The House of Mirrors - Query Update - A BIG Thanks

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Scribble
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The House of Mirrors - Query Update - A BIG Thanks

Post by Scribble » July 25th, 2010, 7:01 am

*** UPDATE***
I'd just like to say a big thanks to Holly, Krista, John Dillon, Quill, mfreivald, atdeluca, bookwatcher, and adam73, (and basically everyone on these forums), for their great advice and help in whipping my query into shape.

Good news is - the query worked! I am now represented by John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management and THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS is now out on submission. Thanks Folks! Apologies for the delay in coming back and giving you the update, but life has been a touch hectic lately.

Image


***UPDATE ENDS***

Hi all.

I posted a query for this story at the end of last year, but now my revisions are coming to an end, I've given it another shot. I'd love to hear what anyone thinks and any improvements I can make to it.
This my query so far:

Hello Mr. agent Man/Ms agent Lady
Twelve year-old Sarah discovers that magic isn’t a load of guff when her little sister, Jane, disappears before her eyes. Hot on her heels, Sarah soon finds herself sneaking into an invisible mansion, scuffling with a thuggish teddy bear, and entering another world that exists through a magic mirror.

If she can’t find Jane and escape the nightmare kingdom, she’ll be forever trapped on the other side of the glass and chased by the terrifying Hunters.

Standing in her way is the Old God, an ancient creature who made the Hunters and rules this land. He wants children’s souls to power his world and bodies he can shape into books for a little light reading. But Sarah has other plans, and sets out to beat the Old God, save her sister from living the rest of her life as a paperback, and discover a way home.

Sarah’s journey will take her through a dangerous magical land, where she will meet both monsters and friends, though sometimes she'll find it difficult to tell which is which.

THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS (52,000 words, for 9 year-olds and up), is a contemporary fantasy adventure about courage, friends, and the importance of not believing everything you see.
Last edited by Scribble on December 18th, 2010, 5:36 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: The House of Mirrors

Post by John Dillon » July 25th, 2010, 7:32 am

Scribble wrote:Hi all.
I posted a query for this story at the end of last year, but now my revisions are coming to an end, I've given it another shot. I'd love to hear what anyone thinks and any improvements I can make to it.
This my query so far:

Hello Mr. agent Man/Ms agent Lady
Twelve year-old Sarah discovers that magic is real when her little sister, Jane, disappears before her eyes. Hot on Jane's heels, Sarah soon finds herself sneaking into an invisible mansion, scuffling with a thuggish teddy bear [I love this!], and entering another world []through a magic mirror.

[The "isn't a load of guff" seemed cumbersome when stating it in the positive is more natural and uses less words; experiment with variations there].


If Sarah can’t find Jane and escape the nightmare kingdom, she’ll be trapped forever on the other side of the glass[].

Standing in her way is the Old God, an ancient creature that rules this dangerous land. The Old God needs children’s souls to power his world and theirbodies to shape into books for a little light reading. [the "light reading" part probably makes sense in the context of your book, but it's a little confusing here. Consider developing it or eliminating it But Sarah has other plans, and sets out to beat the Old God, save her sister [], and discover a way home.

[We already know it's a dangerous magical land; this sentence adds little. Perhaps use this space to explain the concept of turning kids into books or avoiding the Hunters].

THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS (52,000 words, for 9 year-olds and up), is a contemporary fantasy adventure about courage, friends, and the importance of not believing everything you see.
Your story sounds like a fun read. Also, your word economy is impressive and I expect agents will appreciate that. Keep up the good work.

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Re: The House of Mirrors

Post by Quill » July 25th, 2010, 10:36 am

Scribble wrote: Twelve year-old Sarah discovers that magic isn’t a load of guff when her little sister, Jane, disappears before her eyes.
Nice opening.
Hot on her heels, Sarah soon finds herself
"Hot on her heels" is cliche. It also begs explanation; how does one hotly pursue a person who vanishes before one's eyes?

sneaking into an invisible mansion, scuffling with a thuggish teddy bear, and entering another world that exists through a magic mirror.
"sneaking into an invisible mansion" again begs the question, how does one do this? Coupled with the previous hot pursuit of an invisible (disappeared) person, it stops me. I realize you want to pique interest, but I'm scratching my head here. Clarify.

"scuffling with a thuggish teddy bear" is cute and sets a tone. Hopefully the tone of your book -- semi-humorous, children's to middle grade reading level...

"entering another world that exists through a magic mirror" sounds like "Through the Looking Glass". Any way to briefly distinguish your story from the Alice story? You say House of Mirrors; are there multiple mirrors?

Be that as it may, you can omit "that exists" as it does no work for you.
If she can’t find Jane and escape the nightmare kingdom, she’ll be forever trapped on the other side of the glass and chased by the terrifying Hunters.
Good info but an awkward sentence.

1. Omit "on the other side of the glass." Since you just said it was through glass, no need to state it again.

2. Odd combo of actions reads like if she can't find Jane she'll be trapped, which doesn't makes sense to me, and if she can't escape she'll be trapped, which is a duh, a given.

3. Omit "forever" as melodramatic, unneeded, and confusing (forever chased?).
Standing in her way is the Old God, an ancient creature who made the Hunters and rules this land. He wants children’s souls to power his world and bodies he can shape into books for a little light reading.
This is good.

But Sarah has other plans, and sets out to beat the Old God,
Omit "has other plans" which makes her sound too calculating and in control. Just have her "set out to beat..." or some such.

save her sister from living the rest of her life as a paperback, and discover a way home.
You never told us how/why the sister got (apparently) sucked into this world, which makes the premise as expressed here seem a little willy-nilly. Can any child from this world get "disappeared" this way? Might bump up the fear factor and the dramatic punch of your query to say.
Sarah’s journey will take her through a dangerous magical land, where she will meet both monsters and friends, though sometimes she'll find it difficult to tell which is which.
Omit. In a query best not to summarize your summary.
THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS (52,000 words, for 9 year-olds and up),
Best to give the genre, if possible, not the age. "THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS is a 52,000-word middle grade novel," or some such.
is a contemporary fantasy adventure about courage, friends, and the importance of not believing everything you see.
Again, final summaries will not help your cause. Best to pack this info into your pitch blurb above, showing there rather than telling here.

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Re: The House of Mirrors

Post by Holly » July 25th, 2010, 10:43 am

Scribble wrote:Hi all.
I posted a query for this story at the end of last year, but now my revisions are coming to an end, I've given it another shot. I'd love to hear what anyone thinks and any improvements I can make to it.
This my query so far:

Hello Mr. agent Man/Ms agent Lady:

Twelve-year-old (add a hyphen) Sarah discovers that magic is real (I like the other poster's suggestion to put this in the positive) when her little sister, Jane, disappears before her eyes. Hot on her heels this is a cliche -- can you say it in your own words?, Sarah sneaks into an invisible mansion, scuffles with a thuggish teddy bear, and entering another world that exists through a magic mirror and tumbles through a magic mirror into another world. (Verbs are stronger not in the ING form)

If she can’t find Jane and escape the nightmare kingdom, she’ll be forever trapped trapped forever on the other side of the glass, chased by terrifying Hunters.

Standing in her way is the Old God, an ancient creature who made the Hunters and rules this land. He wants children’s souls to power his world and bodies he can shape into books (I would cut this: for a little light reading). But Sarah has other plans, and sets out to beat the Old God, save her sister from living the rest of her life as a paperback, on a bookshelf, and discover a the way home.

Sarah’s journey will take takes her through a dangerous magical land, where she will meet meets both monsters and friends, though sometimes she'll find she finds it difficult to tell which is which.

THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS (52,000 words, for nine-year-olds and up) (cut,) is a contemporary fantasy adventure about courage, friends, and the importance of not believing everything you see.

Hi, Scribble. Here are some nitpicks -- I hope some of them are helpful. This is a short query, less than 200 words. I would add some details, for example, tell exactly how Jane disappears. Great story!

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Re: The House of Mirrors

Post by mfreivald » July 25th, 2010, 12:52 pm

Hello, Scribble. This is pretty good. If I were an agent, I’d already be interested, but I think the query can be better. I tried not to repeat too many of the good suggestions of other critiques.
Hello Mr. agent Man/Ms agent Lady
Twelve year-old Sarah discovers that magic isn’t a load of guff<--I agree this is a mouthful, but to retain some of the voice I think you could say “. . . that magic is no guff. . . .”--<< when her little sister, Jane, disappears before her eyes. Hot on her heels<--I don’t like the cliche, either, and I was left with the same disoriented question--how do you follow someone who disappeared?--<<, Sarah soon finds herself sneaking into an invisible mansion<--I’m okay with this as is. It gives me something of curiosity to look forward to in the read--<<, scuffling with a thuggish teddy bear, and entering another world that exists through a magic mirror.

This next paragraph seems to disrupt the flow a little. I think you could combine it with the paragraph following for a smoother narrative.

Maybe something like:

The ancient god who rules the land sends terrifying Hunters after her, and means to trap her forever on his side of the glass. He wants children’s souls to power his world and bodies he can shape into books for a little light reading. But Sarah has other plans, and sets out to beat the old god, save her sister from living the rest of her life as a paperback, and discover a way home.

If she can’t find Jane and escape the nightmare kingdom, she’ll be forever trapped<--with the conditional, this merely states the obvious. It’s like saying: “If she doesn’t escape, she’ll never escape.”--<< on the other side of the glass<--slightly ambiguous--<< and chased by the terrifying Hunters.

Standing in her way is the Old God, an ancient creature who made the Hunters and rules this land.<--I think “the Old God” (mostly because of the capitalization) is excessively distracting, though it might be a personal thing. There are so many things you might mean, and it makes me wonder if you are trying to make a religious point about the God of Judeo-Christianity. If it added a good amount of color, I might let it go, but I don’t think you get enough in the trade-off--<< He wants children’s souls to power his world and bodies he can shape into books for a little light reading. But Sarah has other plans, and sets out to beat the Old God, save her sister from living the rest of her life as a paperback, and discover a way home.

Sarah’s journey will take her through a dangerous magical land, where she will meet both monsters and friends, though sometimes she'll find it difficult to tell which is which.

THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS (52,000 words, for 9 year-olds and up), is a contemporary fantasy adventure about courage, friends, and the importance of not believing everything you see.
Hope that helps,
Mark

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Re: The House of Mirrors

Post by Quill » July 25th, 2010, 1:18 pm

I do like the little voice-isms like "isn't a load of guff", "a little light reading" and the thuggish teddy bear business. If they accurately reflect the tone of the manuscript, I say leave 'em.

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Re: The House of Mirrors

Post by Scribble » July 25th, 2010, 1:19 pm

Wow. Some great comments, here. Cheers!

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Re: The House of Mirrors

Post by Krista G. » July 26th, 2010, 9:40 am

Scribble wrote:Hello Mr. agent Man/Ms agent Lady
Twelve year-old Sarah discovers that magic isn’t a load of guff when her little sister, Jane, disappears before her eyes. Hot on her heels (I agree that this phrase smacks of cliche), Sarah soon finds herself sneaking into an invisible mansion, scuffling with a thuggish teddy bear (I like this a lot, too:) ), and entering another world that exists through a magic mirror.

If she can’t find Jane and escape the nightmare kingdom, she’ll be forever trapped on the other side of the glass and chased by the terrifying Hunters. This line feels more like the last line of a query pitch, especially since you've given it weight by making it a single paragraph. You might try combining it with the next paragraph or rewording it altogether.

Standing in her way is the Old God, an ancient creature who made the Hunters and rules this land. He wants children’s souls to power his world and bodies he can shape into books for a little light reading. But Sarah has other plans, (<--You don't need this comma) and sets out to beat the Old God, save her sister from living the rest of her life as a paperback, and discover a way home.

Sarah’s journey will take her through a dangerous magical land, where she will meet both monsters and friends, though sometimes she'll find it difficult to tell which is which. This line doesn't add much to the query. It seems like a tacked-on afterthought.

THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS (52,000 words, for 9 year-olds and up), is a contemporary fantasy adventure about courage, friends, and the importance of not believing everything you see.
On the whole, I think the story concept is great. It has an ALICE IN WONDERLAND-esque touch without feeling derivative. Best of luck with this.
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
Represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary
www.motherwrite.blogspot.com

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Re: The House of Mirrors

Post by Scribble » July 26th, 2010, 9:54 am

Thanks Krista.
My wife described my story as Coraline meets Labyrinth. To my shame I hadn't read Alice Through the Looking Glass when I wrote this. I did read it after though, to make sure I hadn't coincidently written to closely (something I did with an earlier aborted story that turned out to be the premise to the YA novel, Wake).
Thanks to all the great comments, I've given it another go, hope this one reads better:


The last time twelve-year-old Sarah sees her sister, Jane, is on the abandoned plot of land at the bottom of Hannover Street. Musical chimes lure Jane into the rubbish and long grass, where she vanishes right before Sarah’s eyes. Sarah follows the trail of glowing footprints left behind by her sister right up to the doors of a mansion that appears out of nowhere. She sneaks inside, meets a helpful old man trapped in a mirror, gets into a fight with a thuggish teddy bear, and leaps through a magic mirror into another world.

But that was the easy part.

Now she has to avoid the terrifying Hunters that are on her trail, find her missing sister, and be the first person to figure out a way to escape. Standing in her way is the Old God, an ancient creature that rules this nightmare kingdom. The Old God needs children’s souls to power his world and their bodies to shape into books for a little light reading. Sarah has other ideas, and sets out to save her sister, beat the Old God, and discover a way home.

THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS is a 52,000-word contemporary fantasy adventure for nine-year-olds and up.

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Re: The House of Mirrors - New Revision at post 9

Post by atdeluca » July 26th, 2010, 10:04 am

The last time twelve-year-old Sarah sees her sister, Jane, is on the abandoned plot of landat the bottom of Hannover Street. Musical chimes lure Jane into the rubbish and long grass,where she vanishes right before Sarah’sher eyes. Sarah follows the trail of glowing footprints left behind by her sister right up to the doors of a mansion that appears out of nowherethat seemingly appeared from thin air. She sneaks inside, meets a helpful old man trapped in a mirror, gets into a fight with a thuggish teddy bear, and leaps through a magic mirror into another world. (I don't know about this sentence, think of a better way to say it, it's very clunky as it is)

But that was the easy part. Nice.

Now she has to avoid the terrifying Hunterscreatures that are on her trail, find her missing sister, and be the first person to figure out a way to escape. Standing in her way is the Old God, an ancient creature that rules thisthe nightmare kingdom. The Old God needsfeeds on children’s souls to power his world and uses their bodies to shape into books for a little light reading (light reading isn't very scary). Sarah has other ideas, and sets out to save her sister, beat the Old God, and discover a way home.

THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS is a 52,000-word contemporary fantasy adventure for nine-year-olds and up.

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Re: The House of Mirrors - New Revision at post 9

Post by mfreivald » July 26th, 2010, 9:42 pm

On the whole, I liked the tone of the previous one better.
The last time twelve-year-old Sarah sees her sister, Jane, is on the abandoned plot of land at the bottom of Hannover Street. Musical chimes lure Jane into the rubbish and long grass, where she vanishes right before Sarah’s eyes. Sarah follows the trail of glowing footprints left behind by her sister right up to the doors of a mansion that appears out of nowhere.<--I know you are reacting to our disorientation with “following her after she disappeared, but now I think you have way too much. I think you could have fixed it simply by adding the golden footprints (see below)--<< She sneaks inside, meets a helpful old man trapped in a mirror<--Though it might be interesting and fun in the story, I don’t think this helps your query. The three quick things as before was very effective--<<, gets into a fight with a thuggish teddy bear, and leaps through a magic mirror into another world.

I think you could have fixed the issues in the first paragraph and retained a lot of that nice tone you had. For example:

Twelve year-old Sarah discovers magic is no guff when her little sister, Jane, disappears before her eyes, but leaves golden footprints. During her alarmed pursuit*, Sarah sneaks into an invisible mansion, scuffles with a thuggish teddy bear, and leaps through a magic mirror into another world.

That retains your previous paragraph and minimizes the gobble-dee-gook needed to appease anyone (like me) who had difficulty with following a disappearance. (As always, the words I offer could use more polish.)

*Funny, but with the golden footprints, the cliche “Hot on her heels” didn’t bother me as much, and I don’t really like my word choice at this point. I’m almost tempted to say keep it for the tone.


But that was the easy part.<--I like this, too--<<

Now she has to avoid the terrifying Hunters that are on her trail, find her missing sister, and be the first person to figure out a way to escape. Standing in her way is the Old God, an ancient creature that rules this nightmare kingdom. The Old God needs children’s souls to power his world and their bodies to shape into books for a little light reading. Sarah has other ideas, and sets out to save her sister, beat the Old God, and discover a way home.
The second paragraph seems improved, but the last sentence is almost a repeat of the first. Can you drop the second part of the first sentence after “trail,” or change the last one?

For some reason “Old God” isn’t distracting me like last time. I think you can compress the first and second sentences. Do we really need to know he rules the nightmare kingdom? How about: “Standing in her way is the Old God of this nightmare kingdom, and he needs children’s souls to power his world and their bodies to shape into books for a little light reading.” Is that enough? I think it might be.

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Re: The House of Mirrors - attempt #3 on page 2

Post by Scribble » July 27th, 2010, 7:21 am

Thanks for the feedback, it's very useful.
Here's attempt 3 taking your comments into consideration. I've tried to include more voice in this one while trying to keep it clear:


Twelve-year-old Sarah discovers that magic isn’t a load of guff when her little sister, Jane, vanishes right before her eyes. All that’s left behind is a set of glowing footprints that Sarah follows to a creepy mansion that certainly wasn’t there before. Sarah sneaks into the dusty house, scuffles with a thuggish teddy bear, and jumps into another world through a magic mirror.

But that was the easy part.

Now she has to avoid the terrifying Hunters that are on her trail and their master, the Old God. Creator of this nightmare kingdom, the Old God needs children’s souls to power his world and their bodies to shape into books for a little light reading. But Sarah has no intention of doing as she’s told by some dusty monster who thinks he’s in charge, so she sets out to beat the Old God, find Jane, and be the first person to figure out a way to escape.

THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS is a 52,000-word contemporary fantasy adventure for nine-year-olds and up.

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Re: The House of Mirrors - attempt #3 on page 2

Post by Quill » July 27th, 2010, 10:13 am

Scribble wrote:Thanks for the feedback, it's very useful.
Here's attempt 3 taking your comments into consideration. I've tried to include more voice in this one while trying to keep it clear:


Twelve-year-old Sarah discovers that magic isn’t a load of guff when her little sister, Jane, vanishes right before her eyes. All that’s left behind is a set of glowing footprints that Sarah follows to a creepy mansion that certainly wasn’t there before. Sarah sneaks into the dusty house, scuffles with a thuggish teddy bear, and jumps into another world through a magic mirror.

But that was the easy part.

Now she has to avoid the terrifying Hunters that are on her trail and their master, the Old God. Creator of this nightmare kingdom, the Old God needs children’s souls to power his world and their bodies to shape into books for a little light reading. But Sarah has no intention of doing as she’s told by some dusty monster who thinks he’s in charge, so she sets out to beat the Old God, find Jane, and be the first person to figure out a way to escape.

THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS is a 52,000-word contemporary fantasy adventure for nine-year-olds and up.
It's good. A few things:

1. Sarah is sounding more nine than twelve.

2. Best not to use the word "dusty" twice.

3. I think "...no intention of doing what she's told" would be stronger than saying "as she's told".

4. What is she told? What you described about the world doesn't allude to any telling. A thought: "But Sarah has not intention of becoming a little light reading" might be cute.

5. Omit "But" from "But that was the easy part."

6. Omit "certainly" from "certainly wasn't there before". I understand it is voicey and all, but...

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Re: The House of Mirrors - Latest #3 on page 2

Post by mfreivald » July 27th, 2010, 11:02 am

Yeah. This is better. A little more polish and I think you might be there.
Twelve-year-old Sarah discovers that magic isn’t a load of guff when her little sister, Jane, vanishes right before her eyes. All that’s left behind<--I think you can cut “behind”--<< is a set of glowing footprints that Sarah follows to a creepy mansion that certainly<--I would drop “certainly,” too, but it’s not too bad if it stays--<< wasn’t there before. Sarah sneaks into the dusty house, scuffles with a thuggish teddy bear, and jumps into another world through a magic mirror.

But that was the easy part.

Now she has to avoid the terrifying Hunters that are on her trail and their master, the Old God. Creator of this nightmare kingdom<--Again, for the sake of brevity, I think this is mostly implied in the following phrases, so I’d drop it. We know he’s powerful, bad, and after her, I think that’s enough--<<, the Old God needs children’s souls to power his world and their bodies to shape into books for a little light reading.<--I like Quill’s idea for this*--<< But Sarah has no intention of doing as she’s told by some dusty monster who thinks he’s in charge, so she sets<--The alliteration is distracting--<< out to beat the Old God, find Jane, and be the first person to figure out a way to escape.<--Because of the terseness of "beat the Old God" and "find Jane," this comes off as a mouthful. I'd try to find a more efficient way to say it. I don't think her being the first is anything we need to know, nor does it add much to the drama, so I'd probably drop that.--<<

*So the resulting sentences might read:
“The Old God needs children’s souls to power his world and their bodies to shape into books. But Sarah has no intention of becoming a little light reading and sets out to beat the Old God, find Jane, and find a way to escape.”

I might (only if it doesn't feel cluttery) find a colorful adjective for “books,” but it reads nicely this way. I might also keep filing down "find a way to escape."


THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS is a 52,000-word contemporary fantasy adventure for nine-year-olds and up.

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Re: The House of Mirrors - Latest #3 on page 2

Post by Scribble » July 27th, 2010, 11:23 am

Cheers, some great suggestions again, and thanks for the encouragement (sometimes I can't see the wood for the trees on this thing).

My only worry now is that it's a bit short! But then again, it touches on the main points and I guess there's no need to include a mention of the mentor and the sidekick characters in this, only the protagonist and antagonist.
I don't really have anything in the way of writing credentials either, so this might be it as far as the query goes.

New Version (now with added bookwatcher comments):

Twelve-year-old Sarah discovers that magic isn’t a load of guff when her little sister, Jane, vanishes right before her eyes. All that’s left is a set of glowing footprints that Sarah follows to a creepy mansion that certainly wasn’t there before. Sarah sneaks into the dusty house, scuffles with a thuggish teddy bear, and jumps into another world through a magic mirror.

That was the easy part.

Now she has to avoid both the terrifying Hunters and their master, the Old God. He needs children’s souls to power his world and their bodies to shape into books for a little light reading. But Sarah has no intention of allowing some ancient monster to turn her into a paperback, so she sets out to beat the Old God, find Jane, and figure out a way to escape.

THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS is a 52,000-word contemporary fantasy adventure for nine-year-olds and up.
Last edited by Scribble on July 27th, 2010, 12:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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