Book Jacket

 

rank 184
word count 20633
date submitted 11.12.2013
date updated 12.04.2014
genres: Children's
classification: universal
incomplete

The Shape Changer

Sue Moorhouse

Jiren was born a shape-changer. Can he use this ability to save the day when all the spell-workers are arrested?

 

An adventure story for 7 to 9 year olds

Master Dynas, the spell worker, is all the family Jiren has.
When the queen is taken ill the spell workers are blamed and thrown into prison. It is up to Jiren to help.
The only person who can heal the queen is Morfudd the Healer, but there is a problem. Morfudd was injured in a magical accident and lies in suspended animation in her tower. She must be revitalised before she can effect a cure,but the last person who tried to enter Morfudd's tower was reduced to a small smoke stain on the tower wall by an explosion that blew out all the windows in the town five miles away.
Can Jiren enter the tower safely with only the help of a talking skull? Can he tell his friends from his enemies, and avoid being captured by the latter? Can he survive all the dangers of shape shifting? Can he even manage to cast a spell without stuttering?

 
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tags

adventure, animals, children, childrens, humour, magic

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rikasworld wrote 47 days ago

Thank you so much everyone who has commented and critted!

I'm starting to send the book out now (not much hope but it's worth a try) so have made it incomplete. It only goes to Ch. 6, after that it has the alternatives to Ch. 1

Any comment on which you prefer as the opening chapter would be very gratefully received. And any other comments as I'm still editing, of course.

Heidi Whatcott wrote 87 days ago

I definitely like the Chapter Eleven beginning better. I thought it was an immediate hook, and it blended in better. You do an excellent job of setting the stage and revealing necessary background information as the plot moves along. The book flows very well. It's a great story already so feel free to ignore any of my suggestions.

I loved the idea of Jiren being a poor spell-worker because he's clumsy with his gestures, and when he's nervous he stutters and his words get mixed up, and that has a very odd effect on spells. I would like to see that brought out a little more, like when he meets Olivia in the woods. It gives him a nice vulnerability to balance out his rare shape-changer's ability.

I do think the spell-workers need a little more motivation for turning themselves in other than being so law abiding. Perhaps Master Dynas could point out that if any one of them flees, the mob will be convinced of their guilt and the older spell-changers who can't fend off the violence would be killed. He could also remark that obviously the one who is poisoning the queen is hoping for that very thing, and must be very upset that the distraction didn't work and all the spell-workers are coming quietly. It would be good to also point out that the reason Master Dynas doesn't want Jiren to stay with him and get arrested is not just because he doesn't want him to go to prison (after all, as a shape changer, Jiren could get out whenever he wants) but because he doesn't want him bound with silver. Then he wouldn't be able to shape change.

I love the little details of the animals when Jiren changes. Children will love that, and you make it feel very real. It was a nice touch having the dog hide under the stall so we could get the details on Olivia and her uncle. It seems as though when Jiren is an animal he keeps his mass—ie. The little dog is very heavy for Master Dynas to push out the window, and the rat's weight breaks the rotting beam. That explains why Jiren needs a lightness spell when he becomes a sparrow. That confused me at first because he seems to have each animal's instincts, and it shouldn't have been a problem to fly. It took me a little to puzzle that out. You might want to state that a little more overtly. The clues are pretty subtle for children.

When Olivia is talking to Jiren, it doesn't feel quite right that she would be the one to stop the conversation. It's her beloved grandmother that's been poisoned. She should be trying to figure out everything possible and asking more about the spell-workers and why Jiren's there. I thought it might read better if Jiren cuts her off because he is so exhausted. He could tell her he will tell her everything in the morning and plan to make her give him breakfast before they talk again, but then he has to flee when her uncle arrives.

It's a nice scene where Olivia and Jiren meet in the forest and a great surprise. I would also add in a few more details to add to the motivation of why Olivia ran off. Maybe her uncle dragged her out there then stuck her in a tent with picture books. Perhaps he is influencing everyone to see her as a fragile, frightened little girl. Her grandmother would have a fit if she let him get away with that and would tell her to teach him a lesson. We've already heard what a ferocious queen she is.

I do think it's a great read. It's very polished, and has a good voice. The story has some nice twists and turns. Jiren is a very sympathetic MC, and I think children would love this. I'm giving you high stars and keeping it watchlisted.

Heidi Whatcott—Crayton House

Margaret Holly wrote 87 days ago

What a shame I haven't any grandchildren. This is a book that cries out to be read to a child by an adult. It's full of gentle humor for the adult to enjoy but could be really exciting for a child when told by a good reader. My only doubt is whether you've got the age range right. Chapter 1 would work for a 7 year old, I think, because it sets the scene quickly and clearly and yet leaves space for the imagination to run riot in picturing the battleaxe queen getting her just deserts by being covered in fungus. However, I'm not sure about Chapter 11. That seems a little too sophisticated to appeal to a younger group and seems more suited to the 10+ age range.

I personally like Chapter 1 better and feel you should be aiming this at the younger child, but that might mean a re-write of some of the later chapters. Otherwise go for Chapter 11 and an older audience. Both would work, I think. Whichever way you go it's a good read and deserves to succeed. High stars for quality, though without a child to appreciate it I'm unlikely to buy it.

I will, however, be buying "Brromsticks, Walking Sticks And Zimmer Frames" for my sister, who will enjoy it very much after I've read the chapters that don't appear here.

Best wishes,

Margaret

vee8 wrote 80 days ago

So far, in my time on Authonomy, I've read about just about everything. Vampires, wierwolves, ghosts, pirates, starship captains and the love-lorn. But never, so far, a shape-shifter. So full marks for originality!
Straight away I can see the wit is going to be lapped up by the target audience. Kids will love lines like a short-tempered old bat! The crowd scene is delightful, almost like one of those old illustrations from a children's fairy story book. I like that Jiren is an apprentice spell-maker, not because of his skills with spells, but his gift of shape-changing. Clearly a reluctant hero in the making, and they're usually the best kind. Licking his masters face had me chuckling!
I read quite a way on, and only found one hiccup. 'The change went through him like (a) shiver.' I told you earlier, I'm about the biggest kid you'll meet, and I like this a lot! The target audience has been scored a direct hit dead centre with this! Max stars!

Rachel H Campling wrote 9 days ago

CHIRG2
Hello Sue,
I have read Ch1 and the alternative Ch6. I really like the bird in Ch6 as it gives the reader additional knowledge about the Queen. I did wonder if the bird was Jiren, but probably only because I had read the other version first.
Really enjoying this and looking forward to reading more. I suspect that I will get to the end of chapter 5 willing you to post the rest back on... Good luck with Agents/Publishers.
All the best,
Rachel

Stan Mills wrote 9 days ago

A CHIRG review of ‘The Shape Changer’ by Sue Moorhouse
Sue, I have read your novel up to chapter five and I must say I very much enjoyed your easy to read writing style. I am sure it won’t be too taxing for your target age range to handle. You have created an exciting and likable world for your characters to live in, and you very neatly draw the reader into this world of magicians, enchantresses, trolls, bad tempered Queens, and of course the only known shape changer. You have introduced nice elements of danger, with an obvious but not too scary taste (for young readers) of an oppressive regime. The none magical population are a simple folk who have a day-to-day dependency on the powers of magic and react without much thought to events that they don’t understand. The character names you have created are easy to say and don’t give any tongue twisters to slow down the story. I very much like the idea of Jiren being a free spirit even though he has an overwhelming loyalty bond with his master, who he takes great pains to help.
I would like to see you give your magical events a few sound and light effects (fizzle, crackle, glitter, lightning, and glow). I don’t tend to look for every punctuation error. But I do think that semi-colons in children’s lit are a put off and I feel that there is always a better way to write without them.
Well Sue I shall leave it there for now.
Good luck with your submissions.
Stan Mills
From…Salford, England, UK.

JCGG wrote 11 days ago


This reviews ch. 2. I like how you took the perspective of the dog in this chapter, and then later as a rat. Overall, it’s very good. I don’t know how your castle is constructed - - some of the things that happen there disagree with my preconceived notions of a castle. One thing you can look at throughout the manuscript is your use of semicolons. Semicolons are seldom a good choice in fiction (some editors hate them), and needlessly complicate sentences for young readers.
The Castle
The soldiers had dragged Master Dynas away and the crowd were following
> “crowd” is treated as a singular noun. I also suggest you break up compound sentences wherever it is possible, because of the intended age of the readers. You could do period after away, then: The crowd followed, shouting threats. (look out for combinations of “to be” verbs, like “were” and -ing verbs. They should probably be minimized)

market place
>one word, marketplace

Slowly Jiren calmed down and the dog’s frantic panting eased.
> comma after down.

‘Bless her!’ said someone loyally.
> watch out for dialogue tags that have -ly adverbs. Also, try to be more specific than “someone”, here and elsewhere in this scene. You could write: ‘Bless her,” said a loyal woman/vendor/?. Or fat fishmonger. Or whatever you want to use to describe her.

thermal underwear
>seems anachronistic. Maybe: thick woolen underwear.

that the guards were in a nasty mood, and even what they had eaten for breakfast.
> seems too much. maybe what they had eaten for breakfast, but how would their mood be found in the scent?

and his dog mouth dribbled hungrily.
> He drooled. Would be more concise, and I think kids would like the word, drooled.

huddling comfortably beneath its walls,
> the houses are inside the castle? That doesn’t seem right.

like ducklings close to their mother. 
> you’re in Jiren/dog’s perspective, he might think of puppies rather than ducklings

Now it seemed to loom threateningly over Jiren.
> “seem” weakens every phrase it’s in. only use it when you want to suggest indecision/uncertainty. Just: Now, the shadow of the walls threatened Jiren.

  The scent of Master Dynas did not go to the open front gate, where carts and people came and went, and the crowds were still waiting for news of the queen.  It led to the rear gate; a dark, barred tunnel in stone walls.  The prisoners’ gate.
> Delete everything from “did” to “It”, inclusive. Try not to tell the reader things that didn’t happen - - which are infinite - - just tell them what did happen. Then use a colon or comma after “rear gate”.

There were guards on the gate too.
>”There were/is/are” is a very weak structure. It should almost always be deleted. Use an action verb: Guards paced back and forth over the gate.

  Jiren’s heart was thumping, but he trotted past them, wagging his tail, and trying to look as harmless as possible. 
> that sentence is much more complex than it needs to be, and “look . . . harmless” doesn’t say anything the reader can visualize. I’d rewrite it something like: Jiren’s heart thumped. He slunk down as he trotted past them and wagged his tail to look small and friendly.

Smell was still important, but now it was mainly his radar-like whiskers that helped him run through the dark; a touch here and there on walls and floors mapping the world around him. 
>This sentence is way too complicated.

slipping under floors
> how would he do that, when the floors were probably either dirt or stone on dirt?

the squeaking and pattering of rats in the wall. 
>and the walls would probably be solid stone, too.

 In one place he actually met another rat face to face.
> “actually” is another weak word that should seldom be used. Describe this more actively: He ran across another rat as he scampered behind a barrel. or something.

His weight, so useful in a fight,
> It makes some sense that he would stay the same weight, but there are consequences if you have him try to swim (he’d sink) or climb a branch (it would bend or break). If the beam breaks, won’t the ceiling come crashing down?

JCGG wrote 16 days ago

This review is based on Ch. 1. It’s very nice. Seems like a nice setup for the story. I anticipate lots of adventures for young Jiren. I only have a few general comments. I think your quasi-fairy-tale voice causes you to be wordy in some areas. I suggest you try to tighten things up, delete a word or phrase here or there, or reword. Stephen King suggests deleting 10% when you edit, and I think you might want to follow that.

You might want to change up your sentence structure a bit. You are using a lot of “to be” verbs - - was, were, etc. Repetition can make readers tune out. You also use a lot of -ing verbs (often with a “to be” verb). They are often not the strongest verbs for the job.

I’m not certain about the grade level for the reader, it seems higher than the 7-9 years in your pitch. Try to break up some of your longer paragraphs and compound sentences. Or you could get rid of just a few things (like: Tramp, tramp, tramp . . .) and aim for a higher-aged reader. I didn’t do any reading level test on this, but they tend to exaggerate the suitable reader - - for example, something graded for 7th grade (U.S.) is probably great for adult readers.


A Bad Day to be a Spell Worker

the crowd were waiting there.
>I believe “crowd” takes singular verb: was waiting. “crowd were” occurs later, too, although you also wrote: “The crowd was growing angry . . .” so you are also inconsistent.

More stalls were setting up all the time,
> you might want to reword so that vendors are setting up the stalls, they weren’t getting set up by themselves.

The only people not present were the spell-workers.
> it seems like they would want the spell workers to cure her, rather than imprisoning them.

Jiren’s stomach was turning nervous somersaults. There was nowhere to hide in the small, neat house. 
>This is the first I knew that Jiren wasn’t among the crowd. Describe the setting when you first mention Jiren.

where Jiren himself slept.
> delete “himself”. unnecessary.

pikes over their shoulders
> at this grade level, if you introduce a word that the reader might not know, like pikes, provide a brief description.

vanished invisibly somewhere about his person.
>I’d delete everything after vanished.

Jiren drew in a protesting breath.
>protesting? Maybe just: Jiren held his breath.

I imagine everyone will miss having spell-workers around.’
> delete: having, around. add: “the” before spell. “imagine” is bit large word if you are aiming at a seven year old, where “think” would do fine.

Learning spell was hard.
>spells

   Jiren had been quite small
> young, not small.

so they decided that farming was probably not for Jiren, and sending him off to be a spell-worker in the city would be the best thing all round.
> that last phrase can either be tightened up or lengthened. As is, it is missing the words “thought that” before “sending”. Or you could just write: . . . Jiren, and sent him off to the city to be a spell worker.

a vague, but friendly, pat.
> what does that look like? I’d delete: vague, but

Jiren knew what he had to do now; shut out everything else and concentrate. 
> semicolon is not correct there. colon or double dash are options.

absent minded
>one word, absentminded.

Dean Lombardo wrote 21 days ago

Hi Sue. Read some as promised. Has the makings of a neat fantasy novel for the age group you target. If you want specific comments email me. Other than that, good luck.

John Lovell wrote 38 days ago

I knew I was going to like this before I started reading.

The feel you get of Jiren's position is instant, and the behaviours of the animals is funny too. I've chuckled a good few times in the first three chapters and at the same time got a feel of the world you've given us.

I don't have anything constructive to offer.

John

Wendy Proteau wrote 43 days ago

It's not often I stop and read a child's book....never had children, but was captivated and lost 2 hours in my busy day. The description and tone was something I definitely can see engaging a child. I pictured a grandparent reading a bedtime story to be honest. The scenes are well set and the pace is wonderful. The descriptions, personalities were fitting for young minds…which I wonder if that tells me I'm still a child at times at heart...LOL.
I read the opening few chapters, but am loving the character of Jiren and the way takes on the animal he changes into. I liked how they rely on mystical for needs. The anticipation starts then ends with questions which will keep them wanting more. Details kept me picturing and I can imagine a young mind putting the visuals together. I had to stop and think a little at certain points…then again I don’t own that child’s ability for great imagination.
Starred and backed….wonderful writing.

Wendiann

n p jones wrote 44 days ago

Hello,

Just wanted to wish you good luck with getting the book out there and hopefully you will have some positive news come back soon.

It's a shame that I won't get to read the rest of the story just yet (although hopefully it will soon be available to an even bigger audience).

Having looked at the alternatives, I still like the original Chapter 1 best, as I thought it was a good opening and led me right into the story.

Good luck!

N P Jones - Oni: Keepers of the Gate

norvs13 wrote 45 days ago

Hi Sue,
I have read the first three chapters and intend to read more. I think this is wonderful story for kids, and I agree with a previous comment that this would work great being read by an adult to a child. There was plenty for myself to like, and the imagery was very strong. I think you have a knack for dialogue, and the conversations flow freely. I particularly like the senses and instincts that the MC experiences when he is in the shape of an animal.
There was only one line that caught my attention as perhaps not right, which was: 'A bully!' the speaker sounded suddenly thoughtful. I'm not even sure what it needs, a comma, or a capital letter, or what. It just stopped me in my tracks.
I really enjoyed this and have given it high stars.

Kay.

Stories-have-souls wrote 47 days ago

WTF review

I've read six chapters in and hope to finish the rest in good time. This is a really fun, easily-read story, balancing light-heartedness with a bit of grimness. The tone is just right for a children's story, and I like the the amount description; very visual, especially whenever Jiren's in the body of another animal. You don't patronise your audience. The very beginning feels perhaps slightly rushed to me, with only a modicum of scene-setting, but I suppose it's reasonable given the length of the story. I've got just a few mistakes to single out:

Chapter Four - Jiren thinks of electricity, which struck me as odd because I had assumed that in this Medieval-esque world, there is no electricity? Or at least, that Jiren wouldn't know the term.

Chapter Five - when a deer, Jiren's vision should have a blind spot right in the middle (rather than being an unbroken arc as it is currently described)

Chapter Six - crossbows use bolts (otherwise known as quarrels) rather than arrows, which are used for hand-drawn bows.

rikasworld wrote 47 days ago

Thank you so much everyone who has commented and critted!

I'm starting to send the book out now (not much hope but it's worth a try) so have made it incomplete. It only goes to Ch. 6, after that it has the alternatives to Ch. 1

Any comment on which you prefer as the opening chapter would be very gratefully received. And any other comments as I'm still editing, of course.

n p jones wrote 55 days ago

Hi Sue,

I have only read the opening few chapters, but I am already intrigued by the story and very much engage with the character of Jiren.

I especially like the way that Jiren takes on some of the personality/instincts of the animal he has morphed into – a nice touch.

I think you have done a great job of setting up this new fantasy world, with some nice details. I think that it's an interesting dynamic that people rely on spells for heat and light, etc.

I think the opening chapter works well as it is, as it throws the reader straight into the story and Jiren's world. I think that children of the targeted age range need this kind of immediate start to get them interested straight away.

I am looking forward to reading more.

N P Jones
Oni: Keepers of the Gate

Mr Comment wrote 60 days ago

Your writing has a nice clean flow for younger children. I like the way you build up the anticipation at the beginning of. Chapter One and end with a bit of a cliff hanger which is a must for children to keep them interested.

"Something very odd was happening to the unconscious queen" could be "sleeping queen" for seven year olds as it may simplify it for them. Then again, it is good to extend their vocabulary.

My only concern is that the chapter may be a bit long for younger children.

Overall, great writng which I am sure boys (the skull, dog, adventure) and girls (queen,royalty) will enjoy.

I prefer Chapter 11 which is more showing.

Jeanette Taylor Ford wrote 60 days ago

As I have only just read chapter 1, I cannot as yet comment on whether I think chapter 11 would make a better beginning! But this one seemed fine to me. I was immediately drawn into the situation. I think your writing flows very well indeed and your descriptions of people and situations are perfect for the age group you are writing for. I am looking forward to reading more of this book

Zoe Morgan wrote 61 days ago

Hi, Sue :-)

I love your pitch and the book title says exactly what it needs to - young children who love magic will be quickly taken by this.

Your narrative is just wonderful (I have been reading children's books as part of a course over the last year and your prose is just as established as theirs). I found myself reading in that bouncy way - as though I was Stephen Fry or David Jason reading out loud to a child (I hope you get what I mean here!).

There are some real moments of comedy which sweetens the bad things that are happening - a real win for younger readers.

You have your own language here - spell workers, Master Dynas and Morfudd which works well creating this enchanting world - it sounds a little Celtic which invokes images of magical dragons and Merlin - well placed!

I see where you've changed chapter 11 so the reader can see what's happening to the Queen rather than being told what's happening to the Queen. SHOW - DON'T TELL! Is hammered into us from our first English lessons in school. I think chapter 11 is the one i'd rather but I love the names of your chapters - please keep them in!

Sorry Sue, I couldn't find fault here. You clearly have a great talent for writing for children - I hope his book gets the support it deserves.

Zoe :-)

Mayes wrote 65 days ago

Hi Sue,

A great story for your target audience. It kept me interested till the end. I wasn't looking for error, just wanted to enjoy the story. My grandson is 9, he is planning to read your story over the weekend. I am sure it will be a while before he's finished. If you would like his opinion, let me know.

Best Regards,
Georgette

Dimanagul wrote 65 days ago

Write the Fantasy Review continuation Chapter 3

While I like the start of the chapter I think the logic is a bit fuzzy. The rat part of him would be scared of the potential threat lurking around a corner (because of instinct), while his human part would be afraid of landing (because of lack of confidence in a body that isn’t his own)

You really should show the transformation. That was jarring. There’s also a matter of scale. A high drop for a rat isn’t so high for a human boy. Also rats can see in the dark (low light at least) right? Wouldn’t he see his master?

Exclamation redundancy. You don’t need yelled (or delightedly even. Better to show he’s happy with an action tag. Perhaps hugging the master before he talks. Then I’d be fine with the exclamation point.

Because this is from Jiren’s POV you can recognize voices as they speak, it’s up to you if you want the narration to introduce them afterwards. “ ‘…great throbbing boils,’ Enchantress Casantra said. “ It also would help if you take a moment to describe who is in the room. (Or at least a number of people around Jiren.)

I’d rather have soothing actions than the ly’s after saids. I think it’s OK if what is being said carries weight, but when it’s something like. “Nevermind” it just feels like you’re burning words. Also “scowled furiously” I think scowled carried plenty of meaning on its own. Or Scowled in fury if it is really important to know they are angry (Which you could show better anyway. If you’re telling for the sake of age group I would do what you did in chapter one. “Master Icah was a grumpy old bean.”

“pointed out meaningfully’ is particularly groan worthy. The point line feels redundant because of the ‘pointed out’ in the line before, but I like the delivery of the line. Maybe if you reworded the silence to “Icah had no words.”

A note on pacing. Don’t put long narration in places where there isn’t a natural pause. You don’t do this to a terrible effect, but I get the impression Master Dynas would have shot that quip back immediately. You could also justify it by having Dynas notice Jiren’s annoyance and say it as a reactive defense rather than a quip. “He opened his mouth to protest, but…” shows there was no such pause and that time unnaturally froze there.

Vague strikes me as an odd descriptor for a person.

“Said in a voice that at least…” vs. “Said with a trace of sympathy. (But I don’t like loading dialogue tags in general.)

I like how you keep Jiran involved in this conversation, even though he’s spectating. Most people would slip to him being a fly on the wall, but he stays firmly as the POV: a kid surrounded by wise old wizards.

You need an establishing scene from the scene break. It’s two abrupt. Also I think Dynas should say that advice in his scene with him, not dumped at the end.

Another wordy review but it’s mostly nitpicks that may come from my lack of experience with children’s literature.





Dimanagul wrote 65 days ago

WTF review (swap) Chapter 2

I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t write actions that don’t happen. And as such, you could describe the crowd’s movement. As such, they brandished weapons, tensed, or other preparations for a charge. There’s a disconnect in the appearance of the soldiers, as you have it here they just ‘pop in’. It would take soldiers time to get to the scene, meaning it may be the shouts of soldiers that give them pause rather than their spears.

But then I realize the soldiers were on the crowd’s side. You present it as if they’re the calvary.

This would also be a good time to show that the spell worker didn’t resist, instead, calmly waits to be shackled. (this is a good opportunity for character)

‘he found himself’ could be replaced by describing the growl in his throat.

Weak verbs ‘go for the’ ‘dive at the soldiers’ or ‘nip at the soldiers’ would carry more weight while still using simple language.

‘Dogs are good at’ this should be describing the heightened sense s of dogs. This doesn’t read like something in a narrative. (I’m not picking on the passive here. Rather the delivery. ‘His heightened dog senses saw their every emotion’ or ‘His dog senses were tingling, seeing into the hearts of men like he never could.’)

As an aside: the questions and exclamations in the narrative. I’m not savvy to children’s books, but I assume it is a good method to engage the reader. You’d need to consult an expert on it. In a normal narrative I see it as a clumsy technique. Typically such things would need to be narrative thought. (And you might be able to simply put ‘he thought’ after it. I don’t know how children books feel about italic thought which I use in my stuff.)

I’m still a little offput by the narration calling him ‘the dog’. Maybe you could give him a dog name he goes by? Also what breed of dog is he? (Different dogs breeds have wildly different personalities.) I think a kid would be excited about being a big shaggy dog.

I found no real issues in the next few paragraphs, however I’m not on speaking terms with exclamation points. I think the ones in this chapter can all go away. Emotion should come from the action and the dialogue itself, not the tags. This goes for ‘said someone loyally’ and ‘the speaker sounded suddenly thoughtful’

You have a great cheat code here in Jiren being a dog. Find an analogy to his ability to see emotions. Eg. Like they show as blobs of color around the person. This is a magic transformation so you can break some rules here. Later when he becomes a rat he could have a sort of danger sense. Throw in him dodging a hazard for some action perhaps?

“And shape-changed once again” shouldn’t be there. Just show the transformation as an effect from his concentration. ‘Also with he was smaller now…’ Contrast the differences between the two animals so the reader goes “Oh! He’s a rat now!” before you spell it out. Also you can show the mental change as well. Dogs loyalty vs. Rat’s survival instincts etc… As a dog he may want to help his master more than anything, as a rat his desire to help might be more selfish. I’d also like to see more of that face lick part. Perhaps more idle animal thoughts?
‘trying to see’ = ‘peeking’ I’d play up actions in line with animal characteristics.

Overall I like the potential and flow, and how proactive Jiren is being.


Amanda Chwa wrote 65 days ago

Very well written!

I love your cliffhangers at the end of the chapters.

I would suggest a bit more dialogue between the townsfolk to give some more background, particularly on Cormac and why he's a bully. They could talk about some of his dastardly deeds and why they don't want him as king.

I love Olivia...and the surprise that she is the man with the crossbow. I also find it amusing that she called Jiren "Hedgehog."

I seem to prefer the Chapter 11 intro to the first one. It provides a bit more detail. But I also like your repeated use of "It is not a good day to be a spell worker."

Very nicely written. This could be a great series of children's books.

jc_intz wrote 66 days ago

Shape changer chapter 10

Final chapter!
Your writing is very good and I have very little suggestions for improvements;

“Like a baffled bull” love it
“Everything was all right now...” not sure if this should be ‘alright’?
“It was as if his whole body...” maybe remove ‘it was as if’? I have written the same in mine and just removed them as they are ‘extra’ unnecessary words and if you remove them, the sentence becomes stronger. Not sure if you agree, but I agreed when it was pointed out to me.

I went to chapter eleven but saw it was an alternative for chapter one, so have to re-read the first one to know what to compare with and then come back to you.

I’ve really enjoyed this and wish you the best of luck!

Jennie
‘Whispering Magic’

Dimanagul wrote 66 days ago

WTF (Write the Fantasy) Review

Prologue

My complaint with this is there is no POV at the beginning. I’d like that scene to be mixed in with Jared’s intro. Eg. He sees the crowds while gathering materials for his master.

Chapter 1

Out side of some issue with passive voice this read smooth up until the paragraph starting with: “Jared had been an apprentice worker… “ Ironically, there passive could be smartly used because of the target audience. Actions (and you do this sometimes in the piece) should be active. Most of the uses of passive I spotted could be fixed by simply taking out the word ‘was’.

Outside of that though, the passive is weaved very well to deliver information and keep this interesting without being distracted. As such: “He found it hard to remember…” can turn into “Learning the spells was hard.” A child could relate to this proclamation.

Also, as an aside. I’d say his age up front. Especially if you have a target audience in mind. A 7-8 year old would identify with a child a few years older than them.

I’m usually very hard on exclamation points, and you use it well on the line: “There’s the place!” However I’d put an action tag before it to avoid the redundancy of the tag ‘shouted’. The rest of them can be nixed in my opinion, the dialogue shows the tension just fine. Also just scrub out stuff like ‘said matter of factly’ you don’t need it. Also, If someone does an action to Jiren don’t have them say his name, that’s a lot of repetition. Touching his shoulder is the acknowledgement.

‘All right then’ needs to be in quotes or in italic thought (which you might not use because of the target age)


Regarding the action of his conjuring: I think you should use simple and clear sentences. Verbiage like his heart beating oddly doesn’t do anything for me. How does one’s heart beat odd? It either quickens , slows, or skips beats.

Don’t call Jiren ‘the dog’ he’s still Jiren, and it’s his POV. I also don’t understand why his master would call him ‘dog’. I could see irritation coming up since he knows it is Jiren. Good descriptions of how the world is different etc though. Also what 7 year old would love to have an excuse to lift a leg and pee on a tree?

“It was not only…” you can shorten that to. “Half the town stood at his door.” Or “Half the town was at his house.” You need to scrap that “seemed” they are there. No question about it.

“The crowd were yelling” is awkward. As this is paiting a scene, I would say they yelled. Or chanted. (to set a mood.)

“Somehow it…” If he did something to change the trajectory of the stone show it. If he didn’t do anything, make it more active. “but the stone twisted away unnaturally inches from his face.” Or something to that effect.

Also it’s something I didn’t notice immediately. There is a POV shift at the end of the chapter. It goes to his master. I don’t think that’ll fly. I’d keep it close to Jiren as he’s the MC. That’s the only real deal breaker for the chapter.

I got wordy on the back half, but I really enjoyed this. It has a lot for good elements and scene crafting even if I didn’t agree with a key delivery component.

Declan Conner wrote 71 days ago

Not sure that you should take any notice of someone who wouldn’t know where to start writing children’s books, but here are my observations. I know you’re ready to go, but they are just observations, so you can ignore them.

Chapter 1 Smooth read. I could imagine reading this to my grandchildren as it is with no changes. It’s actually a very good opening and I could see a child been very interested to know more.

Queen Safa had been taken ill “suddenly.” don’t think you need suddenly as later you explain “without warning”. It also made the sentence less smooth.

You start the third paragraph with a 46 word sentence. It reads great to me and it is perfectly punctuated, but a 7 year old?

Feathery... could this be feathered?

Horribly... could this not be just an evil spell?

Is skinny considered politically correct for children? I would have chosen” thin” .

vanished invisibly somewhere...... I think this needs re-working or simply take out invisibly as it is repetitive of vanished. It also gets rid of another “ly word”. Got to be honest here and say that as an adult, I confused staff with his personnel and not say a wooden staff. lol doh.

nose to “taste” the air ...maybe sniff

Chapter 11
An even smoother read

colours human( ) s could see.......... space typo.

I much prefer chapter 11 if the bird in chapter 1 was just a POV device. I like unknown narrators for third person voice, unless the bird has some significance to the story. It was quicker paced without the bird this and the bird that.

I home there is something useful among my blubbering comments.

Declan Conner
New Dawn

Cas Meadowfield wrote 71 days ago

CHIRG

The Shape Changer
Ch1 Loved the transformation , heat and light spells.

Ch2 The political intrigue add a wonderful tension and a sense of adventure to come. I chuckled at ;And a bit cracked, for that matter.' great cliff-hanger ending.

Ch4 another exciting chapter with a cliff-hanger ending.

Ch5 I would have liked that the door closed after him.
I read to the end of chapter ten, ( I prefer 1st ch1).

now please take this as a suggestion The writing style , i feel is a little old for 7 to 9 yrs, more like 8 to 12 yrs; yes the novel is short... But I think it could be lengthened by adding more difficulties in the forest or/and tower / in the castle, as we seem to came to the end too soon.This is a captivating story though and I loved reading it.

(once the WM was a short story where Jade healed the WM and went home. People told me it was too short so I came up with the quest of the Wind lantern)
Hope this helps
(I've given five stars for now, if you revise it let me know and I'll reread it)

Cas

David R Wood wrote 73 days ago

I have only been on this site for a short time and already I am impressed by the quality of writing, not least, yours. As I write for children myself I thought it best to follow that particular genre.
You do marry excitement and humour very well, two qualities that I myself would demand of a story. You are also a pretty fine storyteller. As with most of the folk on here, time is limited, I can never seem to get enough of it to read AND to write. I will certainly return to this world of magic though. Thanks for sharing it with us.

James knee wrote 74 days ago

Hey sue, I read some of your book and really enjoyed it. The way you describe the shape changing and how Jiren's instincts change depending on his form is really creative and would be very endearing to your target age group, as well as people of all ages. It's lighthearted tone was what I enjoyed the most, you've created a very appealing world with its own personality. I like the central character, the way you've made him clumsy and slow with magic is a refreshing change from most fantasy heroes, and makes him a more realistic and relatable character. Overall, I look forward to reading more, and hope this book continues to climb up the ranks! Oh and personally I enjoyed the first opening, as I was intrigued by the fact that a bird seemed human.

Taps wrote 78 days ago

CHIRG Review:

Hi Sue,

I have read the first three chapters of your book and the nastiest thing I can think to say is that I wish I had thought of the idea. It is brilliant. The Shape Changer concept leaves you so much scope for creativity. However, you still need to make the most of the opportunity, and you have, and then some. I did not fully appreciate how true your comments on my book were until I read yours. I feel like I have just undertaken a bit of a master class in writing for children. I have not managed to find anything I could fault, so I have rather listed the things I most enjoyed:

In the start of the story, the Trolls trying not to accidently step on anyone made me laugh out loud. I could see them being careful and awkward surrounded by so many little people.

"Jiren didn’t blame them. Much." I like this little bit of humour. It came out of nowhere and cracked me up.

I really enjoyed the description of the process of shape changing. I have never read that before. You do a fantastic job of illustrating how the animal instincts influence Jiren's thoughts and actions. I like the writing from the dog’s point of view, referring to a dog’s sense of loyalty to its master and the fact that he can tell what the guards have eaten.

Lastly, each chapter skilfully ends on a cliff-hanger, drawing the reader into the next chapter.

I am really impressed and grateful that you took the time to look at my work.

Kind regards,

Abraham

vee8 wrote 80 days ago

So far, in my time on Authonomy, I've read about just about everything. Vampires, wierwolves, ghosts, pirates, starship captains and the love-lorn. But never, so far, a shape-shifter. So full marks for originality!
Straight away I can see the wit is going to be lapped up by the target audience. Kids will love lines like a short-tempered old bat! The crowd scene is delightful, almost like one of those old illustrations from a children's fairy story book. I like that Jiren is an apprentice spell-maker, not because of his skills with spells, but his gift of shape-changing. Clearly a reluctant hero in the making, and they're usually the best kind. Licking his masters face had me chuckling!
I read quite a way on, and only found one hiccup. 'The change went through him like (a) shiver.' I told you earlier, I'm about the biggest kid you'll meet, and I like this a lot! The target audience has been scored a direct hit dead centre with this! Max stars!

Mawdlin wrote 82 days ago

This is delightful and perfect for your target age group. It had a Shrek-like enchantment and fairytale atmosphere. I think children will love it.

Firstly, I would definitely use chapter 11 as your opener as the perspective is instantly engaging and allows us into the tower room where the queen is ill. This is cleverly done (it feels more forced in the original chapter 1). You also have the advantage that Jiren is introduced in a fun and exciting way which will appeal to readers of all ages. It is by far the better opening.

I love the way you describe each of the shape changes. You do this with economy but it allows us to get a sense of what it would be like to be 'inside' an animals thought processes. I like that it's described more from the point of view of instinct, which feels very real and natural.

You do drama very well and there's lots of scrapes and action from the outset. I'm glad we don't have to hang around for something to happen. The only cliffhanger I wasn't so keen on is when Jiren is the rat and falls off the beam to the spell-workers below. There's just not much sense that he's really in any peril here. I wonder if this could be improved somehow... maybe when he's having the fight with the rat inside the tunnel or wall, he's being defeated and his enemy (which could be re-worked so the enemy is much bigger and more viscious than him). The enemy rat forces him out onto the beam where he's about to plunge to his death. At this point we don't know the spell-weavers are below, but in the opening of the next chapter his fall is broken by the robes of one of the spell-workers. I am using this purely as an example.

I love the idea that Master Dynas has an old flame, Morfudd (fab name!) who is in an enchanted sleep. I wonder if the background to this relationship could be developed a wee bit more in the earlier chapters.

The episode with the hedgehog is really well done and details like him struggling not to curl up into a ball really elevate this tale.

Jiren is an excellent hero, with flaws as well as qualities. I love the fact he is not confident and makes mistakes. Kids will really relate to this.

Actually I am struggling to find anything to critisise. The only thing is that some chapters are too dense with 'telling' and they get bogged down a bit. There does seem to be an imbalance between dialogue and story/telling. I would try to address this a little. Although it is not too obtrusive modern kids books do tend to stay away from paragraph after paragraph of storytelling without breaking it up with fast action and snappy dialogue. However, because you are a great writer and the story is very well formed I don't think this is a major issue.

Excellent work.

Mawdlin
Hubble Bubble, Toilet Trouble

Debbie R wrote 82 days ago

Sue
I have read the first three chapters of this.

First of all, it has a strong 'story-teller' feel to it which gives it an authentic voice reminiscent of fairy tales and fables.

The humour is well pitched for your target audience. 'She seemed to be turning into a kind of giant fungus'. This kind of 'visual' information is what children like.

I like the tension growing as we meet Jiren and Master Dynas with the 'tramp. tramp, tramp' of the soldiers getting nearer. The idea of Jiren being a shape-changer will again appeal to your readers. It also gives you the perfect character to move from place to place with relative ease.
I like the way Jiren's transformation into a dog is described.
Good cliffhanger at the end of this chapter - also at the end of the next two.

'And this was not the best of times.' I particularly like the asides by the narrator. They make the reader feel as though they are being taken into his confidence.

Nice touch having the rat part of Jiren being afraid of falling but the human part afraid of landing.

I liked the scene with Jiren being handed responsibility for helping the 'spell-workers'. The sense of them believing him to be a bit of a fool made me get behind him as a character and want him to prove them wrong.
The plot thickens with talk of Morfudd the Healer and Jiren being sent on a quest to revive him. With his shape-changing abilities and the skull amulet he steps into the role of reluctant hero.

'The bird brain made it difficult for him to think'. These kind of details are both humorous and key to believing that
Jiren has actually become the creature we read he has turned into.

Just one typo - chapter three. 'Jiren nodded. .... He needed to get it right, (.) He didn't want to make a fool ... '

I can see children becoming engrossed in this story with its likeable m/c being sent on a quest, plenty of magic and a smattering of light-hearted humour.

High stars and hoping this continues to do well for you.
Debbie

Lindsay Cross wrote 83 days ago

I have read the first six chapters. The story flows nicely and I enjoyed reading it and want to see it through to the end. It is good for the age group indicated and would definitely recommend it for my own children's reading. Nicely done and backed.

jc_intz wrote 86 days ago

Shape changer chapter 9

Hi Sue,
Sorry for taking such a long time to return! I’ve been editing and editing....!

A lot of action in this chapter, I really like it with unexpected turn of events, very well written!

Only a few comments, feel free to have a look at anything you think will benefit your story;
Very big space until the ninth chapter began, at first I thought there was an ‘empty’ upload, maybe have a look?
I was told this by someone else, that using too many exclamation marks takes away the ‘power’ of the words. Maybe have a look at how many you have in each chapter?
Oh no, he’s crushing the feather!
“She dangled the necklet - necklace?
Excellent way in making the reader believe the crystal is being destroyed and then it becomes the healer’s rebirth.
Perfect ending of the chapter.

I’ll be back soon!

Jennie
'Whispering Magic'

Heidi Whatcott wrote 87 days ago

I definitely like the Chapter Eleven beginning better. I thought it was an immediate hook, and it blended in better. You do an excellent job of setting the stage and revealing necessary background information as the plot moves along. The book flows very well. It's a great story already so feel free to ignore any of my suggestions.

I loved the idea of Jiren being a poor spell-worker because he's clumsy with his gestures, and when he's nervous he stutters and his words get mixed up, and that has a very odd effect on spells. I would like to see that brought out a little more, like when he meets Olivia in the woods. It gives him a nice vulnerability to balance out his rare shape-changer's ability.

I do think the spell-workers need a little more motivation for turning themselves in other than being so law abiding. Perhaps Master Dynas could point out that if any one of them flees, the mob will be convinced of their guilt and the older spell-changers who can't fend off the violence would be killed. He could also remark that obviously the one who is poisoning the queen is hoping for that very thing, and must be very upset that the distraction didn't work and all the spell-workers are coming quietly. It would be good to also point out that the reason Master Dynas doesn't want Jiren to stay with him and get arrested is not just because he doesn't want him to go to prison (after all, as a shape changer, Jiren could get out whenever he wants) but because he doesn't want him bound with silver. Then he wouldn't be able to shape change.

I love the little details of the animals when Jiren changes. Children will love that, and you make it feel very real. It was a nice touch having the dog hide under the stall so we could get the details on Olivia and her uncle. It seems as though when Jiren is an animal he keeps his mass—ie. The little dog is very heavy for Master Dynas to push out the window, and the rat's weight breaks the rotting beam. That explains why Jiren needs a lightness spell when he becomes a sparrow. That confused me at first because he seems to have each animal's instincts, and it shouldn't have been a problem to fly. It took me a little to puzzle that out. You might want to state that a little more overtly. The clues are pretty subtle for children.

When Olivia is talking to Jiren, it doesn't feel quite right that she would be the one to stop the conversation. It's her beloved grandmother that's been poisoned. She should be trying to figure out everything possible and asking more about the spell-workers and why Jiren's there. I thought it might read better if Jiren cuts her off because he is so exhausted. He could tell her he will tell her everything in the morning and plan to make her give him breakfast before they talk again, but then he has to flee when her uncle arrives.

It's a nice scene where Olivia and Jiren meet in the forest and a great surprise. I would also add in a few more details to add to the motivation of why Olivia ran off. Maybe her uncle dragged her out there then stuck her in a tent with picture books. Perhaps he is influencing everyone to see her as a fragile, frightened little girl. Her grandmother would have a fit if she let him get away with that and would tell her to teach him a lesson. We've already heard what a ferocious queen she is.

I do think it's a great read. It's very polished, and has a good voice. The story has some nice twists and turns. Jiren is a very sympathetic MC, and I think children would love this. I'm giving you high stars and keeping it watchlisted.

Heidi Whatcott—Crayton House

Margaret Holly wrote 87 days ago

What a shame I haven't any grandchildren. This is a book that cries out to be read to a child by an adult. It's full of gentle humor for the adult to enjoy but could be really exciting for a child when told by a good reader. My only doubt is whether you've got the age range right. Chapter 1 would work for a 7 year old, I think, because it sets the scene quickly and clearly and yet leaves space for the imagination to run riot in picturing the battleaxe queen getting her just deserts by being covered in fungus. However, I'm not sure about Chapter 11. That seems a little too sophisticated to appeal to a younger group and seems more suited to the 10+ age range.

I personally like Chapter 1 better and feel you should be aiming this at the younger child, but that might mean a re-write of some of the later chapters. Otherwise go for Chapter 11 and an older audience. Both would work, I think. Whichever way you go it's a good read and deserves to succeed. High stars for quality, though without a child to appreciate it I'm unlikely to buy it.

I will, however, be buying "Brromsticks, Walking Sticks And Zimmer Frames" for my sister, who will enjoy it very much after I've read the chapters that don't appear here.

Best wishes,

Margaret

Fleeting mood wrote 89 days ago


Hello Sue,

This is WTF review.

Got up to chapter 5 and its been a delightful story so far, very easy to read and with a very likable main character. Love the puppy jumping up to lick Master Dynas!
Didn't find anything to comment on before chapter 3. It all flowed really easily and sucked me right in. The first 'false' note was in the dungeon, when Mistress Marilla looks on him "like something slimy and disgusting she found under a rock. She seemed to find him disappointing even as that kind of life form".
It's a nice joke but a bit too complicated to really work in that context, imho. Maybe if he was actually something slimy and disgusting, but not as an additional condition to being 'like' something. Too many mental hoops for Jiren to be jumping through, so it jars a bit.
And a bit further on, something really minor:
"Beyond the city walls, lay fields of crops or grazing animals" - don't think u need comma here.
Chapter 4
Standing in front of glass tower, Jired reaches out to knock on the door but never seems to actually do so before the skull starts to glow? You could fix that with a simple 'and' instead of 'to'.
That's about it, read up to the end of chapter 5 and its off to a rollicking good start. The way you end chapters on a 'cliffhanger' makes me insanely jealous, and Jiren is someone a lot of kids will identify with. Great story so far.
High stars and a backing.

Will take a look at your chapter 11 later on, if u like.

Regards
Eva

Fleeting mood wrote 89 days ago


Hello,

This is WTF review.

Got up to chapter 5 and its been a delightful story so far, very easy to read and with a very likable main character. Love the puppy jumping up to lick Master Dynas!
Didn't find anything to comment on before chapter 3. It all flowed really easily and sucked me right in. The first 'false' note was in the dungeon, when Mistress Marilla looks on him "like something slimy and disgusting she found under a rock. She seemed to find him disappointing even as that kind of life form".
It's a nice joke but a bit too complicated to really work in that context, imho. Maybe if he was actually something slimy and disgusting, but not as an additional condition to being 'like' something. Too many mental hoops for Jiren to be jumping through, so it jars a bit.
And a bit further on, something really minor:
"Beyond the city walls, lay fields of crops or grazing animals" - don't think u need comma here.
Chapter 4
Standing in front of glass tower, Jired reaches out to knock on the door but never seems to actually do so before the skull starts to glow? You could fix that with a simple 'and' instead of 'to'.
That's about it, read up to the end of chapter 5 and its off to a rollicking good start. The way you end chapters on a 'cliffhanger' makes me insanely jealous, and Jiren is someone a lot of kids will identify with. Great story so far.
High stars and a backing.

Will take a look at your chapter 11 later on, if u like.

Regards
Eva

rikasworld wrote 91 days ago

Chapter 11 is an alternative beginning to the book. I'd be very grateful for any comments on which works better.

Su Dan wrote 93 days ago

your flowing narrative style moves your novel along, and with your dialogue, makes it all the better...
backed...
read SEASONS...

benedict wrote 93 days ago

CHIRG

Hi Sue,

sorry it took so long but I was foolish to think I could get any critting done over Christmas.

I'm really impressed by the first three chapters. It's simply a well put together tale with interesting characters and some very original situations. You establish the mood brilliantly and this is most certainly a cut above most children's stuff I've read on the site.

I genuinely have no big issues with what I've read so far except perhaps the very opening which I thought was rather too short to function as a prologue and neither did it set the scene in detail enough to be a proper intro to the world we're entering. I wondered if you could expand it a bit more or retool it to make it a sort of bird's eye view of the city describing the town square with all the people waiting for news and then flying around the palace to witness the state of the Queen. You could even then have the bird who is viewing all this fly down into the house and become Jiren. This would be an amazing way to introduce your character and incredibly dramatic opening. As it is you jump very abruptly between the square, a short comment on what's happening in the palace and then to the spell worker's house. More comments on this below.

Here are my close crits:

Queen Safa was not the graciously waving kind of ruler
-not sure this sentence is clean enough. We understand the meaning but maybe children wouldn’t - Queen Safa was not the kind of ruler known for her gracious waving - might be better??

She was A tough, short-tempered old bat

There were carts selling food-poisoning special hot-dogs – I don’t understand the construction here

Something very odd was happening to the unconscious queen. She almost seemed to be turning into a kind of giant fungus. It looked like a particularly evil spell.
– you seem to jump away from the scene we were in here. It’s rather disconcerting, unless the queen is there for them all to see which I doubt.
If you’re using this opening prologue scene I’d like more detail or information on something that will become important later – a significant onlooker or something of the sort. Otherwise it’s too short and dismissable.

It did not occur to him to feel disgusted
-I don’t think many people would be – scared might be more likely?

Outside, boots clattered on the ….
-something missing?

The section where you explain he’s a shape changer is nicely written but I feel it would be a lot more magical if the first thing we knew about it is when he does it for the first time. I think this would be fantastic, especially after we’d heard how poor an apprentice he is – his back story can come later.
But all the same, Master Dynas was the only family he had now,
-I don’t think it’s necessary to repeat this information so soon.


an ordinary man of middle height
-medium height /middling height?

and an absent-minded expression – hyphen

No-one wanted to find himself hopping around a pond, trying to catch insects with his tongue.
-I prefer neutral forms – themselves / their etc.

Chapter 2
silver chains, to prevent him from using his powers.
-perhaps a different metal or material would be more original. Spider silk or platinum or something.

What was the matter with everyone? All right, people thought a spell-worker had harmed the queen and they were angry. But it wasn’t true. They had got it all wrong.
-perhaps it should be more like …But they didn’t have any evidence and they’d always liked Spell workers in the past. Jaren couldn’t believe how quickly the tide had turned. And besides, he was sure they were wrong.

‘Bless her!’ interrupted someone loyally.
-I’d get rid of the inversion here.

when your central heating spell runs out,’
-perhaps just “heating spell” would be better – sounds less modern

Now it seemed to loom threateningLY over Jiren.

could slip easily through the spaces within walls.
-within THE walls / or BETWEEN the walls

change went through him like A shiver,

one of the most skilful spell-workers in the city.
-you used almost the exact same sentence to describe Dynas in the previous chapter I think.

Thanks for all the help. I will continue to back this as it's the best thing I've read since my return to Autho!

Best wishes,
Benedict

Meike Buechler wrote 96 days ago

Hi Sue! I’m back already and just finished the rest of your story – chapters 5 through to 10. I agree with an earlier posting – I wish there was more! Your story moves along really well, and I like how you introduce Olivia.

I already placed The Shape Changer on my shelf and awarded highest ratings – which leaves me to watch it hopefully rise all the way to the #1 spot over time. Good luck!!

Below just a few minor things I spotted:

Chapter 5 – smell (of) leaves and earth

Why a hedgehog? What makes Jiren’s think of a hedgehog in this situation?

Chapter 6 – We have enough to trouble us without you playing hide and seek (or “without playing hide and seek with little girls”)

Anyway, there was no need (to) stay and look for me.

… Jiren had seen Olivia’s uncle close to (close up?)

Chapter 10 – metal on metal and (as?) Olivia’s own sword met his.

Maybe a personal thing, but I’d suggest replacing “idiot” with fool or something else less insulting?

“the fifty-seven burning hells of the pig god" and “a mouth like the bottom of a parrot cage" - LOL :-)

Meike Buechler wrote 96 days ago

Hi Sue,

I just read the first 4 chapters, and I really like it. The main characters - Jiren and Master Dynas - are very likable, the story moves along well and you end your chapters in suspense, captivating your readers.

I like Master Dynas’ sense of humour, and Jiren’s struggles to remember spells and not stutter when saying them out loud. I also really like how you describe the shape-changing process, full of details and emotions.

A few things I noticed below:

Chapter 1 – “She almost seemed to be turning into a kind of giant fungus” – maybe add a description of her change in appearance?

Chapter 2 – I had to look up “lass”. Not sure if kids are familiar with this expression?

“Furry stomach to the ground” – maybe rather “furry belly to the ground”?

“In one place he actually met another rat” – where? Here or previously?

“fact to face” – face to face?

Chapter 3 – why does he change back to human while falling?

“Even we don’t know how (to) cure her”

… “and, most importantly, keep (kept) on working…

Again, great story, very likeable characters and most definitely a hit for ages 7-9!! Think I'll have to make some room for this on my shelf!!

Meike (Astro)

LizX wrote 96 days ago



On chapter one

The opening sentence didn't need the comma. It read perfect without it. But not to worry, there's more diverse comments on the way.

I would have preferred to have found out Queen Safa's personality traits along the way rather than be given a whole list of them in the second paragraph. In fact the opening would have been a lot stronger without those two paragraphs interrupting the flow of the action. The para about the queen turning into a giant fungas would have fitted better there and also added a touch of the comic.

I really started to like it when you introduced Jiren and could feel the story beginning to flow. After reading through the rest of the chapter, I felt you could quite easily discard the opening part. In my mind by then, it had turned into nothing more than an unwanted and unnecessary mini-prologue.
That first paragraph about Jiren had it all going for it. Action, tension and a lovely hook. I had to read on to find out why all the spell makers were getting arrested. Yes, I know you'd more or less given it away in the introduction, but I pretended I hadn't read that.

Go on be brave, I thought and so did Jiren... nearly. Well that's his packing done, I suppose. Would have brought him to life the way deserved, rather than just having the did in italics which was neither here nor there really.

I did forgive you for slipping into flashback quite so soon because it was entertaining - even if it did interrupt the flow of the action with the guards arriving and everything. In fact why did you do that? It would have been much more fun just to have read on and experience him doing it and he did do it straight after. So why explain before hand? Write with confidence and even the unexpected and strange is acceptable.... just don't explain. Explaining gets in the way and spoils the story.

The dialogue in chapter two was excellent and I really enjoyed reading it. It was very well done. Loved the way you changed him from a dog into a rat it all had a natural flow to it. Though think you missed something by not having him think rats, pant pant, slobber, slobber, while he was still a dog. Same as when he was falling. Letting him think as both man and rat or as a man and dog, stopping to scratch his fleas etc, would be seriously entertaining and very funny. I promise I have only been drinking coffee this afternoon.

Summary – although the opening with Queen Safa did nearly put me off, I'm really glad I persevered because this is a lovely piece of work and an excellent children's story. Jiren is a good character and I liked the concepts, once you got with him your writing really flowed. Nice one.You are, depending on late contenders, in line for a shelving.

Liz – Avonia – the Quest

Kathy K G wrote 96 days ago

Animal Crackers Book Club review

When I was young, I used to go adventuring with an Assistant Pig-keeper called Taran and a reluctant princess named Eilonwy. Your story brings me back to those days in all the best ways.

The story is well-paced, there's plenty of excitement in every chapter that's certain to lead even the most reluctant young reader forward. Jiren is likeable, his loyalty and resourcefulness will be admired by those young readers, as well as Princess Olivia's plucky courage and fantastic sword-fighting skills. Your writing is so very good--it swept me along and I was surprised to come so quickly to the end. There were only a few instances that jarred me from the story--please bear in mind that these are just my quirks as a reader--but there were a couple of spots when Jiren shifts into a dog's shape and you refer to him as 'the dog' rather than as Jiren. Also, I thought that Olivia's introduction of herself as Olivien, and then her later quick admission that she was, in fact, the Princess Olivia was unnecessary. She wasn't trying to disguise herself as a boy, so why would she introduce herself with a boy's name, only to quickly admit to the truth only a few paragraphs later? But of course, that's just my impression. However, like another reader, I was also left with the impression that the language and concepts in this wonderful story seemed more suitable for slightly older readers--say 9-12--which was about the age I went adventuring with Taran and Eilonwy. At least for the first time. :o)

This is such a lovely story and so very well-told. Thank you for taking me on this adventure!

Kathy

Colleen MacDougall wrote 100 days ago

The Shape Changer – ACBC Review – Chapters 1 to 10

Sue - Love this book! It’s no fair to classify this as for just 7 to 9 year olds – please add animal lovers, too! When a story makes me feel like a kid again, sitting on the edge of my virtual chair wondering what comes next, it’s a tale for all ages.

It’s well-paced, clean, clear and funny; a most enjoyable read. The characters are distinct and lovable and the bad guys are smarmy and dislikeable. The action never stops. As an adventure, it has all the necessary ingredients to become a hit.

My little thrills came with every new form the Shape Changer took-- then viewed the world through his new senses. This is beautiful writing, with some deft touches in describing so much so sparingly yet vividly.

My other favourite part was the first transformation of the skull into Master Dynas’ voice. That was cool! Nice surprise, and to this old dog, seemed quite inventive.

A funny moment in the dungeon: the spell workers were “a bit cracked, for that matter.”

This story needs very little constructive criticism, but here is a bit of feedback.
--The title is apt, but I’m not sure that the cover conveys the full story. The medieval tower doesn’t conjure images of an adventurous children’s story -- have you thought of using Photoshop to insert a sparrow or phoenix on the windowsill? That will tie the shaper changer to the tower.

--The long pitch is fine but a little heavy on the questions at the end.

--Check your consistency in words like Spell Maker and shape-changer and spell worker. From chapter five and onwards, there is an extra space added to some of them, as in: “spell-()worker.” There are a few spots where sentences are separated by three spaces, which can be caught by ticking off this box in Word’s spell check proofing section. A few more little typos I noticed as marked in ( ) are at the bottom.

Five stars and backed with pleasure
Thanks for the adventure
Colleen
The Patron Saint of Dogs

Ch 2 – “is nose tolHis”
Ch 2 -- “though, (H)e didn’t”
Ch 3 -- “Even we don’t know how (to) cure her.”
Ch 4 -- “Er, Skull?” he began (hard return) hopefully
Ch 4 -- “…tree meant(,) ‘I enclose.’”
Ch 4 --“crystal was (a) thing of power.”
Ch 5 – three ‘all’ in the paragraph starting “He headed down…”

Rosa Goedicke wrote 100 days ago

Yes, I think kids will love this story. I read 5 chapters and this is definitely good.

John Philip wrote 101 days ago

This is a delightful children's story, written in just the right style with the right mix of narrative and dialogue. The only doubt I have in my mind is whether this is a book for seven year olds. Some of the vocabulary might be slightly beyond them. But that is not a criticism of the book itself which deserves every success.
Best wishes
John Philip

jc_intz wrote 102 days ago

Shape changer chap 8

Hi Sue, thank you for your comment, here comes my return read and I think it’s a very good chapter!

“Cormac laughed...” the sentence begin with another few spaces further in, change formatting?
“...bellowing with rage and pain and clutching his burnt hand.” Maybe change so there is only one ‘and’ in this sentence?
I like how the guards hesitates as she is the princess, a childish moahahhaha to her uncle!
“...and Jiren kicked him...” two ‘and’ in this sentence as well (could just be me who don’t like too many ‘and’s in one sentence though...)
“When old Cormac got thrown across the room it was brilliant!” maybe change to “the room... it was brilliant!” or something else?
I like how he isn’t stammering anymore.
I like how he could shape change someone else, I didn’t expect that!
“Power held Jiren...” not sure about this as I re-read it several times, but don’t know what else to suggest. When continue reading I understood what you meant though.
The Enchantress! Interesting twist.... I look forward to come back for more!

JC

Scott Butcher wrote 104 days ago

WTF review continued

Hi Sue,

I'm continuing on from chapter 8. A great story so far, I definitely have to read this one to the end.

"...just in the tower..." I think that's meant to be "...just like in the tower..."

Oooo, head crashing is not good. That's actually a good way to get your neck broken and I wouldn't want to suggest it to a child as something that's possible. How about she uses her shoulder instead. Any football (rugby) player will tell you that that is a better way to tackle someone.

"...might have just have ever-so-accidently..." a little bit awkward, but I think that's intentional? Could be "...might have ever-so-accidently..."

"He thought of the kind of thing would be expected to be leaning..." wordy, maybe "He thought of what kind of things might be leaning..."

"Fortunately no-one was close by now." double use of 'now' in this paragraph. I'd drop this second one.
" 'The Lord Cormac turned..." misplaced apostrophe at start of sentence.

Oh, nice little twist with the evil spell-worker.

Chp 9: "Slowly and deliberately and..." too many 'ands', you can drop the second one.

"One of the Spell Workers turned corporeal...' I've noticed there's some inconsistency in how you present Spell-workers, in this instance (and in the pitch) there's no hyphen, whereas, for the most part, there is. Sometimes you capitalise; sometimes you don't. Need to make this consistent throughout.

"Cormac slashed at the bird..." with what? A dagger, a sword, his arm? You tell us in a later sentence, but I think it should be mentioned here.

Chp 10: "Never, never!" I think this might be better as "Never, ever!"

"...and Cormac was his bellowing orders to them." need to fix this one, there's a word missing, or needs to be dropped.

There was lot's of action in all these final chapters, it was a gripping tale. I didn't get the "crackling magic" quip at the end, but apart from that it's a tale very well told. Will there be a sequel? Will Jiren and Olivia's friendship deepen? I hope so, I'd like to see more of them. Excellent children's book.

Cheers, Scott Butcher (The Dreams of Aine's Blood)

Scott Butcher wrote 105 days ago

WTF review

Hey again Sue,

Back to read a bit more (well, afterall, it is an enjoyable read).

Chp 6: "...but a little way off..." or "...but a little ways off..."
"...had (a) very grand way of speaking..."
"I've been sent to look for a cure..." a little bit clunky, could be tightened to "I've been sent to find a cure...".
"...to her full four feet tall." sounds a bit awkward, maybe "...to her full four foot height."
"...and I insisted I came with him." should be "...and I insisted I come with him."
"He won't take his eyes off me..." or "He hasn't taken his eyes off me..."
"...someone at court then," he said,..." I think its the girl that's talking here, should be 'she said,..'.

So he says "You don't like your uncle much, do you?" and she's jumped to the assumption that he's suggesting he's the poisoner. That jump seemed to quick to me. I think you need another sentence or two to lead into that. maybe he says flat out "Do you think your uncle could have done it?"

"...one of the abrupt movements..." or maybe "...one of those abrupt movements..."

So it's first light when Olivia wakes him, but then you say it's the middle of the night. Not consistent.

When Jiren is hiding, he hears the approach of voices and hooves, but Olivia already heard those as a warning. Maybe the sounds of approach are clearer, or not at some distance. It just sounds a bit funny at the moment, and perhaps needs a bit more clarification.

"...without you playing hide and seek with little girls." or was that meant to be "without playing hide and seek with little girls."

"...on our way back in the castle." or "...on our way back to the castle."
"...no need (to) stay and look for me."

I liked the character of Olivia. I've read quite a bit though so I knew she was a girl pretty quickly. I think a lot of younger readers would be surprised though. I thought it was nice that she saved the hedgehog from the fire, and then obviously liked Jiren enough not to let him get caught by the uncle.

In chapter 6, the obvious giveaway regarding Cormac was provided in chapter 5. It wasn't the fact that they were searching for spell-workers it was the fact that they were trying to find spell-workers near the tower - the only place where a spell-worker would go to find a cure for the queen. I thought you provided that little tit-bit quite nicely, and yet didn't let Jiren use it to give away the mystery when he's talking to his master at the start of chapter 6. You held out on a bit of mystery quite well letting the drama unfold at the end of the chapter. Nicely done.

Chp 7: "...racks of saddles, and the old carts." had the old carts been introduced previously? Checking now... no, so better as "...racks of saddles, and old carts."

"The two soldier were leaning..." maybe. Or maybe "Two soldiers were leaning..."
"...seen Olivia's uncle close to." better as "...seen Olivia's uncle close."

Still liking this book. I'll continue on another comment shortly. I'm bound and determined to read this through to the end.

Cheers, Scott Butcher (The Dreams of Aine's Blood)

Scott Butcher wrote 107 days ago

WTF review

Hey Sue,

I see you have a new story. I thought I'd see what you have. It's very well polished, but I did find a few typos for you. In terms of structure, etc, there's nothing I can add really. It's a good story, I've read 5 chapters in one sitting. I'll try and come back to finish in a few days.

Chp 2: "...to loom threatening over..." threateningly, maybe?
"The change went through him like (a) shiver..."

Chp 3: "The heir, Olivia, is a too young..." something missing from this sentence.

"...with a frighteningly forceful views on almost everything." should be "...with frighteningly forceful views on almost everything."

"The crystal was (a) thing of power."
"If I have I your agreement?" should be "If I have your agreement?"
"He flew on until the fields faded dark green and bare hills." something missing from this sentence.

Chp 4: "...only the occasions slit..." should probably be "...only the occasional slit..."

Chp 5: "...in (a) steamed up glass case..."
"...just scrambling very slowly (down???) the steep hill..."
"T Sticks..." needs fixing.

A hedgehog. Poor boy, what was he thinking? I'll stop here now Sue, but it's another good story.

Cheers, Scott Butcher (The Dreams of Aine's Blood)

Amanda Robertson wrote 107 days ago

Hi - My beginning readings of your story find it very well written and straight into action. I wanted to back it now and will look forward tor reading some more. Good luck!
Amanda Robertson
'The Whatever Stone'

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