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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impressions: THE DEAD THINGS COLLECTION


Our second submission for First Impressions comes from Kristen Wixted. It’s a lower MG (like a long chapter book). It’s humorous realistic fiction, and the title is THE DEAD THINGS COLLECTION.
Chapter 1: Opportunity
 In second grade, Miss Augusta taught Emilio and me the word OPPORTUNITY.  It means a situation that you can make the best of, and get something you want.
We live in Patagonia, Maine. Usually summer doesn’t come here until late June, but this year summer heated up the sky and the street and everything else by the middle of May.
We have this new neighbor.
Her name is Scarlet.
Scarlet has a pool.
The pool is blue and cool-looking. It has a floating dolphin and a waterfall and diving rings, and it’s next to a patio with a little fridge full of soda in shiny cans.
But Emilio and I didn’t get invited to the pool, only the girls on the street did. So Emilio said, “We just have to wait for our opportunity.”
Emilio uses words we learn in school like he’s testing them out, the way you throw around a new football in your yard.
 We waited for our opportunity for five weeks.
And THEN, on the first day of summer, there was screaming across the street! Eight girls were all running from Scarlet’s house to mine in bare feet, screaming,
Hellllp us!
It’s terrrrrrible! Grossss! Disssgusssting!!!
Hellllp, someone helllllp!
 Emilio and I sat in the driveway, watching.
Then he said, “Ike, guess what?”
And I said, “What?”
He said, “This is our opportunity.”
I like how Emilio thinks! This is adorable. I can’t find much to crit in it. Ike’s voice seems exactly right to me for his age, and for the age of the intended readers. I hope that whatever awful thing has grossed out the girls, taking care of it gets Emilio and Ike invited to the pool.
I suppose we could get the narrator’s name earlier, when Emilio first tells him they have to wait for an opportunity, but I don’t really object to it appearing where it does. And I wasn’t in love with the line summer heated up the sky and the street and everything else the way I was with the rest of the passage. Perhaps Kristen could find a simile or metaphor that works as well as the football one further down.
Personally, I believe this opening would resonate with third grade readers. What does everyone else think?
Kristen, thanks for sharing your first page with us! Marcy will have her own thoughts at Mainewords, and Kristen can be found on her blog Don’t Forget the Samovar.

10 Responses to First Impressions: THE DEAD THINGS COLLECTION

  1. I do think this is a good voice to reach third grade readers. Always a balance. I like it!

  2. Tiana Smith says:

    I like this one – the beginning felt a little bit like there were three separate ideas introduced (opportunity, hot temperatures, the pool) and while I, as an older reader could see how they will all intertwine later, a younger reader might find it a little confusing. I’d maybe cut out the hot temperatures and just jump right to the pool after talking about opportunity – people will figure out it’s hot if your protags want to be invited.

  3. Steven says:

    This made me laugh. The psychology is very third-grade, so excellent job writing to the audience!

  4. Southpaw says:

    It resonated with me! Though I’m not the target audience, it did get my attention. I want to know what is back there.

    The only thing that distracted me was all the quadruple letters in the yelling. Maybe once or twice. The larger text works great for the urgency.

  5. Mina Burrows says:

    Oh my gosh, I loved this piece. My son is in third grade and when he get’s home from school later, I’ll have it read it and see what he thinks.

    My only comment is it feels like it has a southern draw to it–almost like it should be set in the south. Other than that, I loved it!

  6. Linda G. says:

    Love the title. And the budding opportunists. The voice seems perfect for the intended audience, too.. Looks like a winner is brewing. 🙂

  7. Robin says:

    As you know, I haven’t read much middle grade since I was middle grade… in other words, back in the Stone Age. However, I loved this piece. Excellent.

  8. Lexa Cain says:

    I really have no crit to offer since I don’t read MG chapter books, but I really enjoyed what I read so far. Good luck! 🙂

  9. I really loved this! Great voice. I have a third grader and I definitely think it would resonate with him. Good work Kristen!!

  10. Thanks everyone! I am a little late on the uptake here but I am thrilled with the comments. And I agree with all the crits–I had already changed several of the things mentioned because I submitted it for an on-line contest. Now I feel smart. *grins*