Spring Lake School Boys: Where’s Our Larry? by Patricia Walsh
Who knew that the much-loved, and a little bit scary, janitor of Spring Lake School is the school’s most valuable person? Larry the janitor, who calls students Turkey Heads, creates milk-spilling, lunchroom chaos, and encourages nonsense and silliness in the hallways, suddenly goes missing without explanation. Solving the mystery falls to three best-friend-fifth-graders—Lenny, Noah, and Angelo. But finding Larry is only part of their story. These clever boys also need to find a way to get both Larry and fun back to Spring Lake School. Their plan is so audacious that it is in danger of being stopped cold by Principal Nickels (nickname: “Old Buffalo), a rule-enforcing, fun-squashing principal who started this trouble in the first place.
I have written several non-fiction books for early and middle-grade readers, including co-authored titles in the series Life Cycle of a…, (Heinemann), which were named among Science Books & Films Best Science Books for Children 2002. School Library Journal called my Draw-It series (Heinemann) a valuable addition to the how-to-draw books by renown authors Leon J. Ames and Ed Emberley. As a former third-grader teacher with a Masters in Teaching and more than 20 years as a writer and editor in educational publishing, I incorporate sound reading skills in my stories. My goal: To write entertaining books, which exemplify good values and incorporate the reading skills we teach.
The Book Doctors: This is a really fun, old-fashioned story that still has a place in the world. The school janitor is an iconic figure that’s been around for a long time, and will continue to be around as long as kids puke on floors. We love the three plucky kids solving the crime, Hardy Boys-style. And of course they uncover a much bigger story that involves the mean principal. The fact that you are going to incorporate reading skills into the story, with your expertise as a former teacher with a Masters in Teaching, is gravy on the cake, and icing on the meat. However, some of this does sound a little too familiar. The fun-squashing principal has been a staple of this kind of story for decades. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is already 30 years old, and they went to great lengths to torment and torture that anal-retentive character. We need to see what you’re going to do with this time-honored tradition that we haven’t seen before. And don’t tell us the boys are clever, let us come to that conclusion by showing them doing something clever. We want to see more of the nonsense and silliness this kooky janitor brings to the party. Milk-spilling lunchroom chaos doesn’t really sound very original, inventive or new. What kind of fun are our heroes trying to bring back? Again, as in all these pitches, as in all writing, your story starts to come alive when you give us some of the particulars. We need to know more about the crazy machinations of the hijinks these boys get into, and how the stakes are continuously escalating. And could someone please tell us, where have all the comparison titles gone? A gripping yarn for kids of all ages about an unsung American hero: the janitor. And three plucky heroes who were going to get to the bottom of his disappearance. Needs more differentiation from the canon of stories about kids in schools, and kids solving mysteries.
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