Hi Cez! I love the high-concept worldbuildng, it's a great hook for MG. I do agree that your protag is likely too young. If you're determined that 8 is the only/best age, then totally against all usual advice for this genre, I would recommend trying the query without her age. It might keep a few agents from deleting in knee-jerk response.
Thank you, everyone, for your suggestions. Here is Number 4:
In the town of Humming where ninety-nine out of every hundred people are born blind
, but with beautiful voices, eight-year-old Lark is the odd one out. Born with sight but no voice, she is ignored and despised for her muteness, which is believed to bring bad luck.
To survive, she catches and sells songbirds, which are coveted
not only for their songs, but (People IRL covet birds for their song, so the important bit is the wishes) for their wishes. Each kind of bird carries a different wish: , (colon here, since it's introducing a list) robins are for health, bluebirds for laughter, thrushes for courage, and blackbirds for luck.
Only a nightingale can grant any wish under the sun,
a nightingale, and Lark has been looking for one all her life. If she catches it, she’ll be able to wish a voice for herself and enter the yearly Feast of Song, where everyone in Humming competes for the title of Nightingale. (What advantages, above and beyond no longer being outcast, does the Nightingale title give her? Right now we don't know the stakes, because we don't know what being Nightingale means.)
So when Lark hears a nightingale’s call in the forest, she risks hunting at night, running from wolves, and even trespassing in another hunter’s territory to catch the wish.
(in most queries, this is where the "if she can't catch the nightingale, _bad thing_ will happen" goes, to end with punchy stakes. See my note below.)
But when a hunt goes wrong and Lark stumbles upon a hidden grave and an old diary, she starts unravelling a mystery about Humming’s past, about a mute child, and about a nightingale’s wish that changed history.
Clue by clue, Lark discovers all wishes come with a prince, and she has to decide just how far she is willing to go to get a voice.
WISH UPON A BIRD is a MG fantasy novel complete at 60 000 words.
Okay, so. My crits for the first part of the query stand. But I seriously urge you to consider doing a draft with an entirely different focus. Right now there's a lot of setup that makes the world intriguing, but the mystery introduced at the very end of the query totally changes the book's focus.
At the moment, the first four paragraphs indicate that the novel's primary conflict is finding a nightingale and gaining a voice & acceptance in the community.
The last two paragraphs indicate that the novel's primary conflict is a secret hidden in her town, which will change her life and her community.
This is what has me most confused. What is Lark's single, primary goal? Which conflict--wanting a voice and acceptance, or unraveling the mystery--drives the book's plot?
As someone with a complicated plot, I completely understand how frustrating it can be to try to distill in so few words, while also being specific and interesting. But right now, I feel like an agent might take a pass because of the unfocused nature of the query, and this sounds so interesting that I don't want that to happen! A mute MG protag would be great, and the wishing birds are classic whimsical kidlit.
SO. If I were to rewrite the query for the mystery plot, the beginning might look something like this:
In the town of Humming where ninety-nine out of every hundred people are born blind but with beautiful voices, eight-year-old Lark is the odd one out. Born with sight but no voice, she is ignored and despised for her muteness, which is believed to bring bad luck.
The only way to gain a voice is to catch a nightingale, the one songbird that can grant any wish. So when Lark hears a nightingale’s call in the forest, she risks hunting at night to catch it. But when Lark stumbles upon a hidden grave and an old diary, she starts unravelling a mystery about Humming’s past.
Third paragraph more of this: The diary reveals X about a mute child, and about a nightingale’s wish that changed history. Plus other things you know and I don't, and then the kicker for this mystery.
This version obviously condenses A LOT, but that feels necessary to me to get to the mystery. Have juuuuust enough worldbuilding to be intriguing, and let the agent discover the rest in your synopsis/pages.
I hope that helps! Good luck!