rawls was related to that earned his name being crossed out.

      The first 250 from SHIVER ME TIMBERS makes we grin every time I read it. I leave this query very clear on the plot of the story I'm going to dive into.


    5. I love the voice in DADDY MAP. Its a tough topic, but it seems to be handled with sensitivity. SHIVER ME TIMBERS also has great voice. I absolutely adore the premise, I think this is so unique and kids will love it.

      Victory to SHIVER ME TIMBERS!

    6. Congrats to you both on making it this far and making our jobs so difficult. Seriously, how can we judge two such great entries?

      You both nailed the voice and characters. I'm going to have to go with the entry that really gets across clear goals, motivations, and conflicts. But, please know I'll be rooting for you both to be in libraries and bookstores very soon!


    7. You both have excellent queries and outstanding voice. This is a really tough match-up––I wish you both the best of luck querying!

      I'm going to say:


    8. 2 GREAT entries that I look forward to having on MG shelves in the coming years.

      DADDY MAP: LOVE how visual the query is. And the voice! So wonderful and intriguing.

      SHIVER: Cute and clever voice in the opening 250. Also think that your query has a strong hook.


    9. No one of consequenceJune 25, 2018 at 11:39 AM

      Still love the voice on Daddy Map, and still think Shiver is fun.

      I'm going with the voice.


    10. You can hear it as you read it. That's powerful!


    11. These are both amazing. Congrats to both authors!

      DADDY MAP:
      I like that you took out the metaphor about rain in the query. But I think your closing sentence might be too specific now, as there isn't much else to ground it. Also, because you're closing out the blurb, I'd rather get a sense of what the MC MUST do, not what she's actually doing. You could keep it as is, and then add "She has to find a way to stop Mama's relationship with him" or something way better than that, but with a sense of a goal not yet reached. That way, we don't feel like the story's already over. If you just say "There's a problem, and here's how she reacts", we lose tension. You want the reader to have a question at the end.

      Your first page is excellent. I love the voice, and what's said about the neighbors is really funny and adds to the atmosphere.

      I love the voice in this query. I got a little confused by the sentence starting with "Like a serious scientist..." because it uses "to prove" in two opposite ways. You might want to try splitting into two sentences, i.e. "Like a serious scientist, he sets out to prove that the curse is bogus. So he conducts an experiment, only to prove..."

      Your first page is not only hilarious but accomplishes everything a first page should. It gives us a glimpse into who the main character is and puts him in a challenging situation right off the bat.

      In conclusion, these are both going to be on my shelves. I'm calling it. But since I have to vote:


    12. Oh man, both of these are so good. You're making our job super hard!

      I adore DADDY MAP. I saw it previously and fell in love. The voice absolutely sings. I feel like this is the kind of book that will absolutely sweep me away, and I can't wait to be able to read the whole thing.

      This is my first time with SHIVER ME TIMBERS. Your query and first page were an absolute delight. When I first saw the query, I worried it was too long, but it kept me totally engaged all the way through. And those pages! I could totally visualize it.

      It's hard, because I love these both so much, but victory goes to...SHIVER ME TIMBERS!

  2. Son of a biscuit. I really, really, REALLY like both of these entries!!

    GOT ME A DADDY MAP is fun and creative. The voice is KILLER, the query is great (my *only* issue with the query is one line that I kept stumbling over: it’s not Mama’s fault she isn’t married yet has a child. I kept reading "married yet" as in "yet to get married"--not "she has a child and isn't married." I may be the only one who is tripping over that, so disregard if my brain is playing tricks on me...). I love that this book is historical, too.

    And SHIVER ME TIMBERS still has me smiling--Ollie is quirky, and real and oh my goodness how many kids do I know who have zero filter? The voice here is also fantastic and the story is one I think a lot of kids (and adults!) would enjoy reading.

    To me, these stories are even. There isn't one thing that stands out above the other. Both are solid contenders and it's easy to see how your two entries came out on top.

    I had to dig out my trusty Query Kombat Quarter. Best 2 out of 3 and the victory goes to:


  3. So floored my entry moves on! Thanks, judges, for your time and kind remarks!