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1. “Punk is Dead” at RBMS 2016

We are pleased to announce the second of two RBMS 2016 exclusive catalogs. We made an extremely small print edition to distribute at RBMS [inquire!!!] There will be a pdf. available on the Lux Mentis website, but are excited to debut it as a flip catalog [N.B. there is a FullScreen button in the navbar and a .pdf download option].

 

Contact us with questions or find us at RBMS at the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables. #rbms16

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2. “Sex, Death, and the Devil” at RBMS 2016

We are pleased to announce the first of two RBMS 2016 exclusive catalogs. We made an extremely small print edition to distribute at RBMS [inquire!!!] There will be a pdf. available on the Lux Mentis website, but are excited to debut it as a flip catalog [N.B. there is a FullScreen button in the navbar and a .pdf download option].

Contact us with questions or find us at RBMS at the Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables. #rbms16

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3. Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, 587 pp, RL 4


I missed Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan when it came out in February of 2015. Scholastic is one of the few publishers I don't get review copies from and, working in a library instead of a bookstore now, I an not as up on what's new in the world of kid's books as I once was. I even missed the March, 2015 review of Echo in the New York Times Book Reivew, which I usually scour. Echo crossed my radar in January of this year when it won a Newbery Honor, along with two other superb books, The War that Saved My Life and Roller Girl. While I hate the fact that I didn't read Echo right when it came out, I am so, so glad that I knew absolutely NOTHING about it (save that it won an award) before I began listening/reading it. Having worked with and been an avid reader of children's literature for more than 20 years, I've kind of read it all. There aren't too many plots or characters that surprise me or feel really new and original. Echo surprised me - it's as if A. S. Byatt, an author of novels for adults that are magnificently crafted and often centered around a work of art - wrote a kid's book. If you want to be surprised by a story and you trust me and the librarians who hand out the Newbery awards, stop reading my review after the next sentence and go out and get your hands on a copy of Echo. Actually, I very, very strongly suggest LISTENING to the audio of this book (as well as buying it - you WILL want to own it) because - tiny spoiler alert - music is an integral part of Echo, and you get to hear it in the audio.

Stop reading HERE if you want to be surprised
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I was definitely surprised when I started listening to Echo and there were music credits before the story began. I was especially surprised when harmonica music kicked in. Like several minor characters in the book, I, too, did not take the harmonica seriously - nor did I notice the drawing (wonderful artwork by Dinara Mirtalipova) of one on the cover and spine of Echo! Echo is a work of historical fiction wrapped in the cloak of a fairy tale that is ultimately a story about the power of music to, "pass along . . . strength and vision and knowledge," and even overcome fear, intolerance and hatred. The story visits three very different children at three different times, starting in 1933 and ending in 1942. The common thread that connects these three children is their passion for music, embodied, at that time, in the harmonicas that they own. Surrounding these stories is the tale of a boy that begins just before the start of the 20th century. From a Gypsy, who presses a mouth harp on him for free, he buys a book titled, The Thirteenth Harmonica of Otto Messenger. The book tells the story of three abandoned princesses with beautiful singing voices. Trapped in the woods under the spell of a witch, they need a messenger to take something out into the world for them, something that will break the spell. Becoming lost in the woods, Otto meets the three princesses from the book. Desperate to know the end of their story, they enchant the harmonica that the Gypsy gave him and he agrees to send it into the world where, if it can "save a soul from Death's dark door," the spell will break and the princesses can return home.

The stories of the three central children in Echo would have been a satisfying book on their own, but linking them with the fairy tale of the three sisters imbues Ryan's novel with a quality of hopefulness and beauty, much like the sound of a well played harmonica. Part one begins in 1933, in Tossingen, Germany, with young Friedrich, a gifted musician. Part two begins in Pennsylvania, 1935. The third and final part begins in 1942, just after Pearl Harbor, in California, a harmonica at the heart of each story. Friedrich has a port wine birthmark on his face and suffers from seizures. Hitler's persecution of physically disabled forces Friedrich and his family to make difficult choices and his story ends without closure, his life in danger. Part two, features orphan brothers, the eldest of whom is a gifted musician, with his only hope for survival hinging on his ability to make it into a renowned harmonica band. Mike and Frankie are adopted by a painfully grieving heiress who needs to produce an heir to keep her fortune, their story also ending in a moment of danger and uncertainty. Finally, Ryan turns to Ivy Maria Lopez, shining a light on xenophobia and racism. 

It is Fresno, 1942, and Ivy is the child of migrant farm workers. Her brother, Fernando, has just enlisted and her father has just accepted a job running a farm in Orange County. When they arrive at the farm, the Lopez's discover that it belongs to a Japanese-American family that has been sent to an interment camp. Their oldest child, a son in the Marines, is coming home on leave to sign the running of the property over to Mr. Lopez, if he approves of him. Ivy, and her parents, struggle to understand how the Yamamoto family, with a father who fought in WWI and a son fighting in WWII could be treated this way, while at the same time Ivy experiences racism and segregation when she learns that she is not allowed to attend her neighborhood school, but must go to one that will "Americanize" children like her. Living in California and working with the children of immigrants, many of whom are also the children of migrant workers, this part of the story resonated most with me.

The last two parts of the novel tie together all three stories in a marvelous, deeply satisfying way that had me weeping. Ryan returns to the fairy tale, bookending Echo with the conclusion to the story of the three princesses as well as the story of Otto, now the messenger, and the enchanted harmonica that he must send out into the world and how it gets there. Echo is a big book, but as many reviewers have said, and as was my experience, you will soar through it, drawn along by the beauty if Ryan's writing, the craft of her story and the humanity of her characters.

Source: Purchased Book & Audio Book




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4. Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke



Ben Hatke is a gifted graphic novelist who creates stories perfectly balance themes of family, bravery, and belonging with wonderfully detailed illustrations and characters you won't forget. For his second picture book, Nobody Likes a Goblin, Hatke visits a medieval world where even a goblin needs a friend.


Goblin has a daily routine, and his best friend, Skeleton, is part of it. Skeleton lives in the Treasure Room and one day while  he and Goblin are goofing around with the treasures, the room is raided! Goblin decides to abandon the safety of his routine and head out into the world to find his friend. He stops to as a hill troll if he has seen anything and in the process agrees to find the troll's "Honk-Honk," which was also plundered. The troll's parting words warn Goblin to be careful because, "Nobody like a Goblin." Across the fields and through the village, with an angry horde (that includes a few warrior women) on his little green tail, Goblin searches and rescues. The two hide out in a cave where Goblin finds his tribe. Together, with a ghost and one of the warrior women, the new tribe delivers Honk-Honk to his owner and settles down in the dungeon for a fine feast.


This adventurous and rollicking story might sound simple, but Hatke's magnificent watercolor and ink illustrations add an an almost cinematic layer to the text. There are many little details to be pored over and humans and creatures alike to be examined. The palette is gently pastoral, making the creatures and the action less than scary, despite the caves, bats, rats and skeletons. Nobody Likes a Goblin is enchanting, entertaining and timeless.



Source: Review Copy

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5. Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, illustrated by Sara Watts, 350 pp, RL 4



I love books about books and I love mysteries. However, especially in the world of children's literature, it's very challenging to find a well written book of either genre, let alone both together. A solid, believable mystery often means character development is sacrificed. Or, as in two of my all-time favorites, The Westing Game and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, superb character development overshadows the mystery that sets the plot in motion. As an eleven-year-old reader, Ellen Raskin's characters, from Turtle to Theo Theodorakis to Sydelle Pulaski, stuck in my memory well into adulthood. But, as a kid, I was also a little disappointed that the actual clue-gathering game in the book wasn't entirely solvable for readers. With Book ScavengerJennifer Chambliss Bertman has written a miraculous middle grade novel that almost perfectly balances character development with a solid, believable, puzzle filled mystery that readers can unravel themselves. Even better, the mystery revolves around books and book lovers! Add to this Sarah Watts's charming illustrations and you have an unforgettable book with character you will want to spend time with again.

Book Scavenger is Bertman's debut novel and it is masterfully written, especially when considering the multitude of details she weaves into the plot and her characters, making it almost feel like three or four books in one. When she was a baby, Emily Crane's parents decided they wanted to live in all fifty states. Emily's mom even started a blog about their experiences called 50 Homes in 50 States. As Book Scavenger begins, the Cranes are moving from New Mexico to San Francisco. Emily is growing tired of not being able to set down roots, and Bertman writes poignantly of her growing frustration with this. However, as a dedicated Book Scavenger, she is thrilled to be moving to the home base of publisher, puzzle master, book lover and eccentric, Garrison Griswold. Like Chris Gabenstein's  game creator, Mr. Lemoncello, Griswold is a bit of a Willy Wonka-type. However, Griswold's puzzles revolve around books, and his Book Scavenger website allows participants to hide books (you can even purchase clever book disguises from the website) and leave clues for other Book Scavengers to find it. Bertman's rules for book scavenging open Book Scavenger and are very well thought out and doable. So doable, in fact, that she created a low-key version of Griswold's game that you can play here!

Emily has the good luck to meet James, upstairs neighbor and grandson of the owner of the building her family moves into. James is a puzzler, although not a Book Scavenger, and he helps Emily decode an especially difficult clue to a book. Emily, James and Matthew head down to the Ferry Building to look for the book and, on their way home discover an even better hidden book. Just the day before, as he was on his way to announce his newest literary-puzzle-scavenge-game, Griswold was attacked and left unconscious. Emily finds the book that was to start the games, an edition of Edgar Allan Poe's, "The Gold-Bug." In the short story, the protagonist cracks a cryptogram that he hopes will lead him to a buried treasure and Griswold has a similar mystery planned for his followers. Emily quickly realizes that the book she found is part of Griswold's new game and that she is being followed, possibly by Griswold's attackers. With James's help, along with Hollister, a dreadlocked bookstore owner who was best friends and partners with Griswold decades ago, they rush to uncover the mystery and find the treasure - if there is one.

Bertman does a magnificent job weaving literary references and puzzles of all kinds into Book Scavenger. Set in San Francisco, the Beat writers, from Kerouac to Ginsberg to Ferlinghetti and his landmark City Lights Bookstore are part of the plot. In addition to the challenge of Griswold's new game, Emily struggles to be a good friend to James, mend her relationship with Matthew and ultimately tell her parents that she does not want to be part of their adventure anymore. Matthew is also a well developed character and his devotion to a band called Flush along with his homemade videos using their music, dovetail seamlessly with the mystery and adventure of Book Scavenger. As with all children's books, the bad guys can't be that bad. The villain in Book Scavenger is a sour sort with a sense of entitlement that drives him to drastic measures, but it is really the goons he hires to do his dirty work who commit the crime of shooting Griswold in the subway at the start of the novel. 


Finally, Bertman works in references to Masquerade, the picture book written and illustrated by Kit Williams that was published in 1979 and promised clues to a buried treasure. I remember seeing Masquerade in a bookstore shortly after it was published and begin intrigued by the beautiful illustrations, not realizing that there was a treasure - and controversy - connected to this book. Masquerade, along with a family connection to Edgar Allan Poe, all of which are explained in Bertman's notes at the end of the book, inspire Griswold in his literary game creations.




Coming January, 2017!!!



Source: Purchased Book and Audio Book


Be sure to click HERE
for more reviews of books that are mysteries with puzzles, like these:












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6. Red's Planet by Eddie Pittman, 192 pp, RL 4


Red's Planet is the first in a comic book series from Eddie Pittman. Pittman, who says he taught himself to draw in the back of math class, has been a professional cartoonist, working in animation, comics and illustration for over 25 years. He has worked on films like Mulan, Tarzan, Fantasia 2000, Lilo & Stitch and The Emperor's New Groove and most recently the show Phineas & Ferb and the influence this work has on his graphic novel is delightfully evident, in both the bright color palette and cinematic sweep of his panels. And, Red's Planet is overflowing with visually fantastic, fascinating characters that I want to get to know better. At first glance, I feel like I can almost begin to guess their back stories. And, while Red's Planet is the first book in the series and almost entirely set up for the rest of the series, every panel of every page is engrossing and exciting. There will be many, many readers waiting for the second book, due out Spring 2017!


Red's Planet begins with a spooky UFO abduction in the dark of night on a country road. An old guy and his dog are zapped up into a triangular ship and never seen again. This story, "The Mysterious Zeke Hainey Incident," is being read out loud to a roomful of kids by another kid. We quickly learn that Red (we never learn her real name) is one of many foster children, headed down to breakfast and out the door to the bus. Red has intentionally worn non-regulation shoes and tells the kids she is headed home to change. Instead, she plays hooky and ends up in the backseat of a police car in big trouble. Instead of juvie, Red finds herself gone the route of Zeke Hainey. 

Like all good interplanetary stories, readers find themselves in a bustling marketplace. Here, the Aquilari, "ancients of Chelonia, collectors of time, the last sages of the wandering," and they are on a mission to collect rare items - and creatures. The police car with Red in it, as well as a few other things, make it onto the ship, but things are quickly going pear shaped again for Red as the Uskog pirates demand their treasure, which they believe is on the ship. As battle ensues, the ship veers off course and lands on a dusty planet that Red thinks looks like Texas. A multitude of aliens emerge and begin making sense of things, shunning Red left and right. 

Red manages to befriend Tahee, a cute, big-eyed fuzzy guy who, when the ship took off, grabbed a strange glowing egg that he now carries everywhere with him. Red makes some dangerous foes but also a new friend in the crotchety Goose, a feline in a Hawaiian shirt who is sort of a forest ranger for the planet. With his grudging help, she and Tahee manage to get the rest of the aliens to safety, but first they get a glimpse at the amazing cargo that the Aquilari - and their robot boss who, after taking a rock to the head is a bit loopy - are collecting...

Source: Review Copy

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7. Forever and always: Newbery and Caldecott confidentiality

Currently, members of the Newbery and Caldecott committees serve with the understanding that they may never tell what happened during the deliberations.

However, there has been a recent conversation about whether there should be a statute of limitations on confidentiality. Should committee members be allowed to tell part or all of what happened in the discussions? Should there be a period of years after which the records can open?  This month’s edition of School Library Journal has three wonderful articles about the issue.

I am fascinated by this conversation. Riveted. And here’s the crazy thing. I agree with all three points of view.

I agree with K.T. Horning that there is an amazing potential for researchers. I don’t want to know who said what, but I would love to know the larger issues. How did those brave committees who bucked trends do it? How did they come to consensus? What was the thought process in the room when The Invention of Hugo Cabret or A Visit to William Blake’s Innwon? And once and for all, wouldn’t it be wonderful to find out why Secret of the Andes beat Charlotte’s Web?

Forever is a long time not to know.

I agree with Ed Spicer that it would be freeing to tell everything. It would be marvelous to tell a creator that just because their book wasn’t honored doesn’t mean it wasn’t under consideration, that no one loved it or fought for it. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a great work of art.  Former committee members can’t answer questions of why a particular book did or didn’t make the final cut for the rest of their lives.  And when questions arise about unusual choices committees make, it is a long time not to be able to defend yourself.

Forever is a long time to keep a secret.

I agree with Dan Santat that it can be better not to know. The magic is preserved.  Do we really want to know that a classic book barely squeaked by? Do we want to know all the reasons those fifteen people in that room rejected one book and anointed another? Do we want to know which book lost by a small margin? Do we want the creators to be concerned about all their decisions and choices when they create their next book?

Forever is a long time to doubt yourself.

There’s an additional issue for me. If we lifted the veil, what would we reveal, especially for the recent committees? The process is so secret that ballots are destroyed and official notes aren’t kept. If we opened the files for recent pivotal years, would we find the answers we’re looking for?

Ideally, I would love an oral history interview project or written accounts from each of the fifteen people in the room- in case the veil does lift sometime in the future. If there is a commitment to revealing information at some point, the sooner we start recording it, the better, before everyone who was in the room forgets the finer details. 

The year I was on the Caldecott committee, one of our committee members gave us all lovely blue scarves, which we wore during the deliberations and announcement. I felt that every time I saw a blue-scarfed person that weekend, I was seeing a true friend. Each blue scarf represented one of the fourteen other people in the room. They were the fourteen safe places in tag, the fourteen people I could talk to about really happened- not what everyone on the outside thought happened.  They still are- those fourteen special people who are forever keeping the same secrets I am.

I am on another award committee where part of the process shortly before the awards ceremony at the annual conference includes committee members telling why certain books lost. After the secrecy of an ALA committee- this openness feels strange to me. I find it really challenging to tell a room full of people what I think. I always feel paranoid that someone is audio recording the session and I’ll be thrown off the committee for revealing secrets.

Having being on several award committees, I can tell you that after a while what you say in the room, in the e-mail chat or on the conference call stops mattering. The committee voted and the committee as a group made a choice- and it is now your job to promote that book and that award.

I was one of the fifteen people in the room the year The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat won the Caldecott Medal.  It’s my book. It doesn’t matter what was said in the room. It doesn’t matter what the vote tallies were. Seeing the Caldecott Medal on the cover will always make me smile. Reading it to a child who hasn’t heard it yet will always make me choke up. I will always get goose bumps when on the last line. It will always be my book.

Forever.

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What are your thoughts?

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8. Superhero Instruction Manual by Kristy Dempsy, illustrated by Mark Fearing


Kristy Dempsey and Mark Fearing join forces to deliver the Superhero Instruction Manual! Despite the comic book feel and solid set of instructions, the Superhero Instruction Manual remains wonderfully free of conflict and violence, instead delivering a wonderful story of familial love.



As a boy pores over the Superhero Instruction Manual, ready to take the "seven easy steps" that will turn him into a superhero, his sister watches in the wings, hoping to join forces with him. He picks a name, a partner and a disguise. He secures a secret hideout and chooses his superpower with quite a few amusing missteps. Fearing's colorfully funny illustrations alternate action packed comic book panels with full page illustrations that include instructions from the manual - and disclaimers.


Superhero Instruction Manual culminates with a true emergency when Fluffy the sidekick takes off after a squirrel in the park. Happily, Super Sister is not too far away and she saves the day. Dempsey and Fearing wrap up their story with a sweet ending, telling readers that a "true superhero is always there when it counts," as the Super Siblings share a cookie in their super hideout.

Source: Review Copy


Don't miss Mark Fearing's AWESOME graphic novel:



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9. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, 377pp, RL 5



If you love literature and you have read quite a bit of it, then you know that there are many varieties of good writing. There are writers who are gifted at story telling and craft a work that draws you in and pulls you along at a fast clip. There are writers who are gifted at creating memorable, complex characters that they allow you to get to know intimately. There are writers who put words on a page that read like lines from great poetry, their sentences like a handcrafted delight you savor on your tongue. Then there are writers who turn the world on its side, making you see and think about it in a whole new way. There are a few writers who embody all of these qualities, Philip Pullman and Frances Hardinge coming readily to mind. Interestingly, Pullman and Hardinge are also the only authors of literature for children to win the prestigious Costa Award, which is comparable to the Pulitzer, and is traditionally given to works written for adults.


Fly By Night was the first book by Hardinge that I read and I knew immediately that I was reading something truly special. Hardinge created a complex world ruled by religion and literacy in the absence of an effective monarch, all set in an alternate history universe. Everything about Fly By Night amazed and continues to amaze me, from the setting to the characters and their intricately Dickensian names to the mysterious political and religious intrigue driving the plot. Hardinge's newest book, and Costa Winner, The Lie Tree, is every bit as magnificently written as Fly By Night but it is also a much more personal, poignant story that is more pointedly philosophical and political. And, as I slowly came to realize over the course of the book, The Lie Tree is also a book about women and especially the challenge of being a woman in the 19th century and the various ways that women met with these challenges. As the main character observes near the end of the novel, "Faith had always told herself that she was not like other ladies. But neither, it seemed, were other ladies."

As the novel begins, Faith Sunderly, teenaged daughter of the gentleman scientist and clergyman, Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, finds herself tucked between two crates on the deck of a ship that is taking her family and many of their belongings from Kent to the remote island of Vane where her father has been invited to observe an archaeological dig. Hidden from sight, Faith overhears her father and her Uncle Miles discussing the real reason for their retreat to the island. As Miles points out to Erasmus, one of the most "widely read and respected newspapers in the nation has decried you a fraud and a cheat."

Faith respects and reveres her father, constantly hoping that her interest and intellect in the sciences will win her his attention, but seed of knowledge takes root in her and begins to grow. When her father is found dead and her seemingly frivolous, beautiful mother Myrtle schemes with Miles to make his death look like an accident and not a suicide, which would leave his family destitute, Faith decides to take matters into her own hands. She steals her father's papers - his scientific notebooks, his letters, his financial records, and begins reading through them. She discovers that, years ago while traveling through China Erasmus encountered rumors of a very rare plant specimen. In an attempt to help a fellow Englishman accused of murder, he found the secret hiding place of the plant but was unable to save his countryman. Faith quickly uncovers the hiding place of this specimen, which Erasmus brought to Vane and hid before his death, as well as the true nature of this strange plant, the Lie Tree.

Through his experiments, Erasmus came to learn that the Lie Tree thrives and bears fruit when a lie is whispered to to. The more people who believe the lie, the larger the fruit. In turn, consuming the fruit reveals a truth to the person who eats it. A religious and scientific man, Erasmus perpetrated a lie that he hoped was big enough to reveal, in the interest of truth, if man was, "crafted in God's image and given the world, or was he the self-deluding grandson of some grimacing ape?" He would, "borrow from the Bank of Truth, but in the end would pay back in full and with interest." As Faith reads through her father's notebook she decides to use the Lie Tree to discover her father's murderer.

The idea of lies and the variety of lies consumed me as I read The Lie Tree, so much so that I missed an important theme in the book until almost the end. As Faith's investigation begins, there are necessary lies she must, as a young girl, tell, in order to be able to move about the island. As the lies pile up, she finds herself easily using the the fears of her six-year-old brother against the ill-treated, vengeful housemaid who robs the Reverend Sunderly of his grave, prompting an inquest. The more lies Faith tells, the more she is able to insert herself into situations that give her a glimpse into the machinations of the adult world and life on the island. She also stands back and watches her mother manipulate both the Reverend Clay and Doctor Jacklers with lies of omission as Myrtle maneuvers to keep the family solvent. When Faith finally manages unveil the murderer, it is someone who has also told lies and hidden truths in the passionate pursuit of scientific discovery and she finds herself thinking, "We could have been friends." She also finds herself spluttering in disagreement, along with the murderer, when her captor declares, upon seeing the Lie Tree, that there are things, "science cannot explain." The complexities are rich and varied in this stunning book.

As I read The Lie Tree, I marked sentences and passages that exemplified Hardinge's gorgeous prose and had to stop midway because there were too many slips of paper falling out of my book. But I do want to share a few with you here:

She had tumbled off the safe, hallowed shore of childhood, and now she was in no-man's water, neither one thing nor another, like a mermaid. Until she dragged herself up on the rock of marriage, she was difficult.

As usual, the adulation slid off the Reverend's stony reticence and was soaked up by the handkerchief of Myrtle's busy charm.

Faith thought that it must be very relaxing being Dr. Jacklers, deaf to the crunch of other people's feelings beneath his well intentioned boots.

There was a dangerous joy in talking, even with this enemy. It made Faith realize how she had been trapped in her own head. Trapped in the house. Trapped in the Sunderly family.

And, finally, when Faith confronts her mother and begins to understand her reasons for inviting the attentions of other men after the Reverend's death, Myrtle explains the laws regarding a suicide, telling Faith, 

This is a battlefield, Faith! Women find themselves on the battlefields, just as men do. We are given no weapons, and cannot be seen to fight. But fight we must, or perish.



If you have read this far, I am sure you will get a copy of The Lie Tree and experience for yourself the, "distinctive voice and vividly crafted prose of France Hardinge," as a favorite writer of mine, Linda Buckley-Archer, author of the excellent Time Quake Trilogy , says in her review.


Frances Hardinge's other new book, review coming soon!




Books by Frances Hardinge 
US covers on the left, UK covers on the right











Source: Review Copy

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10. It Was So Quiet I Could Hear a Pin Drop by Andy Goodman


At the school where I am the librarian, my students rarely experience the kind of silence that allows them to listen to the world around them. When I can, I sit them down to practice focusing. We choose one thing to focus on (counting our breath, the ringing of Tibetan singing bowls) and we notice when our minds wander. Then we bring ourselves back to focusing. I feel pretty certain that these are the only minutes of the day, possibly even the week, when they are still, quiet and awake, and I am grateful to be able to give them this experience, this chance to sit with themselves. I tell you all this because reading Andy Goodman's picture book, It was so quiet I could hear a pin drop reminds me vividly of these rare, quiet times. As she sits in a swing, the narrator says, "As I listened to the breeze. . . I could hear kites flutter, a busy bee buzz, a leaky tap drip and my wristwatch tick."



She goes on to list all the things she hears, and slowly these sounds get louder. As they do, the text gets louder and the illustrations more vibrant. The narrator hears the dog bark, the baby wake, Jill singing in the bath, Peter whistling. Things continue to escalate and the narrator begins to question herself. Is that elephants stampeding? A steam train accelerating? A loose cannon firing?

Goodman's illustrations are perfectly paired with the text. The expansive, marvelously thick white pages have images that feel a bit like antique clip-art, allowing the reader to use her or his own imagination as the story unfolds. The gentle colors of the initial quietude give way to a more vibrant palette as the story arcs. Being quiet, the mind wanders and listening leads to imagination. I love the stream of consciousness progression of It was so quiet I could hear a pin drop and everything that it inspires. It's also the perfect book to read leading into a moment of focusing/meditation/quiet with kids, which is something we all need now and then. 




Source: Review Copy

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11. Chicken in Space by Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Shahar Kober



Chicken in Space is a marvelously illustrated picture book about imagination, creativity, perseverance and adventure written by Adam Lehrhaupt and illustrated by Shahar KoberChicken in Space begins, "Zoey wasn't like the other chickens." The aviator caps and goggles should be the first indicator. Then there are the blueprints. Zoey is going into space and she is not taking "no" for an answer, despite the very reasonable concerns and protests from her pal Sam, the pig. 


There are no problems, just opportunities, and Zoey takes them where she finds them. No ship? No problem. A basket and a bunch of balloons (which have been bobbing in and out of the illustrations from the start) get these friends airborne in no time.



As with any adventure, there are challenges, and this is where Zoey's magnificent imagination comes in! A baseball? No! It's an asteroid! Kites are comets and birds are alien attack ships that bring on a crash landing amidst sacks of corn. Zoey is thrilled with the success of their mission, but Sam is not so sure. However, back in the farmyard, he has a different story to tell!

And Zoey has the perfect gift for this pie loving pig - a moon pie! As Chicken in Space comes to and end and Sam is wanting to share his moon pie with Zoey, she already has her head buried in her next adventure!

Source: Review Copy





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12. The Blobfish Book by Jessica Olien


How can I not like The Blobfish Book by Jessica Olien? Having three kids of my own and working with kids, I have been getting asked what my favorite animal is for over 20 years now. And not only do I get asked what my favorite animal is, I get asked specifically what are my favorite mammal, sea animal and reptile - red panda, narwhal and Komodo dragon, respectively. Two years ago, I discovered the blobfish and the axolotl while reading Unusual Creatures:  A Mostly Accurate Account of Earth's Strangest Animals and became a little obsessed. In fact, a student of mine even made me a Pokemon blobfish card...


With The Blobfish Book, Olien has a story within a story, meta kind of thing going on. Blobfish, seen initially as a quasi-cute cartoony character, is about to read The Deep Sea Book, which he takes a red crayon to, making it his own.

Readers will actually learn a bit about deep sea creatures and how they live in The Blobfish Book, despite Blobfish's defacement. However, if this book sparks curiosity in your young readers, be sure to check out Glow: Animals with Their Own Nightlights by W.H. Beck, which I reviewed last year.




The twist comes when the enthusiastic, slightly goofy Blobfish finally gets to the page displaying his species and is deeply saddened to learn that the blobfish was once voted the world's ugliest animal. He burst into tears, but his fellow deep sea creatures come to his side and draw up a final page for the book, showing the world that blobfish are in fact cute, friendly and fascinating. The Blobfish Book ends with a two page spread that gives readers more facts about the cast of characters and the environment that they live in.

The Blobfish Book is a good way to introduce readers to this curious creature. But, as a fan of the fish itself, I have no doubt that there are lots more creative possibilities for blobfish in picture books and am sure they are already being written and illustrated...

Source: Review Copy


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13.



I don't usually have the time to review follow up books in a series, but Emma Virján's Pig In a Wig series of beginning to read books is such a find that I want to call it to your attention as often as possible. The illustrations are bright and colorful with fantastic picture clues and the gently rhyming stories are always entertaining and just silly enough to keep kids reading over  and over.


In What This Story Needs is a Munch and a Crunch, the Pig in a Wig plans a picnic for all her friends. As before, the phrase, "What this story needs," appears often in the text, which is never more than a sentence per page. In fact, the book has only five sentences total! Emerging readers will find this book engaging and feel success at the end, which comes quickly. The story arc follow the picnicking animals as they eat and play and then, as the skies grow dark, find a new place to picnic. These books are a staple in my school library and I can't wait to see what the Pig in a Wig does next!












Source: Review Copy

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14. The Thank You Book by Mo Willems




I didn't intend to review Mo Willem's The Thank You Book, the 25th and final book in the Elephant & Piggie series that began in 2007. I first encountered these books as a bookseller and story-time-reader while working at Barnes & Noble. I wasn't a big fan of Willems's Pigeon books, mostly because I found them challenging to read out loud. I quickly discovered that Elephant & Piggie books were a joy to read out loud and had mass appeal, from little kids to parents to even teens! Then my youngest son started learning to read and my appreciation of what Willems was doing deepened immensely. You can read all about that experience HERE. I want to take this time to tell you what a deeply satisfying end to a series The Thank You Book is and share my experiences with Elephant & Piggie as an elementary school librarian and, of course, say THANK YOU to Mo Willems!



Willems's The Thank You Book is both a wrap-up and a genuine thank you to readers. While spending time with Gerald and Piggie is always a treat, I remember how exciting it was to pick up a new Elephant & Piggie book over the last nine years and find a new character in the story. Snake from Can I Play, Too? is probably my favorite. All these characters are back in The Thank You Book and on the endpapers! And, in a really awesome wink, Pigeon appears in the pages (and not just the endpapers) of The Thank You Book! Piggie apologizes for not including him in their books, to which Pigeon (in his own font) responds, "That is what you think!" The Thank You Book reads like the best ending to a long running television series possible. Readers get to revisit old friends and familiar story lines while also seeing their favorite characters do what they do best one last time.



I am finishing up my second full year as an elementary school librarian. More than 80% of the students at my school are socioeconomically disadvantaged, 65% of them are reading at grade level and 55% of them are English language learners. When I took over my library it had languished through more than a year of substitute librarians cycling in and out of the space and several years of a diminished or non-existent book buying budget. There were just a few Elephant & Piggie books on the shelves and they were not circulating. Taking advantage of my employee discount at Barnes & Noble one last time, and taking advantage of the generosity of my amazing principal, I bought a copy of every book in the series and began reading them out loud to my students - all grades. Gerald and Piggie became instant celebrities in the library. Today, we have at least three copies of each book in the series on the shelves (in their own special section) and they are always almost all checked out. They are a staple for my first graders, but I especially love checking them out to the kindergarteners. Technically, I'm not supposed to check books out to the kinders, but it's hard to say "no" to those adorable little faces. And I absolutely love telling them to look for Pigeon at the end of the book -and in all of Willems's books! Sometimes I have to nudge the second and third graders away from Elephant & Piggie, or encourage them to get one book at their reading level and one E&P. And, happily, I occasionally get older students checking these books out to read to younger siblings. 

Willems's books have become a common thread for all of my students. As I read The Thank You Book over and over, about 25 times in all to all grades, I choked back more than a few tears. I explained to the students that this would be the last Elephant & Piggie book and their disappointment and shock was always audible. They didn't always understand why I was sad that this was the last book, but when I told them it was like saying, "Goodbye," to two good friends who were moving away, the lightbulbs went on - just like Piggie's often did. Having had two years now to inspire my students to read by hooking them with Willems's humor, I am looking forward to seeing our reading scores rise. And, while I am sad to think that there will be no more new books from Gerald and Piggie, I look forward to whatever it is Mo Willems does next, and I especially look forward to getting to share it with my students! THANK YOU, MO WILLEMS! Your books have made a difference in my life and the lives of my students.

Source: Purchased

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15. Poetry Friday: Just lost when I was saved by Emily Dickinson

Just lost when I was saved!
Just felt the world go by!
Just girt me for the onset with eternity,
When breath blew back,
And on the other side
I heard recede the disappointed tide!

Therefore, as one returned, I feel,
Odd secrets of the line to tell!
Some sailor, skirting foreign shores,
Some pale reporter from the awful doors
Before the seal!

Next time, to stay!
Next time, the things to see
By ear unheard,
Unscrutinized by eye.

Next time, to tarry,
While the ages steal,-
Slow tramp the centuries,
And the cycles wheel.

- Emily Dickinson

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16. More-igami by Dori Kleber, illustrated by G. Brian Karas



More-igami is the debut picture book from Dori Kleber, illustrated by longtime favorite G. Brian Karas. More-igami is a fantastic picture book for so many reasons. The main character shows perseverance or, grit, to use the hot new word in the world of education, as he struggles to master a skill. More-igami is a marvel of diversity in a picture book, featuring African American, Asian and Hispanic characters. But, best of all, More-igami is just a really great story with marvelous illustrations that is a joy to read our loud.


Joey loves all things folded, from maps to accordions to tacos to, of course, foldaway beds. When Joey's classmate, Sarah, brings her mother to school to teach the class how to make origami cranes, Joey's mind is blown. Mrs. Takimoto tells Joey that she can teach him the folds, but if he wants to be an origami master, he'll "need patience and practice." No problem! Joey practices everywhere with everything, including folding the $38.00 he found in his mother's purse. Frustrated and out things to fold, Joey heads to the restaurant next door because "fajitas always made him feel better." There, he finds a place to practice folding and help out Mr. Lopez. Even better, he finds a new friend to share his talent with - as long as she has patience and is willing to practice!

Karas's illustrations are perfectly matched to Kleber's text, which wonderfully, simply shows the frustration and determination that Joey possesses. The hand drawn texture of Karas's illustrations add to the creative feel of More-igami, which will undoubtedly inspire readers to do some folding of their own, especially since there is a two page spread at the end of the book that shows you how to fold an origami ladybug!

Source: Review Copy

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17. You’ll see us…coast to coast…

Coral Gables,FL-Venetian Pool-Linen

Coral Gables,FL-Venetian Pool-Linen

About a month away before Lux Mentis ventures to Coral Gables, FL for Rare Books and Manuscripts Section/ACRL Conference 2016! Lux Mentis is sponsoring a seminar:

“Common Sense, Charm, and a Glass of Wine: Successfully Navigating Donor Relations in Special Collections”

Stay tuned for exciting catalogs furthering our manifesto of vice and debauchery and if you are lucky, a print version (while supplies last!).

Follow the marauders on Instagram: instagram.com/luxmentis/

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18. BLOCKS by Irene Dickson



I absolutely adore BLOCKS by Irene Dickson! I often consult Kirkus Reviews to see what they think of a book and occasionally their reviewer will sum up a book so perfectly I have to quote, and that is the case with BLOCKS. Of Dickson's book, Kirkus succinctly writes, "A cleverly simple book builds skills as well as towers."





Ruby builds with red blocks on the verso, Benji builds with blue blocks on the recto. They parallel play until Benji borrows a red block and a tussle follows. And the structures they have built come crashing down. Ruby even loses a shoe. Both children look stricken and the tension is palpable. Dickson does so much with few words and bold illustrations in BLOCKS. Even if you can see it coming, it is exciting to see the conflict and the resolution in this wonderful picture book. And, while Dickson could have ended BLOCKS with Ruby and Benji happily building together, a final page turn reveals Guy with his green blocks.

As a parent, I find so many teachable moments in BLOCKS. As a librarian who just won a grant that has brought three different sets of blocks (Kapla, Magnatiles and TEDCO Blocks & Marbles) into the library, I especially am grateful to have this book to pull off the shelf when the battles begin...

Source: Review Copy


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19. Poetry Friday: Study by D.H. Lawrence

Somewhere the long mellow note of the blackbird
Quickens the unclasping hands of hazel,
Somewhere the wind-flowers fling their heads back,
Stirred by an impetuous wind. Some ways'll
All be sweet with white and blue violet.
    (Hush now, hush. Where am I?-Biuret-)

...

Somewhere the lamp hanging low from the ceiling
Lights the soft hair of a girl as she reads,
And the red firelight steadily wheeling
Weaves the hard hands of my friend in sleep.

- selected lines from Study by D.H. Lawrence

Read the entire poem here.

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20. Before I Wake Up by Britta Teckentrup


Before I Wake Up . . . is the fifth book I have reviewed by Britta Teckentrup and her illustrations are as magically wonderful as ever. A simple rhyming text follows a girl through her nighttime, dreamworld adventures, a protective, comforting lion at her side.


Teckentrup begins, "Before I wake up, I float through my dreams . . . imagining worlds. Never ending it seems." The rhymes sometimes feel forced, but the illustrations are so unique and marvelous that it is easy to overlook. The girl and her lion travel by sky and by boat, over and under water, in and out of woods and jungles. Teckentrup establishes a dream landscape in a variety of ways. Sometimes the narrator is seen multiple times on a page, sometimes she seems to float across the page. As morning approaches, the palette lightens with it. Dark blues and blacks shift to oranges, reds and eventually yellows. The final page shows the narrator, tucked beneath a sunny yellow quilt with a toy lion snuggled at her side, ready for the new day.


While I am a big fan of Teckentrup's style, I think that my favorite thing about Before I Wake Up . . . is the book itself. Published by Prestel, an internationally renowned publisher of art, architecture, photography and design books, appealing to "all those with a passion for visual culture." Holding Before I Wake Up . . . in my hands, this is evident. This gorgeously designed book (it's trim size is square!) is printed on thick matte paper with a sturdy paper-over-board cover and stitched binding that makes reading it a multi-sense experience. Before I Wake Up . . . is a memorable book that children will cherish, but also one that makes a beautiful gift.


Source: Review Copy

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21. Where's the Elephant? by Barroux



I opened the cheerfully colored,  creatively illustrated Where's the Elephant? by French children's book illustrator Barroux expecting a fun look-and-find book and got so much more. Where's the Elephant? is indeed a look-and-find book, and it is not always easy to find the elephant and his companions, a parrot and a snake, but it is also a subtle lesson on deforestation and loss of habitat that affects so many of the world's animals.



Where's the Elephant? is a journey through time and space.  The book begins with an expanse of blue ocean with the tip of a lush island seen at the edge of the opposite page. A two page spread that shows a lollipop colored forest (can you find the elephant? Snake? Parrot?) But a page turn shows a clearcut starting. A few page turns later, and it's very easy to spot the elephant and his friends because their habitat has been taken over by houses and roads. Huddled in the few trees left, the wild animals eventually find themselves caged in a zoo.


But, bars can't hold them for long. Soon they are making their way to a new island, a new habitat. Hopefully one that will stay wild.




Barroux ends Where's the Elephant? with the story behind the book. During a visit to Brazil five years ago, he saw parts of the Amazon rain forest set on fire to clear the way for the production of soybeans. This inspired him to look for a way to talk about deforestation in a picture book. Inspiration came to him at the Edinburgh Book Festival in 2014 and this amazing book is the brilliant end result. Little listeners will enjoy looking and finding while older readers will be inspired to ask questions and learn more about this serious subject.

Source: Review Copy



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22. A Brave Bear by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Emily Hughes



A Brave Bear pairs prolific author Sean Taylor with Emily Hughes, a new illustrator I've been wanting to review for a while now. Hughes's illustrations are a story in their own, but Taylor's narrative makes A Brave Bear a memorable story about a falling down and getting up again that parents will find sweet and young listeners/readers will relate to instantly. And, A Brave Bear also makes a fantastic Father's Day gift!



A Brave Bear begins before the title page with the words, "Everything was hot" and an illustrations of two bears in their den. The language of A Brave Bear continues on in this simple way, with the little bear narrating. Papa Bear says, "I think that a pair of hot bears is probably the hottest thing in the world." Little Bear suggests they cool off in the river and the pair begin the long trek downhill. There are grassy parts, bushy parts and jumping parts. Jumping over the rocks, Little Bear says, "I think a jumping bear is probably the jumpiest thing in the world." But Papa Bear cautions him to take small jumps. Of course Little Bear takes a tumble and gets hurt, but Papa Bear knows just what to say and do and the two make it to the river where Little Bear declares that a "pair of wet bears is probably the wettest thing in the world." As they walk home, the sun is glowing, the air is glowing and, "even tomorrow is glowing."


With A Brave Bear, Taylor has written a story that perfectly captures one of the many moments of childhood that are major to the little person experiencing it, but easily surmountable to the adult standing by. The subtle empathy, compassion and calm that Papa Bear shows is especially meaningful and is sure to resonate with readers. And rare in a picture book. Thank you, Sean Taylor and Emily Hughes for this gem! 

Source: Review Copy




More books by the spectacular Emily Hughes!











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23. Wishing Day by Lauren Myracle, 314 pp, RL 5




Having been a bookseller for so many years, I am very familiar with Lauren Myracle and her two very popular series, the Winnie Years and the Internet Girls, which, told entirely in texts, emails and IMs, was especially innovative and popular (and prescient) when first published in 2004. But, having a proclivity for fantasy, it took me until now to finally read one of Myracle's books. The blurb for Wishing Day grabbed my attention immediately. On the third night of the third month after her thirteenth birthday, every girl in the town of Willow Hill makes three wishes: the first is an impossible wish, the second is a wish she can make come true herself and the third is a wish made from her deepest, secret heart.

Natasha Blok is the oldest of three sisters born in under three years. In fact, her sister Darya is in seventh grade with her. Ava, their youngest sister is in sixth grade. As Wishing Day opens, Natasha is at the ancient willow tree, planted by her grandmother many times removed, the woman who started the wish tradition. Her aunts, Vera and Elena, are steps behind her, waiting anxiously for Natasha to make her wishes. Natasha's mother Klara disappeared eight years earlier, leaving her father sinking into sadness and silence and her aunts moving in to raise their nieces. Of course Natasha wants her mother back, but she also wants to be kissed and she secretly wants to be somebody's favorite.

Myracle weaves a story rich with characters. Natasha is a typical big sister, stepping in and caring for her siblings after her mother vanishes. Yet, she also let a distance grow between herself and Darya, who, with a head of red, shiny curly hair, a flair for fashion and a firm disbelief in magic of any kind, especially when it comes to the Wishing Tree. And, an even deeper secret than her three wishes is hidden under her mattress. Natasha is a writer, albeit a writer who has yet to finish a story. As Wishing Day unfolds, Natasha learns more about her mother's life before she disappeared, finishes writing her first story and kisses a boy. She also has her deepest secret self revealed when her sisters discover her writing and enter it in a local contest, is not kissed by the boy she thinks she wants to kiss her and might not even want to be kissed at all and, most surprising, discovers that she IS someone's favorite.

Myracle weaves in a thread of magic - beyond the Wishing Tree itself - in the character of the Bird Lady, an eccentric, ancient legend in Willow Hill who has a sparrow nesting in her fluff of grey hair. The Bird Lady appears every so often to utter cryptic words to Natasha, who begins finding meaningful notes around town. The ending of Wishing Day will leave you wondering and wanting more (especially more answers) and, quite happily, there is more to come because this is an intended trilogy! I suspect that the next two books will focus on serious, gorgeous, skeptic Darya and the ethereal, playful, free spirit Ava as Natasha's sisters turn thirteen and make their own wishes.

Source: Review Copy

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24. A Dark, Dark Cave by Eric Hoffman, illustrated by Corey R. Tabor


A Dark, Dark Cave by Eric Hoffman with illustrations by Corey R. Tabor has the feel of an instant classic. Hoffman's rhyming journey of imagination is paired perfectly with Tabor's layered, playful watercolor illustrations and pencil drawings that have a hint of magic to them. Best of all, A Dark, Dark Cave has one of my favorite things to do with kids at the center of the story!

As the "pale moon glows," a sister and brother go spelunking. Hoffman repeats the refrain, "a dark, dark cave," throughout the text, creating a gentle suspense that builds with each page turn while Tabor's illustrations blend the real with the imaginary in a satisfying way that keeps readers guessing - are these two REALLY in a dark, dark cave all by themselves?

A light appears in the darkness, revealing that, in fact, the sister and brother are in a blanket cave! As a kid and a parent, building blanket forts is definitely one of my all-time favorite things to do. We even build blanket forts on rainy days in my library. But, sadly, for this sister and brother, the bright light means Dad coming in and asking them to find a more quiet game because the baby is sleeping. This could easily have been the end to A Dark, Dark Cave. Happily, it is not. There is one more imaginary adventure in store for these siblings, and more marvelous illustrations (and a change in palette) from Tabor!

I hope you will seek out A Dark, Dark Cave by Eric Hoffman, who worked with preschoolers for over 35 years before writing this book, and Corey R. Tabor, making his picture book debut. I read hundreds of new picture books a year (and almost as many old ones) and it is truly rare to find a book of this kind!



 Look for Fox and the Jumping Contest 
illustrated AND written by Corey R. Tabor 
Coming October 2016!





Source: Review Copy

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25. Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle


Molly Idle is the brilliant creator (and choreographer) of the first two books about Flora, an expressive, if not always graceful, little girl who seems to find herself frolicking with birds of all shapes and sizes. Flora, in a swimsuit, swim cap and flippers, has danced with a flamingo. Flora has skated with a penguin. Now, in Flora and the Peacocks, Flora faces her greatest challenge - dancing with not one, but two peacocks.


For this dance, Flora has a fan and two elegant partners. As with the first two books, clever flaps change the plot of these wordless picture books with just a flip. Flora's fan and the tails of the peacocks flip and flap to change the tone as the three try to orchestrate a dance that leaves no one out. 





As you might expect, there are jealous moments, frustrating turns and even some stomping off stage. But, Flora and the peacocks find a way to dance together by the end of the book, which culminates in a magnificent gatefold that opens to a huge 18 by 33 inches. Besides being gorgeously illustrated, all three of Idle's Flora books are examples of masterful design and paper engineering that make these stories so readable and memorable. It's hard to capture all of the magic of the Flora books in words. Happily, Chronicle Books, the publisher of these excellent books, has made a book trailer!


Source: Review Copy

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