Guess the Plot
1. The rollicking first installment of the "Third Grade Roll Call" series; planned sequels include "Hannah's Absent" and "Dakota's At the Dentist."
2. Nate Wainwright can't do anything about the past. He isn't yet accountable for the future. But he sure as hell better get those zombies out of his basement if he's going to have any shot at all with that hot vampiress down the block.
3. Altering the past and the future are all in a day's work for Nate Knightley, Time Pirate. But when his evil ex-girlfriend sabotages his time machine, he finds himself stuck in the here-and-now. Soon the Time Police and Nate's ex are both on his trail.
4. Nate hates cats, but when his daughter rescued a stray she begged him to let her keep it. Since then the damn thing’s been leaving presents on his front door step: dead mice, the upper torso of a mutilated rabbit . . . When Nate wakes up one morning to find a severed human hand on top of his newspaper, he wonders if the feline is trying to frame him for murder.
5. David's mother instructs David in the finer points of budgeting in order for David to save up enough to buy Nate that remote control rocket he wants. David learns too well, in the end opting to keep the present for himself and giving Nate a hand-made card instead.
6. Confident his parents won't be getting him a Christmas present, Nate runs away from home and moves into Wal-Mart. When a night security guard finds him and realizes he's the missing boy she read about in the newspaper, she sets up a tent, gets Nate a sleeping bag, and helps him set up a household. Hey, the place gets lonely at night.
In one week, it’ll be Christmas. Nate doesn’t understand why his parents keep crying. He also doesn’t understand why neighbors are bringing over dinner, and why he’s not allowed to wear Bobby’s sweatshirts anymore.
Nate’s had enough. [The crying he could tolerate, but do the neighbors have to keep bringing Brussels sprouts?] He stuffs his backpack with two handfuls of legos, his toy helicopter, four sweatshirts, and every cookie bag he finds in the kitchen. Then he hikes over to the nearest Walmart with Bobby. [Even a little kid should know that if you're planning to live in Wal-Mart, you don't need to stock up on cookies, toys and sweatshirts. You need the stuff Wal-Mart doesn't have: liquor, cocaine, and pornographic DVDs.]
Running away with an older brother is easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. Bobby helps Nate cross the right streets and duck behind trees. And when they reach Walmart, Bobby shows him how to hide in the bathroom with his feet tucked up. [We don't really need this paragraph, especially as Nate seemed to have reached Wal-Mart in the previous paragraph.]
Nate’s hiding place doesn’t last very long. On the second night, Miss Williams, the security guard, hears him talking to somebody in the toy section. She sees Nate, and thinks he’s talking to an imaginary friend- until she reads the paper about a missing boy whose older brother was recently hit by a car. [It's the middle of the night. The store is closed. She sees a kid in the toy department talking to an imaginary friend. And instead of taking immediate action she goes off and reads the newspaper?]
Miss Williams takes three sleeping bags and a tent from the shelf, and keeps Nate company at night. [She's the night security guard, right?
Manager: Good morning, Miss Williams. I can't help but notice that all the TVs, computers and GPS units seem to have vanished overnight.
Miss Williams: Don't look at me. I was sleeping in that tent all night.]
But how many days will Miss Williams have to wait before she calls the police? [Will she be forced to keep Nate until after Christmas?] Will there be enough time for Nate to come to terms with Bobby’s death?
“Nate's Present” is a middle grade novel, complete at 40,000 words.
Thank you for your consideration of my work.
I'm sure Wal-Mart doesn't hire the best, but if one of their security guards discovers a kid--with already-grieving parents--who's suspected of being kidnapped or killed or lost, and decides to help the kid hide out for a few days, she's lucky if her next job is at the Dollar Store. Especially if Dollar Store finds out about the ten million-dollar lawsuit against Wal-Mart.
I realize adults aren't the audience, but even twelve-year-olds are going to realize Miss Williams is even more screwed up than Nate. At least Nate has an excuse.
I'm not even sure a senile Wal-Mart greeter wouldn't have enough sense to stop a little kid walking in by himself wearing a stuffed backpack.
Generally, middle graders want to read about older kids or at least kids their own age. I'm guessing Nate is no older than second grade.
In short, my problems aren't with the query so much as with the plot. I can see middle graders enjoying a comedy in which middle graders tell their parents they're going on a camping trip, and then they all move into Wal-Mart and trash the place. I can even see your plot entertaining a thirteen-year-old, if it were like Home Alone, with the kid foiling the security guard's attempts to get him. But Miss Williams is a bit hard to take. If this actually happened, she'd probably be accused of kidnapping before it was all over.
Somehow the tragedy of Bobby doesn't seem to meld with the comedy of moving into Wal-Mart. If it's not supposed to be funny, Nate should move into Target.