Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 27, 2018

Agent of the Month: Cari Lamba – First Page Results

Prior to officially joining the team of agents, Cari Lamba interned for The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency for eight years. It wasn’t long into her internship before she knew she wanted to join the publishing world and help writers bring their books to life. Cari graduated from Franklin and Marshall College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. She also studied literature at The Advanced Studies in England Program. She has experience as a bookseller and in publicity and content writing for online publications. Cari has been published in Writer’s Digest Magazine and has taught webinars for Writer’s Digest as well.

What Cari is looking for:

She is interested in middle grade fiction with wacky plots (Roald Dahl is a favorite of mine) and characters that drive the story. She would also like contemporary stories that are both humorous and heartfelt. While she is not interested in stories with high fantasy, she would welcome elements of the fantastic and otherworldly. She wants novels that will resonate with children without being didactic.

Both fiction and non-fiction picture books are welcome. She is looking for unique ideas with fun and quirky elements as well as sweet, endearing picture books. In non-fiction I’m especially looking for strong female role-models.

I’m looking for commercial fiction with original plots and clever characters. While I’m not interested in romance novels, elements of romance are welcome. She also has a particular interest in mystery/detective fiction, and novels with culinary ties. 

She NOT interested in science fiction, horror, high fantasy, Christian fiction, political novels, or books with extremely violent elements.



David Applegate, The Bremtu Prophecy, Middle Grade, low-fantasy

Whi-pah! The coachman’s whip cracked.

Whi-pah! Whi-pah! The horses galloped faster, whisking the coach down the bumpy road. My squished legs ached, but I didn’t care. Hiding in the cramped luggage bay was a small price to pay to find Mother and my brother, Kray. Once I tracked them down, my lonely days without a family would be over.

I peeked through a knothole. The suns both shone above rolling grain fields. Wheat at the edge of the road leaned in, as if trying to brush the dirt off our wheels. We’d traveled far since our dawn departure, and were now miles from Wendrelhar—the Bakara hamlet I vowed never to return to.

The coachman sat alone on a seat above the carriage. Neither he nor his passengers knew that a twelve-year-old boy rode hidden, just behind them. The tip of his whip lay across his dusty boots, twitching like a snake tongue. I touched the slash on my cheek and shivered. Never again. I’d been struck by Father’s belt for the last time.

“Whoa!” shouted the coachman. The clippity-clop of hooves came to a halt. Leather harnesses creaked. A man stood at the edge of the road. His top half was hidden, but I could see his heavy boots and olive-colored pants. A burlap sack lay crumpled at his side.

“Pay the fare and climb aboard.” The coachman’s high voice seemed to squeeze through his nose. “Get on with it. We ain’t got all day.”

The man stepped closer. A Kabrooni—the first I’d ever seen. His face was round. Blond hair tangled behind his ears like corn silk. I rubbed the sharp edge of my chin then twirled one of my thick, brown locks. Our two races looked so different.

The Kabrooni pulled coins from his pocket and held them up. His hairless arm was as smooth as his face.


I really like how intriguing this opening scene is. It introduces elements of this other world in a very natural way. Something as simple as saying the “suns both shone” is a clever way to incorporate that this is a new place.

This story may benefit from being told in the third person instead of the first person. Since he is hidden away in a coach, I worry that a lot of the details will be told to us instead of revealed through actions throughout the story. We already know he has the slash on his cheek from is father. If the author were to use third person, we would just see a boy hiding in the coach with a slash on his cheek. This gives an added element of intrigue. There are advantages to using both first and third person in a story, and by testing out how the story would look written both ways, you might find that third person is a better fit, especially for fantasy.



I’m an entomologist, which means I study insects.

I’ve got bugs on the brain! They’re everywhere, actually.

[ART: Show Ivy’s half of room filled to the brim with collection of living bugs]

Rainbow shield bugs. Brazilian treehoppers. Peacock spiders. My collection is critteriffic!

Well, almost critteriffic. I’ve got one more bug to catch – the elusive carpenter bee.

Entomologists must conduct a lot of research.

[ART: Ivy and Sammy share a room. Sammy’s side is decorated like a future engineer – lego structures, drawings, etc. Show Ivy researching and Sammy unfurls roll of butcher paper on top.]

“Buzz off, Sammy.”

“But look … ”  [ART: Sammy tries to point out line in Ivy’s books that says carpenter bees love wood]

“No buts. And no more studying.”

Entomologists must suit up for the job. When bug-hunting, it’s all about the gear.

Hat? Check. Gloves? Check. Net? …  Where’s my net?

[ART: Sammy is using Ivy’s net to prop up a tower she is building]

“Pincers off my gear, Sammy!”

“But look …”

“No buts. I’ve got a bee to bag.” [ART: Ivy sees bee on open window ledge]

Entomologists must be quick as crickets.

Ready … set … Thump!  [ART: Sammy bumps into Ivy while fixing her tower]

“Ahh! I was so close! Can’t you just shoo, Sammy?”           Well, entomologists track targets in their natural habitats anyway.


I really like the concept of this book. I love that there is a female character who is studying bugs. I also like that Sammy has her own engineer thing going on as well. However, the text reads a little clunky. Using a word like entomologist so many time in a picture book can not only get confusing for children but really keeps the text from flowing easily. I suggest that authors read their text outloud to see how the words work together. This is helpful for writing any genre but is particularlly important for picture books because that is how the story is meant to be read.

While art notes are helpful for picture book texts, this story has really over used them. There is so much going on in the notes to try to set up the scene it becomes distracting. When describing that Ivy and Sammy share a room, the note is bogged down with details. Even though I said I really like that Sammy is a future engineer, it complicates the scene and is an unnecessary detail. By simplifying both the text and notes, this story can become a very cool way of showing a girl bug hunter.


THE WEED FORT  By Rebecca Koehn – MG

Chapter 1

The visions began after the snake incident. Though I didn’t put the two together for a long time. I live in the city and there is an alley behind my house. Behind that there is a big grassy hill leading down to a large culvert. On the other side of the culvert is the Mosley’s backyard, their house, and 10th street.

It was on the big hill that the snake licked my ear. No. I’m serious. Stop laughing. Don’t roll your eyes. Yes. I know it sounds stupid. And weird.

We loved to ride bikes down that hill and through the culvert. Amber, Dallas and me. But one day while going down the hill at top speed, I hit a rock. A rock that had never been there before by the way. I totally flipped head over handlebars and landed flat on my back. I couldn’t breathe for, like a minute. Laying there, sucking air, I heard Amber and Dallas yelling at me. They were completely overacting. I mean, were near hysterical. It’s not like one of us hadn’t wiped out before. Last week Amber had busted her glasses face-planting while going down one of the bike ramps we’d built in the woods.

Anyway, I was finally able to make out what they were saying,

“DO. NOT. MOVE. CAS. Seriously, stay still,” Dallas hollered. Though his voice got quiet near the end.

“Oh my God. Oh my God. I don’t think it’s a rattler. I don’t hear a rattle. Do you hear a rattle?” Amber was scream whispering on my other side.

“What are yo…”

“SHUT UP,” Dallas said. And I did. Because, well, Dallas is a nice kid. I mean NICE. He just doesn’t talk like that. Amber would, but not him.

“There is a snake right next to your head Cas. Seriously, lay still, and don’t move.”


While I like that this story starts right in with the action, the voice could use some work. I think it’s always hard when a writer tries to break through the barrier and talk to the reader. The entire second paragraph does this and it really disrupts the story. While authors like to use this as a quirky way to connect to the audience it ends up taking away from the story.

I also noticed that a lot of the opening scene is told to us. We already know there is going to be a snake lick and the consequences of it after. The story would read a lot better if it opened with the kids riding down that big hill so we can read about Cas having the incident firsthand instead of being told about it after it has happened.


Tom Carvel-the Boy Who Kept Believing by Amalia Hoffman – Picture Book nonfiction Ages 5-8 660 words

A brave boy blasted off on a spaceship made of crunchy chocolate cookie sandwich, filled with vanilla ice cream.

His story began long time ago when…

A boat carrying immigrants docked at Ellis Island in 1910. On the boat, was a little boy who arrived with his family from Greece. His name was Thomas Andreas Carvelas but in America, everyone called him Tom Carvel.

So, did he have a spaceship made of ice cream?

No, no! All he had was a chicken coop made of wood crates and he lived on a small farm with his Mamma, Papa, brother and sister.

So how did he fly to space?

He didn’t! But he kept believing that in America, anything was possible and big dreams could take off like a spaceship.

Tom loved ice cream so when he grew up, he sold frozen treats on the road.

One hot Memorial Day, Pop! Tom’s truck had a flat tire. Tom pulled over into a parking lot. The sun sizzled and the ice cream began to melt.

Someone else might have called it quits but Tom kept believing…

He wiped his sweaty forehead and sold the half-melted ice cream to vacationers who happened to pass by.

The new treat tasted marvelous. Tom’s eyes twinkled. Maybe he was on into something fabulous?

So he started making soft ice cream called, Soft Pump.

what’s this got to do with flying to space?

Actually nothing. But there was more…


The opening of this story mentions flying into space, which has nothing to do with what the actual story is about. This immediately confused me.  If an author mentions anything about going into space that should be what the story is about. A picture book has limited space and should be focused on the main story. The fact that going to space keeps getting brought up makes it seem like the author isn’t confident in the story they are trying to tell – that they think they need some gimmick to make it more interesting. I’m left waiting for the story to actually start and when I realize it’s actually about ice cream I’m disappointed that it isn’t a space story.

As a picture book, the author also needs to consider what illustrations would be included.  In the scene where Tom’s truck gets a flat tire, so much of that can be added as an illustration note instead of describing each detail.  While the illustration notes don’t need to include everything (there should be room for the illustrator to be creative), it can be used as a helpful tool to focus a story.


Thank you Cari for sharing your expertise with us. Your help is really appreciated.

Talk tomorrow,


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