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Today I am checking out at two picture books that look at sleep in different ways. First, we have Stop That Yawn! By Caron Levis and Illustrated by LeUyen Pham and then there is Bear Can't Sleep by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman.

Bear Can't Sleep-
Poor bear. It is winter time and he is supposed to be sleeping, but he is wide awake. His friends drop by his den to help him go to sleep and begin his hibernation, but nothing works. Bear Can't Sleep! They drink tea, warm milk, sing songs and even count sheep, but it is not until bear takes an active role by making up a bedtime story, that the snoring begins.

This book is an easy read for youngsters to pick up. There are all kinds of animals that come visit and each try something different to soothe bear. The repetition of the words, "can't sleep" allows a child to join in on the fun. This is a cute one and I'm giving it 4 stars!

Stop That Yawn!-
Gabby Wild does not want to go to sleep. Instead, she convinces her Grandma to take her to the city that never sleeps. They go to a carnival, eat ice cream and listen to music. But, high atop the Ferris wheel, grandma feels so cozy that she lets out a yawn. Now the yawn is on the loose and it is putting everyone to sleep. Gabby runs all over town trying to make noise and stop that yawn, but even she isn't powerful enough to stop a yawn. So, she turns to the reader of the book to help. The reader's yawn makes Gabby yawn and then the game is over. Sleepytime.

This book is full of wonderful, fanciful illustrations. I loved looking at all the crazy things in the city that never sleeps. Then, when Gabby talks to the reader she is right there in your face, and it is perfect. This picture book will have children looking at all the cool images and thinking about what they would do to stay awake. 5 stars!
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Middle-Grade Monday time! Today I am reviewing the first book in the Potion Master series, The Eternity Elixir.

The Story-
Gordy Stitser is a potion making genius. Which is good, because it is the family business. Though at 12 years old he is too young to join B.R.E.W (Board of Ruling Elixirists Worldwide), his mother is one of its top members and trains him at home.

Unfortunately, there are people out there who want to bring B.R.E.W. down, and when Gordy's Aunt Priss uncovers a diabolical plot, the whole family is brought in to help. While Gordy's mom is out of town, he receives the package from his Aunt and a mysterious potion within. The bad guys soon show up at his home and the battle begins.

Now it's up to Gordy, his parents, and his best friends, Max and Adeline, to prevent the all-out destruction of B.R.E.W and all their accomplishments from the last 300 years.

My Thoughts-
This was a delightful middle-grade read. It captured me from the beginning and I read it in one sitting. The characters are well developed and have their own quirks. In fact, Gordy's best friend Max is super annoying, lol.

I loved the comedic elements. I mean, the book starts off with Gordy as a giant blob of goo, the result of a misdone spell. There are potions that do strange things and a Grandfather who lives in exile with a skeleton as his only friend.

There are great themes, such as working hard and learning. Plus, there is a strong sense of family love. I recommend this book for ages 8 and up. 5 stars!


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Usually Fridays are for YA, but between the Seattle Writers Workshop last weekend and the Storymakers conference I'm at this weekend, I have not had time to read many books for review. Instead, I've been working on my manuscript and getting it ready for querying. Hopefully I'll be able to get some stuff up next week. Until then, keep writing and reading.
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Welcome to Inside the Publishing World Wednesday. Today I'm sharing info about a wonderful lit agent that I met at the Seattle Writers Workshop, Adria Goetz from Martin Literary Management.

Who is Adria?
Adria is a 2016 graduate of the Columbia Publishing Course in New York City, a six-week intensive course on all aspects of book, magazine, and digital media publishing. She is also a graduate of the University of Washington in Seattle with a B.A. in English with a creative writing emphasis. Adria worked for the Pierce County Library System for two years. Prior to becoming a Literary Manager, Adria fostered her knack for developing creative work during her three years as an intern and assistant at Martin Literary & Media Management with Sharlene Martin and Clelia Gore.

What is she looking for?
She primarily represents picture books, middle grade, young adult, and is open to submissions for quirky gift/coffee table books, graphic novels, Christian devotionals, and adult nonfiction for the general market.

Check out her WISHLIST here.

What does her client load look like?
She has 35 clients right now and doesn't feel like she's reached her limit, so she is actively acquiring. She receives almost 5,000 submissions a year, and reads as many as she can each day.

Why should you have an agent?
She is the go between with the publisher. She helps you polish your work, gets you more money, and negotiates your contract.

Her advice to authors?
Be Professional.
Be Kind
If you're a Children's writer join the SCBWI

Her advice about Social Media?
Don't talk bad about other writers. Don't be smug or negative about other's successes. Do not send her PM's about your manuscript.
You can find her on Twitter at @AdriaMGoetz. She has found 25% of her clients on twitter. So don't be afraid to use twitter hashtags and pitch parties such as #MSWL and #PITMAD.
But, be careful what you tweet. She says she, "Twitter stalks y'all to make sure you're not nuts."

Advice for Query Letters?
Have a completed manuscript.
Personalize the query, but don't be creepy.
She wants comp titles from within the last 5 years.
Don't skip the author bio part.
Read her agency submission guidelines.
Spell her name right.
Don't use silly fonts.
Don't be over confident and tell her you're confident you'll be working together soon.
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Hi Everyone! I had a great time last weekend at the Seattle Writers Workshop. I was able to meet several agents and get the inside scoop on their wishlists. So today, let's get to know agent Laurel Symonds from The Bent Agency.

Who is Laurel?
She told us that though she is new to agenting, she has over ten years of publishing experience. Everything from editing, to marketing and bookselling. She has a well rounded perspective and feels qualified to wear an agent hat.

On the personal side, I noticed she mentioned Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and Game of Thrones as favorites.

What is she looking for?
She is seeking young adult fiction (all kinds), middle grade fiction (all kinds), chapter books, and picture books (both text only and author-illustrator work). She also seeks excellent illustrators and children’s nonfiction.

She is actively building her client list :)

Her Do List-
Write what you know.
Make the first ten pages your best ten pages.
Choose great character names.
Build solid worlds.
Read more books.
Follow submission guidelines.

Her Don't List-
Don't use cliches, racist tropes or stereotypes.
Don't be lazy with your research.
Don't let your world building overshadow the elements of your book.
Avoid information dumps.
Watch your social media. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

Want to query?
Please review their submission guidelines.
Then email: symondsqueries@thebentagency.com

Find her on Twitter @laurelsymonds
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Welcome to Middle Grade Monday! Today I am reviewing a new release from National Geographic books, Taking Cover: One Girl's Story of Growing Up During the Iranian Revolution by Nioucha Homayoonfar.

The Story- 
The year is 1986 and Nioucha is sixteen years old and living with her family in Iran. Her father is Iranian and her mother is French. While taking a walk, Nioucha's head scarf accidentally slips and is she is arrested by the Black Crows, or moral police. For what they consider inappropriate behavior, they take her to an isolated building and imprison her.

As Nioucha is alone, she reflects over what has happened in the last few years to her beloved country. She came to Iran, from Pittsburgh, USA, when she was five years old. She recalls the love of her family, her Aunt and Uncle, Cousins and Grandparents. Everything was wonderful in Iran. Nioucha felt free. She had enjoyed attending a school with fellow boys and girls who liked to run and play with her. She makes friends with another girl, Anahita, whose mother is also French.

But then everything changed when Iran's government leader, the Shah, was overthrown.  Now,  Ayatollah Khomeini rules. He turns the country into the Islamic Republic of Iran and issues orders that all people follow his version of Islamic laws.

Nioucha is young and can not understand the new rules.

She notices simple changes at first. Boys and girls are no longer allowed to go to school together. Then, girls are made to wear a uniform, and the next year a headscarf. As time goes on, any kind of contact with boys that aren't a relative is considered a crime, even just talking.

 Her father's family follows Islam faithfully, but these new rules don't mesh with what they've taught her. Nioucha and her classmates now study Islam in school and are forced to adapt to the rules of the Islamic Republic. Opinions at school are not encouraged. As a teenager, Nioucha rebels in her own way. She has a boyfriend and listens to Michael Jackson's music. But, all the time, the worry of being arrested, beaten, or killed follows her.

Nioucha's  memory returns to 1986 to continue the story, and she is let go from the Black Crows capture. She rushes home to her frightened parents, and soon it is clear that the family can no longer stay in Iran. Since her mother is French, Nioucha, her brother and their mother are allowed to leave the country, but her dad must wait six months before they know if he will be able to join them. The rest of her family must stay in Iran. Her cousin had tried to escape once, and was beaten almost to death.

Nioucha aches for Iran and though she is thankful to be in America, to go to the University of Pittsburgh, and get a degree in Art History, she misses home. In 1998, she was able to make a return visit with her father, though her mother and brother stayed in America for fear of him being drafted into the Iranian military.

Even now, the "smells, sounds, and colors of Tehran" hit her at random moments.

My Thoughts-
Wow, my eyes were opened to events I had very little knowledge about. Reading the real life story of Nioucha, of seeing her in Iran before and then during the Iranian revolution, had me captivated. During her decade in Iran, her life changes dramatically and she struggles to understand the Islamic customs of her family and the new Islamic regime of the Republic of Iran. Her life, the changes in it, and the conflict that affects her family portrays this struggle as readers are shown, not told.

Kids will relate to Nioucha. It doesn't matter that it is a different county, or religion. She is a teenager. She wants to listen to music, have a boyfriend and wear cool clothes. Her life during the turbulent times of the revolution allows readers to get a peek into a world where freedoms are taken away. It is a timely story that will stimulate conversation about politics, religion, society, and the simple fact that we are all human beings.

A bonus is the photos in the middle of the book that are of Nioucha and her family while living and visiting Iran. I'm giving this book 4 stars! The storytelling is great, but I had a few issues with  info placement.
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Welcome to YA Friday! Today I am reviewing a new release from Shannon Mayer and KF Breene, Shadowspell Academy book one, The Culling Trials.

The Story-
Wild thought she was normal, up until a man walked unto her family farm and demanded that her younger brother attend Shadowspell Academy, or he would kill the whole family. This is the same academy her older brother went to and died!

As she tries to figure out what this secret academy is all about, she uncovers that her family has a magical heritage and that her mother was a fierce warrior. To save her brother's life, she dresses as a boy and takes his place.

The academy lives up to its name, and Wild is immediately thrown into the first trial, a maze of death. She ends up grouping with a few other students: Ethan, Pete, Wally and towards the end, Orion.

Her battle is just beginning, and now with a group of student allies, she will face the tests of a lifetime.

My Thoughts-
Great book! I've already pre-ordered the second which comes out in May. I love Wild. She is kick-butt, loyal and smart. She steps up every time a challenge comes her way and uses her skills to help her team come out on top. She has collected a motley crew too; a goblin, vampire, a know-it-all and a werecreature.

Together the group faces the maze, and Wild's smarts pull them through, though the challenges are crazy and some deadly. This book sets up a great series. The group will have to face many more trials, each involving the different "houses" of the academy. Wild is in the group of Shade, the warrior class. 5 stars!


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I love Middle-Grade Mondays! Today I am reviewing the true story of the Thai cave rescue, Rising Water by Marc Aronson.

The Story-
On June 23, 2018 , twelve young members of the Wild Boars soccer team in Thailand, along with their assistant coach, went cave exploring. Inside the Tham Luang cave system they advanced down well worn paths heading toward adventure. Unknown to them, during the few hours they were inside, an early storm hit and flooded the entrance and several of the interior chambers. When they tried to leave, they were trapped. Stuck in a far chamber of the caves, there was no way to get through the tight spots that were now completely submerged.

No one knew they were missing until that evening, when parents began to wonder why the boys weren't back from their day trip. Soon a nation was on alert and a rescue mission began. Only, even professional Scuba divers and SEALS, could not force their way through the narrow passageways to find the team.

This is the story of the journey to rescue these boys. An International endeavour to save the team from death. It wasn't until July 2, that they were even reached, and then it was several more days until a plan to get them out could proceed. Day by Day, attempt by attempt, this real life drama unfolds.

My Thoughts-
Amazing! The author, Aronson, does an amazing job digging through information from all the rescue crews and political press releases. He produces a timeline that sheds light on who did what, when, and without bias. The story of the rescue is incredible and the real life photos and maps allow the reader to follow along and see the real people involved.

I was obsessed as I read. The rescue path seemed impossible, and as more and more rescue crews from all over the world came to the same conclusion, I was sure this book would end in tragedy. That's right. I did not know the facts in advance! This book opened it up to my mind.

As a reader I learned about the individual scuba divers and what they went through to even enter the main cave system. Next, finding where the boys were, and if they were even still alive was a whole nother task. Then, how do you get twelve boys and a coach out when there are several miles of underwater passages? This is an incredible story that is a testament to international love. It ends with the author's plea to realize that we need one another. 4 stars!

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Hi everyone! Today I'm looking at being Inside My Writing World. Any other writers out there think they have a nice, completed manuscript? One you've edited over and over and think is ready to send out? Only to find, nope, not the case.

That has been my situation these last two months. I really thought I was ready. My last step is to always get some critiques, and since I've joined a new online critique group, I was really looking forward to some good info. The group meets only once a month, so I wait many weeks to see what people will think.

Last month, the critiques that came back had me re working my first chapter. Some great comments had come my way about my character's goals and about bringing the fantasy aspect into the story within the first two pages, instead of on page four. I was reading the comments and thinking, how did I miss that? I reworked the beginning of the book and thought, yep, now I'm ready. Ready to query, nope, ready to send to a beta reader for more critique.

 I sent out the beginning of the book to a trusted writing professional. During the time she was looking at my work, I ran across two agents that were suddenly open to submissions, but only for a brief time. One was a three day contest to submit a query and sample and the other was an agent who suddenly posted on twitter that she would be closed to submissions at midnight THAT night. Yikes! I wanted to wait to hear back from my writer friend, but I didn't want to miss these opportunities. So, I did it. I sent in both queries. I'd had the critiques from my writing group and thought that even if not perfect, the manuscript was in a condition to garner interest from an agent.

When will I learn? Just a few days after submitting, I heard back from my friend. Her comments blew up my book and had me rethinking everything. I read through her comments and realized she had looked at things from a more editorial perspective, and wanted me to rewrite several chapters and change some POV's. My book has alternating points of views from the two main characters. Her notes set my brain on fire, and last night I spent hours remolding my work. I needed shorter chapters and some more details to further explain elements in the story. Things that I had thought obvious were not. I have many more changes to make.

The whole time I was rewriting I couldn't help kicking myself for sending those two queries. The book was so much better now and though the version the two agents have shows great potential, they are not what the opening chapters look like now. All is not lost, this is only the beginning and I'm hoping those two agents will like the hook of the story and suggest a rewrite. Plus, I have several book conferences coming up, and by then I will have things worked out and ready. Well, ready as can be. There is always tweaking and if you wait till it's absolutely perfect in your own eyes, you'll never send it out.

So, those were my writing experiences these last couple months. I hope by sharing them it will help other writers out there in the trenches.
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Welcome to Middle Grade Monday! Today I am reviewing a new release, A Good Night for Shooting Zombies by Jaco Jacobs. Don't forget to head over to MMGM central when you're finished for more great reviews and activities https://gpattridge.com/.

The Story-

Martin lives life on a plot of land with his mom, Uncle Hendrik and sister Cindy. Martin is a numbers guy, and finds joy by working out number problems in his head. He spends the rest of his time raising the chickens his father left behind when he died in a car accident. When his neighbor's dog eats one of his prize chickens, Martin heads over to confront them with video proof. He meets Vusi, a boy his own age, whom he punches in the nose when Vusi makes a comment about his mother. Unknown to Martin, Vusi is actually a cancer patient. The punch causes an uproar, and soon Martin is back to apologize. This time, he and Vusi become friends and Martin discovers that Vusi has a secret dream to make a movie about zombies.

Together the boys concoct plans to film the movie whenever Vusi is feeling well. Soon they add another actor, Chris, a young girl who lives a few plots away and who's brother owns an old shed perfect for the movie. However, unknown to them, the shed is filled with stolen goods, and soon the bad guys show up to retrieve them. Suddenly, life turns deadly and their dreams of making a movie are brought to an abrupt halt.

My Thoughts-
Okay, first thoughts from the title was that this was going to be a book about zombies, but then I started reading it and realized it is only the type of movie Vusi wants to film. The fun thing is watching the two boys try to make a film with zombie masks, fake blood and no script. Life moves on around them as their movie progresses. Martin and Chris go to school while Vusi lives at home taking his cancer treatments. The way the author writes allows the reader to get a good feel of what their lives are like and the way they live in semi-poverty.

The one thing that makes Martin unique, his math skills, is also kind of annoying. I didn't mind that he liked numbers, but many times in the book he goes into these mathematical funks to find out if a number is a happy number. It was a bit over the top for me.

The ending of this story is so good. There is a logical conclusion that involves everyone in the story and brings things full circle. It was heartwarming and leaves a happy feeling with the reader. I think this book is worth the read and I'm giving it 4 stars!



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