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A blog written by the editor of Through the Looking Glass Book Review, a monthly online children's book review journal.
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1. Picture Book Monday with a review of The Boy on the Page

Most people, at some time or another, wonder why they are here and what they should do with their lives. When we are children we ask each other "What are you going to be when you grow up?" and when we are grown up we ask ourselves, "Am I doing what I should be doing with my life?"

In this exceptional picture book we meet a young boy who wonders why he is where he is, and what he discovers will resonate with readers of all ages.

The Boy on the PageThe Boy on the Page
Peter Carnavas
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Kane Miller, 2014, 978-1-61067-245-0
One day a small boy landed on an empty page. It was a rather abrupt arrival, and for a while he just stood there as there was nothing else around him. Then, slowly, a world began to appear on the white page. Green hills, trees, flowers and then animals of all kinds joined the. Soon other people were there too, and buildings. As he grew up in the every changing world, there was a question that the boy wondered about. Why was he there?
   The boy went on to have all kinds of wonderful experiences. He rolled down a hill, rode a horse, planted a tree, paddled a canoe, and made music with friends. He grow up and fell in love, he became a father, and built a house. He did so many things and yet he still had no idea why he was where he was. What was this all for?
   In this beautiful and sweetly simple picture book we watch a boy, and then a man, experience all the wonderful things that life has to offer. We see how the boy (and man) gives of himself to others, and receives so much in return. When we come to the end of the tale we realize that the answer to the boy’s question is a simple but powerful one.
   Throughout the book wonderful illustrations are paired with a spare text, and together they offer readers of all ages a message that is timeless.

   

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2. Poetry Friday with a review of Changes: A child’s first Poetry Collection

Young children are often wonderfully receptive to poetry. There is something about the rhythm of verse that appeals to their ears. In today's poetry title readers will find a collection of beautifully rhythmic poems that perfectly capture the adventures, images, and sensations that children experience as the seasons go by.

Changes: A child’s first Poetry CollectionChanges: A child’s first Poetry Collection
Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 3 to 6
Sourcebooks, 2015, 978-1-4926-0168-5
Charlotte Zolotow was a prolific writer who wrote more than ninety published books for young readers, two of which won Caldecott Honor awards. For four decades, in her capacity as an editor-publisher at HarperCollins, she worked with wonderful writers such as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maurice Sendak, and Arnold Lobel. In this wonderful collection, twenty-eight of her poems are brought together to offer young children a beautiful journey through the seasons. They are being published in what would have been Charlotte’s centenary year, and therefore they serve as a fitting tribute both to her and to her “ability to frame the largest, boldest truths for the smallest, newest readers.”
   The collection begins with a poem called Change, which explores the joys of “Celebrating the Seasons.” We see how one season flows into another, a process that is full of change and wonder, and yet in the end, when the year comes full circle, the only thing that has really changed is us. We have grown up and grown older.
   Next we begin our journey with poems about spring. We see a river winding through a meadow and experience the spring wind which “comes gently after the rain / smelling of spring and growing things.” We lie in the grass and see a small bird flying over the trees. We meet some violet sellers and celebrate the simple beauty of crocuses and pansies.
   In summer we share a moment with a child who is watching a honey bee. That “shimmering clear / making the sky seem very near” moment is his to relish and enjoy. We see how blue is a true summer color, the color of “the sea at noon,” bluejays, blueberries, larkspurs and “the sky itself.” We experience the essence of time spent by the sea, and meet two denizens of summer; a fly and a beetle.
   Autumn is a time when “the light long summer / is grown old.” It is a time of falling colorful leaves, of school days, and Halloween costumes. Following close on its heels comes winter with its snow and frozen rivers. “Black and still” trees are stark and beautiful, and now when toes feel the cold, we remember the summer sun.
   Paired with sweet illustrations that capture the magic of the seasons, these wonderful poems will delight readers, young and old alike.


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3. Picture Book Monday with a review of The baseball player and the Walrus


Many people think that they know what a person needs to have to be happy. Happiness = having lots of money and being famous. However, judging from the stories we see in the media. the rich and famous often are not very happy people. Something is missing from their lives.

Today's picture book explores the way in which one rich and famous person stumbles across something that makes him happy, and we see how he tries to figure out how to change his life so that happiness can be his.

The baseball player and the Walrus
Ben Loory
The baseball player and the WalrusIllustrated by Alex Latimer
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Penguin, 2015, 978-0-8037-3951-2
There once was a baseball player who had it all; fame, fortune, and fans. The surprising thing is that the baseball player was not happy. He knew that something was missing in his life but he had no idea what that something was.
   Then one day the baseball player went to the zoo and he saw all the animals. He saw the lions, tigers, giraffes, and elephants, and then he came to the walrus pool. The baseball player was very taken with the walrus and he stayed and watched it all day long. Something about the animal lifted the baseball player’s spirits and made him feel happy inside.
   That evening the baseball player decided that he was going to buy the walrus. He created a splendid walrus habitat in his back yard, and stocked up on fish and walrus vitamins. He showed the zoo people that he was going to be a responsible walrus owner, and they finally agreed to let him take the walrus home.
   The walrus and the baseball player became fast friends and had many grand times together, but when the baseball season began the player had to be away from home a lot and both he and the walrus were very unhappy. Eventually the baseball player decided that he had had enough, and he quit his job and went home as fast as he could to be with his walrus. Everything was perfect for a while, until the baseball player realized that without a job he could no longer afford to keep his dear friend.
   Many people think that happiness should be a secondary consideration in life. We have to make money, buy things, and be ‘successful’ first and foremost. In this delightful picture book we meet a man whose money, fame, and success don’t make him happy. Luckily, he finds out that having a walrus for a friend is just what he needs, and he does everything in his power to make the walrus part of his life.
   With humor and sensitivity, the author of this book gives readers a tale that is amusing, memorable, and that conveys a message that everyone should take heed of: Follow your heart.


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4. Poetry Friday with a review of Poems From Homeroom: A writers place to start

Happy poetry Friday! Today I have a book that is full of wonderful poems. It is also is a sort of guide book to help young people start exploring the world of poetry for themselves. Knowing how to start, and what to write about is often hard, but Kathi Appelt shows young poets where to begin by offering them prompts and exercises. She shows them how accessible this writing form is, and how freeing it can be.

Poems From Homeroom: A writers place to startPoems From Homeroom: A writers place to start
Kathi Appelt
Poetry
For ages 13 to 18
Owlet Paperbacks, 2010, 978-0805075960
Early humans spent most of their time doing what they could to survive. They had to find food, build shelter, and keep themselves and their young safe from predators. Then there came a time when existence was easier, and humans began to look for ways to express themselves. They told stories around the fires at night, made up songs, created beautiful paintings on cave walls, and eventually figured out how to write so that stories could be kept and treasured.
   Writing is a wonderful form of self-expression because it is so easy to do, and it comes in many forms. “One of the most flexible is poetry,” because you can write poems about anything at all. They don’t need to have a story or characters unless you want them to, and they can be in verse or not. Poems can be about mundane things, or they can explore big picture subjects. The sky is the limit.
   In this thoughtful book, Kathi Applet takes us into the lives of several teenagers through a series of poems, building their personalities using wonderful imagery and stories. We get to know Jimmy Haliburton, who has a real guitar at home, but who plays the air guitar at school. With this instrument he accompanies the morning announcements. Then he plays the blues, after which he moves on to be Jimi Hendrix. On this instrument of air he “can’t mess up or play out of key.”
   We meet a girl who has a dragon tattoo “Curled around her ankle / like a cat.” The tattoo somehow makes her more than just “plain ‘ol Patty Lopez.” It turns her into the “Dragon Girl of Dogwood High.” Then there is another girl who has a pick-up truck sized crush on her teacher. She is “smushed by love,” and loves the fact that he thinks that she asks intelligent questions. What should she ask next?
   In the second half of the book, the “study hall,” the author goes back and looks at the poems she wrote again. She talks about what inspired her to write them, and then offers her readers a collection of prompts that they can use as a jumping off place to write their own poems. For example, she tells us why she wrote the poem about the girl with the dragon tattoo. Then she presents readers with ideas and questions. She invites them to write about people who are somehow unique and different. She talks about people who are a part of a group, and those who hate being classified into a group. She asks readers to think about how clothing and other embellishments make people feel. The dragon tattoo makes Patty feel powerful. How would a black trenchcoat make a person feel? Finally she talks about people who have some distinguishing mark or characteristic forced on them. This is not something they chose. Rather, it is something that they would like to be rid of. She asks her readers to “Write about someone like that.”
   Finding a starting place is often so hard to do when you are beginning to explore the world of writing. In this excellent book Kathi Applet helps young people to explore the world of poetry in a way that makes sense to them. She gets into their world in poetry form, and then invites them to share their experiences through writing.

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5. Picture Book Monday with a review of Breaking News: Bear Alert

Spring is a time when many animals become active again, after the cold months of winter are over. Birds and squirrels start building nests, and bears come out of hibernation, Typically bears immediately set about looking for food when they wake up. In today's picture book you will see what happens when a pair of just-woken-up bears are accidentally brought to a town.

Breaking News: Bear Alert Breaking News: Bear Alert
David Biedrzycki
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2014, 978-1580896634
An episode of Our Furry Planet is being broadcasted live. The host of the show, Jean Louis, is in a bear cave with his cameraman, filming a pair of bears who are hibernating. Jean Louis says that soon the bears will wake up and they will be hungry for food. As he is talking he pokes one of the bears with a stick. What he does not realize is that his actions wake up the bear, and not surprisingly is gets mighty miffed that it has been disturbed.
   The screen goes blank for a moment and then we are brought a “Breaking News” alert. A skycam shows viewers that the bears, who are now fully awake, are riding on the roof of the Our Furry Planet van. Jean Louis and the cameraman have no idea that they are taking two large, furry passengers to the city with them. They think that they escaped the bears that they so rudely woke up.
   When they get to the city, the cameraman tells the media that he and Jean Louis scared the bears away, but it soon becomes clear how wrong he is. Security video from Teddy’s Diner shows the bears entering the establishment where they start eating whatever they can get their paws on. The bears then make their way down Main Street, and their progress is picked up by various cameras. Animal Control officers arrive on the scene but the bears are now in the Misses and Petites section in Paddington’s Department Store, and they in disguise
   Young readers are going to love this clever picture book. The story is presented in such a way that we feel that we are watching the whole crazy bear alert situation on a screen. Young readers will see that in addition to the chaos created by the arrival of the bears in town, something else is going on. Eventually the two stories collide to bring the tale to a wonderful denouement.

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6. Poetry Friday with a review of Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold

Spring has officially arrived in Southern Oregon, but the last few days have been quite wintery. A chilly wind has blown through out valley bringing rain with it, and snow has fallen on the mountains. I therefore feel quite justified reading and reviewing today's poetry title, which explores how wild animals and plants survive the cold months of winter.

Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold    Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold  
Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Rick Allen
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 978-0-547-90650-8
In the past, winter was often a time of hardship for humans. Food was scarce, it was cold even indoors, sickness was common, and the days were short. Without the comforts of heated homes, electric lights, decent healthcare, and grocery stores, winter was grim. For wild animals winter is still a time of hardship. They have to adapt to the changes in their environment so that they can survive until spring.
   In this award winning picture book Joyce Sidman shows us how animals that live in cold places survive, how they find ways to get through the long winter months. On every spread we find a richly textured and colored illustration that is with paired with a poem. There is also a section of nonfiction text, which provides us with further information about the animal species featured on the pages.
   The first spread takes us into the cold world of the tundra swan. We see how they “tucked beaks / into feathers and settled for sleep.” As they slept, the swans dreamed of the journey that was coming when they would see “the sun’s pale wafer / the crisp drink of clouds. “ When the swans woke up to a land covered with snow, they began that journey that would take them thousands of miles from Alaska to warmer climes on the east or west coasts of the United States.
   Later in the book we meet a young moose, a creature that is “built for the cold.” The largest deer species in the world, the moose’s size makes it possible for their core to stay warm and their “tough, shaggy hide” keeps their extremities from getting too cold. Moose use their excellent sense of smell to find food and they can reach the high branches of “willow and yew” that other animals cannot get to.
   Beavers find the perfect way to get through winter. They build a dam and a lodge and even when their pond or lake freezes over, the beavers can swim under the ice to get to the twigs that they stashed in the water not far from their home. Like “strong brown bullets” they dive and then return to their warm home where they groom, eat, and then sleep cuddled up together.
   Even the trees and plants have adapted to survive the cold darkness of winter. Deciduous trees shed their leaves and “essentially shut down” in winter, bending “when all the wild winds blow,” standing firm thanks to their deep root systems. Unlike the tender leaves of these trees, conifers have tough needles that are not damaged by freezing temperatures.
   This is a book that children and adults will greatly enjoy exploring. The sections of text that appear on every spread are packed with fascinating facts and information, and the poems, with their layers of rich imagery and language, are a joy to read.


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7. Picture Book Monday with a review of A tale of Two Beasts


We often like to think that there is only one side to a story, the side we know and believe in. This is rarely true, and into today's picture book we see how the same story can be very different depending on who is telling that story. Children will be amused by this tale, and hopefully they will also take something away with them after they have read it.

A tale of two beasts
Fiona Roberton

A tale of two beasts
Picture Book
For ages
Kane Miller, 2015, 978-1-61067-361-7
One day a little girl is walking home through the woods when she sees a peculiar little beast hanging from a tree. The little beast is “whining sadly,” so the little girl decides to “rescue” the little animal. She takes him home wrapped in her scarf, washes him, dresses him in a sweater and hat, and gives him a bowl of nuts to eat. She takes him for walks and shows him off to her friends.  Then the little girl realizes that the little beast is not happy and soon after he runs away, returning to his home in the woods.
   One day, a little beast is happily hanging from a tree singing when he is “AMBUSHED by a terrible beast!” The beast ties it up, takes it to her “secret lair” and then proceeds to do unspeakable things to the little beast, things like bathing it, dressing it, and giving is stupid squirrel food to eat. Eventually the little beast comes up with a “cunning plan” and it escapes into the woods before its cruel captor can get her hands on him again.
   In this clever book the author tells us the same story from two points of view. First the little girl tells the story, and then the little beast tells the story. They both think the other is a “beast,” and they don’t think very highly of each other either. It is interesting to see how the little girl thinks she is saving the beast, whereas he thinks she is kidnapping, or rather beastnapping, him.
   Both the stories are funny, and together they will help children to see that there are always at least two sides to every story.  The wonderful thing about both stories is that in the end the two beasts come to an understanding. They see things from slightly different perspectives to be sure, but the end result is a good one for both of them.

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8. Poetry Friday with a review of Favorite Poems Old and New

Some children's poetry collections only really appeal, long term, to children. Some however, contain collections that adults also enjoy; they are books that can be shared and passed down from generation to generation. Today's poetry book is just such a title, and it would make a wonderful gift to a family.

Favorite Poems Old and NewFavorite Poems Old and New
Selected by Helen Ferris 
Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard 
Poetry Book
For ages 5 and up
Random House, 1957, 978-0-385-07696-8
Many years ago, when Helen Ferris and her brother Fred were little, their parents made poetry “as much a part of their children’s every day as getting up in the morning.” Helen and Fred absorbed poetry, learning many of the poems they heard by heart. Their poetry journey began with Mother Goose rhymes, and went on to include the poems of Alfred Tennyson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Shakespeare. Helen’s mother felt very strongly that even if her children “could not understand all the words,” they could still “enjoy the beautiful sound of them.” Helen and Fred and their parents moved several times, and their lives changed in many ways, but they never stopped enjoying poetry and sharing it with others.
   Out of her love of poetry grew Helen’s wish to create a book that celebrated this form of writing, that brought together the writings of many, and the favorite poems of many more. In all there are over seven hundred poems in this collection, both classic and modern. The poems are divided up into eighteen categories, making it easy for young readers to find poems that suit their interests. The topics include “My Family and I,” “It’s fun to play,” “Animals, Pets and Otherwise,” and “Almost any time is laughing time.”
   Many children will naturally gravitate to this latter section, for here they will find old favorites like The Walrus and the Carpenter and The Owl and the Pussycat. Here too is The Song of Mr. Toad, which is the song that Mr. Toad sings in The Wind in the Willows when he is feeling rather pleased with himself. Edward Lear and Ogden Nash’s nonsense poems are also here.
   Poems with a patriotic feel appear in the “Sign of my nation, great and strong,” section. Here children will find Paul Revere’s Ride,and The Gettysburg Address, along with The Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful.
   This is the kind of collection that has something for everyone, no matter what the age of the reader. It is a book to grow old with, and a book to pass on to the next generation so that they too might grow up with a love of poetry, just as Helen Ferris did.


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9. Picture Book Monday with a review of Such a Little Mouse

Some picture books have wonderful rich stories that catapult you into a different world and take you on a grand adventure. Other picture books are quieter, more contemplative, in nature. Today's picture book review title is just such a book. The story is a very simple one, and yet it is still meaningful and incredibly enriching.

Such a little mouseSuch a little mouse
Alice Schertle
Illustrated by Stephanie Yue
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Scholastic, 2015, 978-0-545-64929-2
It is spring and a little mouse, who lives in a burrow in the middle of a meadow under a clump of dandelions, pops his head out of his hole and takes in the world around him. He explores, watching a snail and bees go about their business. He listens to the sound of a woodpecker hammering away at a tree. Next the little mouse looks at his reflection in a puddle and then he heads off home, a little seed in his mouth. He goes down a tunnel into his kitchen, down another tunnel to his bedroom, and then down yet another tunnel to his storeroom, where the shelves are mostly bare.
   On a summer morning the little mouse “pops out of his hole” and heads out to check on his neighbors. He watches the beavers, who are busy working on their lodge in the pond, and then pops in to visit a toad who has set up house under an upside down flower pot. At the end of the day the mouse carries a sprig of watercress home and he puts it in his store room, which is starting to fill up.
   When fall comes around, leaves lie on the ground and the mouse has a grand time tunneling through them. Everywhere he turns he sees and hears signs that winter is coming. Animals are on the move and there is a lot of work to be done. At the end of the day the mouse carries a big acorn back to his storeroom.
   In this delightful and gently sweet picture book we go through the seasons with an industrious little mouse, whose days are full of visits, explorations, and food collecting work.
   Throughout the book beautiful illustrations capture little mouse’s world to perfection. The pictures take us into his world, even down into his cunning little home, and we cannot help growing fond of our new little friend. We watch the seasons unfold in gorgeous color, and can appreciate how much joy is to be had from life’s little pleasures.

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10.

Happy Spring!

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11. Poetry Friday with a review of The Popcorn Astronauts and other Biteable Rhymes

We humans invest a great deal in the food that we eat. We enjoy trying cuisines from around the world, spend hours cooking meals, and love going out to eat in restaurants and diners. Food is often at the center of our holidays and celebrations. In today's poetry title you will find poems that are deliciously "Biteable," and that celebrate food in many creative ways.

The Popcorn Astronauts and other Biteable Rhymes
Deborah Ruddell
The Popcorn Astronauts and other Biteable RhymesIllustrated By Joan Rankin
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2015, 978-1-4424-6555-8
As spring shifts into summer, summer into fall and so on, we do, of course notice the changes in temperature and weather. We notice the changes in the flora and fauna around us, and enjoy the celebrations that come around as the year progresses. There is another thing that changes with the seasons, if we are lucky: our food. There are certain fruits, vegetables, and dishes that we look forward to all year because they taste best when they are enjoyed at a certain time of year.
   In this rip-roaring poetical celebration of food, the author takes us through the seasons, and throughout the book we encounter wonderfully delicious foodie poems. For example, in spring we meet the strawberry queen in a poem of that name. We are told that we will “know her the minute she enters the room / by the first little whiff of her springtime perfume.”
   Summer is when, if we are ants and we are lucky, we encounter a “Watermelon Lake!” We are invited to “jump right in” to enjoy this seasonal treat. The cool, sweet, pinkness is fantastic of course, but there are also “small black boats for summer fun” all over the watermelon lake to play on. Summer is also the time when, should you feel so inclined, you can make raisins. Fear not, for the recipe for making raisins can be found in this book. All you have to do is to hang grapes out to dry and leave them there until they look like “wrinkled rubber rocks” and have the taste of “well-worn pirate socks.”
   Some of the poems talk about food items, such as brownies, apples, toast, and peaches. Others tell funny food-centric stories that will delight and amuse young readers. All the poems are accompanied by Joan Rankin’s amusing and expressive illustrations, which perfectly capture the delightful goofiness of Deborah Ruddell’s poetry creations.


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12. Picture Book Monday with a review of Spring Blossoms

Spring begins in just a few days time. Here in Ashland we have already had a grand display of spring blossoms that began when the almond trees starting blooming a few weeks ago. Now the cherries are displaying their pretty pink blooms, and soon the crab apples will be starting. Today's picture book takes readers into the beautiful world of blossoming trees in spring.

Spring Blossoms

Spring Blossoms
Carole Gerber
Illustrated by Leslie Evans
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2013, 978-1-58089-412-8
Spring is here and the trees are “dressed up for their yearly show.” Blossoms cover branches that not long ago were bare. Here is the dogwood wearing its “frosty crown” of white blossoms. The crab apple has white blossoms that are white too, but they are smaller and smell sweet. Magnolia trees produce flowers that are large and tulip shaped, which are quite different from those that you find on cherry trees that  are small and “grow in bundles” so that they look like “small bouquets.”
   Some trees are less showy and yet they too are beautiful in their own understated way. These include the white oak with its green male flowers and its small red female flowers. White pines have small yellow male flowers. Later in the year the female flowers, “tinged with red, like slender lips” appear.
   Throughout this special book, beautiful illustrations are paired with rhyming verse to take young readers into a spring day that is full of beautiful blossoming trees. They will ‘meet’ ten different tree species, and at the back of the book there is further information about spring and the changes that come about in this lovely season.

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13. Poetry Friday with a review of Animal Crackers: A Delectable Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Lullabies for the Very Young


Finding ways to present old material in a fresh new way is something that some children's book authors and illustrators do very well. Jane Dyer is just such a person. In today's poetry title she brings together wonderful nursery rhymes and other poems for little children and pairs them with her own lovely artwork to give us a book that will delight the young and old alike.

Animal Crackers: A Delectable Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Lullabies for the Very Young 
Jane Dyer
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 3 to 5
Little Brown, 1996, 978-0316197663
Animal Crackers: A Delectable Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Lullabies for tMany little children are captivated by the rhythms and rhymes in poetry, which is why so many nursery rhymes and other little sing-song poems have been written for them. Often they learn their letters using a poem, and their numbers and colors as well. They learn little stories for the first time, and connect with characters such as Humpty Dumpty, Peter Piper and Little Jack Horner. They learn to empathize with the characters who have a hard time, and laugh at the silly situations that they get into.
   In this charming picture book Jane Dyer pairs her warm, beautiful and often cozy paintings with some of the world’s most popular poetry for little children. There are poems for the nursery and the playroom, for bedtime and naptime, and for sick days and rainy days. The poems are divided into seven sections, and we begin with learning poems, such as One, Two Buckle my Shoe and A Apple Pie.
  Then we move onto poems about the seasons. The poem The Months of the Year takes us through the year with a series of rhyming stanzas, each one of which is paired with delightful little illustrations that capture the essence of that month. For example, we read about June, which “bring tulips, lilies and roses / Fills the children’s hands with posies,” and there, next to these two lines, is an illustration of three children, whose arms are overflowing with bouquets of flowers.
   The third section looks at food and drink, and here we find old favorites such as Hot Cross Buns, Pease Porrige Hot, and Polly Put the Kettle On, which many children like to sing together accompanied by the clapping of hands.
   We then go on to poems about animals, nursery rhymes, playtime, and finally wrap up with “Lullaby and Good Night” poems, all of which are perfect to share with a small tired child at the end of a day.

  


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14. Picture Book Monday with a review of Norman, Speak!

When I was sixteen I found a little poodle mix on the streets of the town where I lived. He followed me home, and soon after he became a member of the family. At first I talked to the dog in Greek because we were living in a Greek speaking country. He did not respond to me at all and I thought that he wasn't very bright. Then we spoke to him in English and it became clear that he came from an English speaking household. He knew how to sit and stay and he was a proper little gentleman. In today's book you will meet a dog whom people make assumptions about, and it turns out that they are as wrong about their dog as I was about mine.

Norman, Speak!Norman, Speak!
Caroline Adderson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Groundwood Books, 2014, 978-1-55498-322-3
One day a boy and his parents go to the animal shelter so that they can adopt a dog. When they get there they realize that choosing a dog is not going to be easy; there are so many dogs that desperately need homes. The boy decides that they should adopt the dog who has been at the shelter the longest, and so they end up taking home a brown-and-white dog with a little stumpy tail. The dog was a stray and his name is Norman. Norman is thrilled to be out of his cage. He is thrilled when they leave the shelter. In fact he is so happy that “his whole rump swung from side to side.”
   When they get home the boy tries to teach Norman to sit, to come and to speak. He tries to teach Norman his own name, but the dog does not seem to understand a single thing the boy says and the boy starts to thing that Norman is a rather unintelligent animal. It does not really matter though, because the boy and his parents love Norman anyway.
   Then one day Norman and his master go to the dog park where they meet a friendly black dog. The black dog’s owner calls out and both Norman and the black dog go to him. When the man speaks to the two dogs they do exactly what he tells them to. The boy can hardly believe his eyes. He goes over to the man and realizes that he is not speaking English. The man explains that Norman understands Chinese! It turns out that Norman is smarter than anyone thought.
   In this charming picture book we meet a family that adopts a dog only to discover that their initial assessment of him was woefully incorrect. Their dog knows how to do all kind s of things and now they have to find a way to communicate with him. It is wonderful to see how hard they work to solve this problem and how things work out in the end. 

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15. Poetry Friday with a review of Noisy Poems

Children love noise words and noise sounds because they are funny. For today's poetry title I have a book that is jam packed with noise words. It is the kind of book that children find amusing, and they will love having the poems read to them again and again.

Noisy Poems for a busy Day
Noisy Poems for a busy DayRobert Heidbreder
Illustrated by Lori Joy Smith
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Kids Can Press, 2012, 978-1-55453-706-8
   The sun is rising and it is time to get up. With a “Riffle-rustle” a little boy jumps out of bed, his feet making a “down-pound” sound as they hit the wooden floor. Another day has “rolled around” and there are so many things to do.
  In this sounds-filled book of poetry we join some children as they make their way through the day from sunrise to sunset. Every page gives young readers little poems that are full of sounds and onomatopoeic words, many of which children will love. For example, in the second poem, Off to Breakfast, we encounter “sloppy slurp” and “Big Belch – BURP!” Later in the morning it is time to get dressed and we see a little boy “Twisty-Twiggle / Jump-up jiggle” as he gets his clothes on.
   After getting dressed we venture outside where we play in the grass, get kissed by a dog, do somersaults, look at the clouds, and enjoy doing the kinds of things that children love to do. By the time we are ready to go back indoors we are filthy and need to “Twisty-twiggle” into clean clothes again.
   Throughout this book the poems are accompanied by amusing illustrations that perfectly capture the ebullience of children as they make their way through the day having fun, playing, quarreling, and finally, resting.

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16. Picture Book Monday with a review of The Brave Beast

When I was young I did not fully appreciate what true bravery meant. Then I saw a friend do something that terrified him. He was afraid of heights and yet he climbed a tree to retrieve a wayward kite for someone else. I never forgot his courage and compassion.

Today's book is about a beast who, though preferring a quiet life, goes into the frightening unknown to help others. This is a beast I would be happy to have as a friend.

The Brave BeastThe Brave Beast
Chris Judge
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Andersen Press USA, 2013, 978-1849395618
One day the Beast is having a relaxing bath in his lovely garden when he is interrupted by the arrival of a plane, which lands nearby. The pilot comes running up to the Beast and tells him that the people on his island need the Beast’s help. Apparently a loud and terrifying noise is coming from the middle of their island, and the residents are so frightened that they have left the island altogether. There must be “a truly ferocious monster” somewhere on the island and they want the Beast to help them get rid of it.
   The Beast is very large and rather frightening looking himself, but he is actually a very gentle soul and the idea of facing a dangerous monster frankly scares him, but he is kind and wants to help out, so he goes with the pilot. They fly over the island, the Beast jumps out over the sea, and then he swims to land. Bravely he walks through the empty village to the middle of the island where there is a mountain. He makes his way through a twisty tunnel until he comes to the other side of the island. Then the Beast walks through a “spooky” forest, which in when he hears the noise, a noise that makes him run “round and round the forest in fright.”
   Often we fear things that we don’t really understand because they seem overwhelmingly terrifying; but when we face them, we realize that they are not as bad as we thought. In this wonderfully amusing picture book, we see how the Beast, who is scared just like everyone else, finds the courage to face what frightens him, which is when he makes a rather surprising discovery.
   This is the second book about the Beast, and just like the first, it will delight young children and their grownups.


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17. Poetry Friday with a review of The Random House Book of Poetry for Children


I have always loved poetry anthologies, and the one I have reviewed for this poetry Friday is a wonderful collection of poems that children will be drawn to.

The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
Selected by Jack Prelutsky
The Random House Book of Poetry for ChildrenIllustrated by Arnold Lobel
Poetry Book
For ages 6 to 9
Random House, 1983, 978-0394850108
Some people call anthologies treasuries, which is an excellent name to use for books that are full of written treasures. This book is indeed a treasury, packed with no less than five hundred and seventy-two poetry treasures, each one of which is unique and special. The poems are categorized into fourteen sections, so that children can find poems that suit their mood. These categories include “The Four Seasons,” “The Ways of Living Things,” “Nonsense! Nonsense!” and “Where Goblins Dwell.”
   Each section is introduced by a poem written by Jack Prelutsky, a poet who is also the person who selected the poems that are included in this collection. Jack Prelutsky has visited schools and libraries for years and he has noticed that though little children have a natural affinity for poetry and love their nursery rhymes, older children seem to “find poetry boring and irrelevant.”
   Jack Prelutsky has worked hard to figure out which kinds of poems appeal to this more critical audience, and he has determined that poems that amuse or surprise, those that “paint pictures” and that “reawaken pleasure in the sounds and meanings of language,” are the ones that these children tend to like. Armed with this knowledge, Jack Prelutsky set about putting together this collection, which he feels best suits elementary school children. He focused on poems that are relevant today, which means that long narrative or “inspirational” poems that appealed to audiences in the past were not included.
   The collection begins with poems about nature, and here we find poems of all kinds that capture the beauty found in nature. Some of them are gently humorous, while others have a more serious, contemplative feel. There are poems about plants and trees, the wind, rivers and the sea, snow and rain, and those that look at the night, the moon and the stars.  The transition from subject to subject is smooth and has a flow all of its own.
   In “The Four Seasons” we journey through the year looking at the months, holidays, and the weather as the year unfolds. We experience the joys of each season, and appreciate that each one has something special to offer.
   Furry animals come next in “Dogs and cats and bears and bats.” Here we meet creatures great and small. Bears, mice, foxes, elephants, seals, and pigs all appear on these pages, and children will encounter story poems, descriptive poems and so much more. Insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds follow in “The ways of living things.”
   The poets whose creations appear on these pages are both modern poets and poets whose work was written many years ago. For example, Lewis Carroll’s poetry rubs shoulders with verse written by Bobbi Katz. Many familiar names appear, names such as Roald Dahl, Edward Lear, Shel Silverstein, Jane Yolen and Russell Hoban, among others.
   On every page, illustrations break up the columns of text to give the eye something new to look at, and the pictures beautiful complement the poems.


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18. Picture Book Monday with a review of Jenny and Lorenzo


Most people are afraid of things that they are not familiar with, and they are willing to believe the frightening stories that they hear about those things. All too often the fears that we have can be confronted, if only we have the courage to do so. In today's picture book you will meet a little mouse girl who is afraid of a cat. but who still wants to see what it is like.

Jenny and Lorenzo
Jenny and LorenzoTony Steiner
Illustrated by Eve Tharlet
Translated by Kathryn Bishop
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Minedition, 2013, 978-988-8240-76-0
High up in the clouds, “close to nowhere in particular,” is the land of Howodo. In this land, behind a big duck pond and in a small house, lives a curious and very sweet little girl mouse called Jenny. Jenny constantly asks her parents’ questions, and she delights them with her funny ways.
   Jenny’s mother tells Jenny all about Lorenzo, the cat who likes to eat “mouse on toast.” Not surprisingly, Jenny decides that she simply must go and see this cat for herself. Jenny is scared, but “since she always faced her fears and followed her curiosity,” Jenny sets off to find Lorenzo.
   As she walks through the countryside Jenny encounters some ducks and three piglets. They all warn her about Lorenzo and tell her to go back home before it is too late, but Jenny will not give up and on she goes, until she comes face to face with Lorenzo himself.
   The author of this delightful book builds up the suspense in a masterful way, making us worry on Jenny’s behalf, and making us think that perhaps Jenny should follow the pigs’ advice and go home. It turns out that Jenny has a secret weapon that, in the end, brings her adventure to a surprising close.
   Throughout the book the text is written in both prose and in verse. It is accompanied by Eve Tharlet’s deliciously lovely illustrations, which capture the emotions of the characters perfectly and give the tale a whimsical feel.


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19. Poetry Friday with a review of The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z

One of the reasons why I love my work is because I love words and language. In today's picture book children will encounter a delicious collection of words and wonderful rhymes, which are presented in a clever alphabet book type format.

The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter ZThe Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z
Steve Martin
Illustrated by Roz Chast
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Flying Dolphin Press, 2007   ISBN: 978-0385516624
Alphabet books are more varied today than they have ever been. Some are straightforward ABC books that use pictures and single words to help children to learn their alphabet. Others are packed with information about a variety of subjects. In this unique title the author and illustrator have chosen to entertain their audience while they show them that there is a wonderful world of words out there.
   For every letter of the alphabet Steve Martin has created a funny nonsense rhyming couplet in which he introduces some characters who are doing things that are amusing, downright outrageous, or deliciously naughty. In each line of verse Martin uses plenty of words beginning with the letter of the alphabet that is features on that page. On the H page for example we meet Henrietta the hare who "wore a habit in heaven" and who had a "hairdo" which "hid hunchbacks: one hundred and seven."
   Readers will laugh at loud when they read the descriptive couplets, and they will also discover that the accompanying illustrations are packed with things whose names begin with the letter being featured. Thus, on the L page we not only read that Lovely Lorraine is discovering that long Louie has Larry's locket, but in the artwork we see, among other things, a lamppost, a boy licking a lollipop, a loudhailer, and a lawyer.
   As they turn the pages, children will have a wonderful time reading the rhymes out loud and searching the illustrations for hidden objects and words.

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20. Picture Book Monday with a review of Madame Martine

Every so often I come across a picture book that lifts my heart because of the quality of the book's story, and because of the message it conveys. Today's review title is just such a picture book.

Madame MartineMadame Martine
Sarah S. Brannen
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Albert Whitman, 2014, 978-0-8075-4905-6
Madame Martine lives in Paris, in an apartment not far from the Eiffel Tower. Every day she walks the same route, and she does her shopping in the same shops. Every week her schedule is the same and this is how she likes things to be. Madame Martine has never been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, because she thinks that doing so would be a waste of time.
   Then one Saturday, when she is out, she finds a small miserable looking dog hiding under a bush. When she offers the dog her hand it licks her and Madame Martine begins to think that maybe the dog “might be nice.” Then Madame Martine does something that is quite out of character. She picks up the dog and takes it home where she bathes it, feeds it, and gives is a name. The next day Madame Martine buys Max a collar, a leash, dog food, and a bowl and she takes him shopping with her.
   One Saturday Madame Martine and Max are out walking near the Eiffel Tower when Max sees a squirrel. He pulls the leash out of Madame Martine’s hands and takes off up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower. Desperate to retrieve her dog, Madame Martine buys a ticket and starts climbing the stairs.
   Many of us fall into a routine because it is easy and comfortable. We don’t like to do new things that will disrupt our schedule, and yet when we restrict ourselves by doing this we lose something. We don’t have the kinds of adventures that make our lives richer.
   In this wonderful picture book we see how Madame Martine’s new companion teaches her a valuable lesson about the importance of having adventures and trying new things. Throughout the book gorgeous illustrations are perfectly paired with a timeless story to give readers a tale that is powerful and heartwarming.


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21. Poetry Friday with a review of Kids Pick the Funniest Poems

Finding poems that appeal to children is not easy. They have to be just the right length, have the right tone, and the right kind of rhyme. Thankfully, there are people out there who are willing to do what it takes to find out what works for children. One of these people is Bruce Lansky, and today I have a review of a book that he worked one, a book that is packed with poems that children chose. 

Kids Pick the Funniest Poems
Kids Pick the Funniest Poems
Selected by Bruce Lansky
Illustrated by Stephen Carpenter
Poetry
For ages 6 to 8
Meadowbrook, 1991, 978-0671747695
Most of the time the poems in poetry anthologies are chosen by adults. For this collection the editor, Bruce Lansky, asked children what their favorite poems were. He then read through all the poems that were chosen, twenty thousand in number, and then chose five hundred that he thought would best interest young readers. Bruce then presented these five hundred poems to a panel of three hundred elementary school children and they told him which of these they liked best. The interesting thing about this process is that all the poems that were chosen are funny. Some were written by famous poets such as Dr. Seuss and Ogden Nash, while others were written by wonderful poets who are not as well known.
   The collection is divided into nine topic sections, each one of which focuses on one particular subject. The topics chosen include parents, siblings, friends, disasters and monsters, which are the kinds of subjects that children are interested in.
   We begin with poems about “Me,” which are all written from the point of view of a child. In the first one the narrator is “glad that I am me.” Even though people stare at him when he behaves in ways that other people consider odd, he is determined that he is “not going to change and be someone I’m not.” In another me poem another child daydreams about all the things he would like to do and say to the grownups who inflict things on him. He’d like to “give the nurse the shot” and “send my mother to her room,” and best of all he dreams of being able to say “‘Cause I said so!”
   The next topic in the book is one that all children will appreciate because it is about parents. It explores the ways in which parents curtail children’s activities and make them do things that they, naturally, think are very unreasonable; things like eating liver and learning good manners. Some of the poems tell deliciously funny stories about parents whose children somehow get the better of them.
    The humor found in these poems is sometimes subtle, and sometimes it is just all out funny. Children will enjoy dipping into the book to find an amusing poem that lifts their spirits and that helps them to remember that though life has its trials, it is also full of good times, good books, and wonderful poetry.

   

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22. Picture Book Monday with a review of The Dandelion's Tale


Personal stories are powerful things, and children in particular are drawn to them. When I was little I used to beg my aunt to tell me about what her life in India was like when she and my father were little, and the stories she told me help me to understand my father better. Today's picture book is about a dandelion who wants to share her story with others, and about a sparrow who wants to help her achieve this goal.

The Dandelion's Tale
The Dandelion’s TaleKevin Sheehan
Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Random House, 2014, 978-0-375-87032-3
One beautiful summer’s day Sparrow is out flying when he sees a dandelion growing in a meadow all by itself. He stops to rest on the branch of a nearby tree, which is when he hears that the dandelion is crying. Sparrow asks Dandelion what is wrong and she explains that she worries that one day, quite soon, “no one will know I was ever here.” Dandelion no longer has her yellow petals; instead, all she has are ten seed pods, and soon enough they will blow away. She wants someone to hear her stories, and yet there are no dandelions nearby to whom she can tell her tales.
   Since Dandelion cannot move, Sparrow offers to write down all her stories in a patch of earth nearby and soon he is busily writing down all the things that Dandelion wants to share with others. She talks about how much she likes “the smell of the meadow after it rains,” and how much she enjoys “talking with the squirrels as they look for food in the morning.” Sparrow hears about all the things that Dandelion has “seen and loved.” Sparrow reads back what he has written down and Dandelion is very happy.
   As evening falls Sparrow says goodbye, promising that he will come back the next day, but that night there is a big storm and when Sparrow returns to the meadow Dandelion is gone, blown away by the wind and rain. To make matters worse, Dandelion’s story, which Sparrow wrote in the earth, has also vanished. Poor Sparrow is heartbroken.
   This beautifully written picture book celebrates the power of stories, which, when they are shared and told, keep the lives and experiences of others alive. Children will be delighted when they see how the story unfolds and how, after all, Sparrow is able to honor Dandelion just as she would have wished. 

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23. Poetry Friday with a review of City Beats: A Hip-Hoppy Pigeon Poem

A lot of people don't like pigeons, but I have to admit that I rather admire them. They thrive, even in places where the odds are against them and where so many people dislike them. Today's poetry picture book is a wonderful bouncy celebration of pigeons and their world.

City Beats: A Hip-Hoppy Pigeon PoemCity Beats: A Hip-Hoppy Pigeon Poem
S. Kelly Rammell
Illustrator:  Jeanette Canyon
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Dawn Publications, 2006, 978-1584690771
If you have ever lived or stayed in a city you will know that there are often pigeons flying about in-between the tall buildings. You might see them roosting on a window sill or eating crumbs on a sidewalk. They are a part of city life and we are going to spend a day with them; we are going to explore their city world and see what the city looks, sounds, and smells like as they experience it.
   Down on the ground pigeons see a forest of legs and all kinds of different shoes walk by as they nibble on stale doughnuts. Up above, from the air, they see trains rush past, trucks rumble across bridges, and great machines raise buildings from the ground in a cacophony of sound and steel.
   They smell all the treats that street vendors sell: popcorn, ice cream, pizza and hot dogs. They find the parks and the gardens where flowers bloom and bees hum. They even hear the strains of music floating up from the streets, music halls, and clubs.
   In this unique book, children will be able to experience the rhythms, sounds, sights, and smells that fill the streets of cities all over the world. A rhyming text flows from page to page, the words packed with noises and images that almost seem to dance with vitality.
   With her extraordinary three dimensional polymer pictures Jeanette Canyon has created art which perfectly compliments the text. Vibrant colors and extraordinary details make this a book which readers will look at again and again

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24. Picture Book Monday with a review of Slugs in Love

Though Valentine's Day is passed, I could not resist reviewing this book and sharing it with you. I think what endears this book to me is the way in which the main characters use poems to communicate. Slugs that are wordsmiths! How perfectly perfect.

Slugs in Love
Slugs in LoveSusan Pearson
Illustrator:  Kevin O'Malley
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 8
Marshall Cavendish, 2012, 978-0761453116
Marylou is a very shy slug who loves one thing more than anything else. Maylou loves Herbie, a slug whom she thinks is incredibly handsome and charming. Unfortunately Marylou cannot bring herself to tell Herbie how she feels. Instead she writes a poem describing her feelings on the side of a watering can. Herbie sees the poem and writes one back asking Marylou to come forward but Marylou does not see his message and poor Herbie is still in the dark as to who she is.
   Back and forth the messages go between the lovelorn Marylou and the mystified Herbie. Maylou writes her loving verses and Herbie sees them. Herbie writes back but by sheer bad luck Marylou never sees his words. Is this a love that is doomed to die before it has had a chance to begin?
   Children and their grownups will laugh out loud at this funny, often sweet, and very unlikely love story. There can be no doubt that Herbie and his Marylou deserve each other, and their wistful little poems say it all. Who says romance is dead?

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25. Poetry Friday with a review of Bigfoot is Missing

Most of us are fascinated by stories of the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, giant squids and other mysterious creatures, though we may deny it vehemently. In today's poetry title you will meet these creatures and others, beasts that are bizarre and sometimes dangerous.

Bigfoot is missing!
Bigfoot is missing!J. Patrick Lewis and Kenn Nesbitt
Illustrated by Minalima
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Chronicle Books, 2015, 978-1-4521-1895-6
Cryptozoology is the study of animals that no one has definitively proven exist. People all over the world claim that they have seen these cryptids, but so far no one has provided us with evidence that proves, once and for all, that they are real. Of course, this does not stop many of us from having a great interest in cryptids, and in this book we get to meet eighteen of these creatures.
   Some cryptids, like the Beast of Bodmin Moor for example, are not that bizarre looking and one is inclined to believe that they could exist. The Beast is a large black wildcat and we encounter it on these pages in a rather unusual way. A person is texting a neighbor to say that something in the neighbor’s garden is “disturbing the peace.” The friends text briefly about what the something might be, and then the neighbor hears that something is scratching at his or her door. We come to realize that this foolish person opened the door, and that this was not a good thing to have done.
   Another not too outrageous creature is the Kraken, and we find out about it on the classified  pages of a newspaper where there is an advertisement. Apparently someone who owns a ship is in need of sailors, “Call today!” because the last crew went missing. Anyone who applies must we willing to work hard with “No slackin’” and they also must be “prepared to work with Kraken.”
   In the same classified section of the paper we see an ad for plastic Gambo life jackets. The Gambo is a toothy dolphin-like creature that is problematic to say the least. Mind you, it is not as bad as a Luscas, which is half octopus and half shark. According to another advertisement someone is eager to give baby Luscases away, “free to a good home.” We are told that they eat fish and ships, and that they “bite much worse than bark.”
   Then there are the cryptids that are quite frightening, creatures like the chupacabra, the lizard man, and the dingonek. These are beasts that you would not want to meet under any circumstances.
   In this delightfully original book, two Poet Laureates give us poems that are incredibly creative and unusual. The poems are paired with clever artwork so that they are incorporated into a text message conversation, a notice on a milk cartoon, classifieds, a sign, labels on plastic bottles, a book entry, a wanted poster and more.
   At the back of the book readers will find further information about the cryptids that are mentioned in the poems.


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