The Plan by Cheryl Miller-Fitzgerald
Thinking back, there was nothing to distinguish that Sunday from any other Sunday. Matt and Josh sat on the floor of their room plotting how to quit Hebrew school so they could play video games while their mom made pancakes and their grandma read the newspaper.
Born a minute apart, the eleven year old twins never agreed on anything, not ice cream (cotton candy vs. chocolate) superheroes (Spiderman vs. the Hulk) or even sports (soccer vs. basketball.) Until now, and after weeks of strategizing, were sure their plan was flawless: to feign stomach aches and whine in unison until their mom had no choice but to give in.
But their plan backfired when she exploded and banished them outside, indefinitely. Instead of stepping onto their suburban New Jersey lawn, they found themselves in a Bronx courtyard in the 50s, where the only technology was a 20 inch black and white television and an AM radio.
Dodging children who were actually playing outside, they had to navigate a world that was different (no Wi-Fi!) and yet the same (bullies, prejudice), and figure out how to get home – without a GPS. Just when they were ready to give up, they met a girl who was even more conniving than them, and who just might be…Grandma?
A cross between Back to the Future and the Magic Tree House, this book should appeal to middle school readers. I am a journalist and parent to twins who play too many video games.
The Book Doctors: This pitch has a lot going for it: fish-out-of-water twins suddenly deprived of technology, how much things have changed and yet how little, and a great elevator pitch, Back to the Future meets Magic Tree House. I also like the sentence you use to describe yourself. It’s fun and self-deprecating, but at the same time, it shows us you actually have special insight into twins and that you have the skills of a journalist. I don’t think the pitch starts with enough of a bang. I know it’s supposed to show us that this is just another day in the life, but it might be good to incorporate some suspense into that first line. “Matt and Josh thought it would be just another Sunday spent plotting how to quit Hebrew school and play unlimited video games, little did they know they’d end up [some specific ‘50s image from the book] in the year 1954.”
The problem is, I don’t really fall in love with these kids. I don’t understand what they desperately want that they don’t have. I’m not rooting for them to succeed at something, besides leaving the ‘50s and getting back home without a GPS. And really what you have here is the setup for a story. One of the difficulties about pitching a story like this is that there’re so many stories about time travel. It is very well mined territory. We have to understand what’s different and unique about your time travel story. What are you bringing to the party we’ve never seen before? Frankly, seeing grandma when she was a kid seems very derivative of Back to the Future. Think about how great the plot to that movie is. We don’t get any sense of what events in your story are going to lead to a crazy climax that will have us telling all our friends about how great this book is. Throwing around ideas like “bullies” and “prejudice” is a classic example of Telling versus Showing. How are your versions of bullying and prejudice different and unique and scary and gripping? How are you spinning this familiar scenario in a way that we’ve never seen before?