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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Pestritto

Congrats to Deborah!

Updated: Dec 19, 2021

Deborah is the winner of 2020's first query critique—yay for her!



This is her original query:

And here is my critique:



I'm a big fan of picture book biographies—they are great introductions to people and historic events kids may not know about. For me, the most memorable picture book biographies are ones that approach their subject in a fun, unique way—for instance, GEORGE WASHINGTON'S TEETH!


In that vein, I wanted to see more specific information included in this query about just what the book will be about and WHY is deserves space on a bookshelf. What is its wider purpose, besides profiling Marjory Stoneman Douglas? Is it to teach children about the environment? Is it to include STEM concepts? Is it to encourage activism? I tried to insert language that gave the answer to this a bit more.


I also deleted the phrase about discussing the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School—it's not related to her biography and is too adult content-wise for your intended audience.


Hopefully my edits are helpful! I wish you the best of luck with this. If anyone has any thoughts or comments, chime in below.

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Carrie Pestritto
Carrie Pestritto
25 feb 2020

I deleted the sentence about mice because I don't think it contributes to the creation of a tightly focused pitch, and it also does not contain necessary information about her that we can't glean elsewhere (namely that she cares about nature).


I may be in the minority, but I actually know Marjory Stoneman Douglas' name because of her environmental work, not because of the school shooting—and regardless, I don't think your audience would necessarily recognize/remember the shooting in the news.


You don't need to mention the titles of your leveled readers, but perhaps include the publisher/imprint?

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Lucky Williams
Lucky Williams
24 feb 2020

Hi, Anne! I've been studying PB bios for their word count (at arbookfind.com), and mine is actually on the short side at 750. For comparison, Counting On Katherine (2018) has 993 words, Starstruck (2018) has 1,863, Nothing Stopped Sophie (2018) has 1,101 and What Do You Do With A Voice Like That? (2018) has 1,324. Sweet Dreams, Sarah is close to mine at 748. I would say it could be read by ages 8-12, but it could be read aloud to younger kids.

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Lucky Williams
Lucky Williams
24 feb 2020

Thank you, Carrie! I'm honored to win this critique. (Lucky Williams is me on facebook.) I found out recently that a fabulous writer has a PB bio of Marjory coming out this September, but books take years to create and there can be more than one on a subject, so I'll polish up my query and keep trying. May I ask why you deleted the sentence where she rescued mice as a child? I think it makes her relatable to children. As to leaving out the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School--unfortunately, that's why most people know her name, so I felt it was important to mention it in the backmatter. I say "Maybe Marjory's spirit encouraged the student…

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Anne O'Brien Carelli
Anne O'Brien Carelli
24 feb 2020

I'm curious about the age group she would list for this query. I know it says PB, but it seems as if it would contain a lot of text. Thx.

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