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Monday, 2 November 2015  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Pitchwars Badge (Square MG)

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Cat Scully
Mentee Name: Kendal Snow
Category: Middle Grade
Genre: Mystery
Word Count: 63,000


Elsie doesn’t believe in magic—or curses. But when the strongman goes missing and fires threaten to destroy her parents’ trapeze troupe, she must uncover the truth behind a decades-old circus curse and a mysterious falconer who makes everything around him change shape, including Elsie’s own memories. Nancy Drew meets Something Wicked This Way Comes.


The circus was a normal place to live until a few hours before showtime. After a lazy Sunday spent washing laundry and raking leaves, performers stretched across the fairground lawn. They juggled ceramic vases with their eyes closed or back flipped off their brother’s shoulders to warm up for the evening ahead. It didn’t matter that the ticket booth hadn’t opened and the audience hadn’t arrived; Applegate and Rook’s Festival of Mysteries rumbled with activity.

Elsie Caldera moved through the crowd, dodging outstretched arms and whirling props. Even the fire jugglers didn’t slow her down.

Strands of lights hung across the midway. They hadn’t been switched on yet, and the wires crisscrossed the sky like a web. Mr. Riabold sat perched on a ladder. His head brushed the lights as he strapped on his stilts. It wasn’t time for him to enter the ring—he wasn’t even in costume—but he always tried on his stilts before showtime so he could remember what it felt like to be ten feet tall.

Elsie squinted up at him. “Have you seen Oskar?”

If anyone had a bird’s eye view to spot a missing strongman, it was Mr. Riabold. But he hadn’t seen him. Neither had the Palermo twins, brother and sister contortionists who sat twisted in knots by the tent.

“Haven’t seen him since breakfast,” the brother said as he lay on his stomach with his legs arched over his head, his toes on his eyebrows.


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