Thursday, March 8, 2018

Synopsis Critique #15: Lower Middle Grade

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of MYSTERY OF THE MISSING CHIMP, a Lower Middle Grade novel, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


Nine-year-old Tanner has special privileges at the zoo because his dad is the director. He uses these privileges [this phrase is a little awkward. Maybe ‘Because of that, he gets to spend time…’?] to spend time with his animal friend, Gloria the chimpanzee. The zoo keepers allow him into the back area of the chimp compound and let him help prepare Gloria’s food. When the keepers announce that Gloria is expecting, Tanner is excited because it will be her first baby. The special day arrives, and everyone is surprised that her baby is all white. Tanner is given the honor of naming the [albino baby] chimp. He chooses Angel thinking of his baseball team hat that Gloria once stole from him when he delivered her food. [This is great. It introduces us to Tanner, Gloria, and the inciting incident (the birth of Angel)]

The whole community [what community? Can you tell us where we are?], even the world, is excited about the new albino chimp. But then the excitement turns to horror a month later when the baby is suddenly gone. The police find no clues as to how it happened [I would change ‘how it happened’ to ‘what happened’]. However, [Take out ‘however’ and just start with ‘Blame falls on Tanner’] blame falls on Tanner when he is suspected of leaving the back gate unlocked one evening [it’s not just one evening, right? It’s the specific evening Angel disappeared]. His father cuts off his visits to the zoo until further notice. That means Tanner can’t console Gloria who is in crisis.

Tanner knows that he didn’t leave the gate unlocked but no one will believe him. He must find out what happened if his father is ever to trust him again. [Nice stakes, but it’s also because he’s close with Gloria and wants to find her offspring, right?]

Tanner sees a flyer at school for a circus coming to town that advertises a special surprise. He is sure the surprise is Angel. He begs his father to take him to the circus but hides the reason why he wants to go. When the surprise turns out to be a huge condor, Tanner’s hopes are smashed.

A chance call from his uncle, a New York museum curator, and something he says [remove ‘and something he says,’ since that phrase makes the sentence less clear] gives Tanner an idea. He searches the internet and finds a newspaper article about people who collect rare animals. He connects the article with the information from his uncle about a rumor [delete ‘about a rumor’] that a rich man is looking for an object to buy and builds a theory of who might have Angel. He tells his father, but the mystery remains as to how they grabbed the chimp. [Isn’t the mystery still where Angel is? It might also be how they grabbed Angel, but isn’t the more immediate issue finding Angel (and then they can figure out what happened afterwards)?]

Determined, Tanner goes looking for clues behind the chimp gate area, and finds a key buried in the dirt under the fence. The police must have missed it. With help from the Police Chief and his [Tanner’s] uncle, the thieves are caught, and Angel returns to the Zoo.

Even though Tanner is proved innocent of leaving the gate open, trouble isn’t over. The zoo keepers aren’t sure if Gloria will accept her baby back. There is a possibility she won’t. But Tanner isn’t ready to give up. He knows he is connected to Gloria and that she loves him. He also knows she recognizes his smell. He finds one of his dirty shirts in the laundry and rushes it over to the chimp compound. A keeper drapes the shirt onto Angel and lets Gloria see him in another room. At first Gloria shows aggression but calms down when she sniffs the baby. Gloria slowly approaches her baby and then pulls him towards her to snuggle. [You might need to clarify this a bit. Gloria accepts Angel because Angel smells like Tanner, and Gloria loves and trusts Tanner?]

The zoo keepers congratulate one another, and Tanner earns the praise of everyone, especially his father.


Really nice job with this, and it sounds like a fun story! You’ve kept the synopsis focused on Tanner, what he wants (to find Angel), the stakes (that his father will never trust him again if he doesn’t find Angel), and it all ties together nicely. I’ve noted a few places where greater clarity could help, but this is pretty much ready to go. Great job!

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