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1. Fun with The Swamp Where Gator Hides

swamp_Baird1

swamp5-1swamp4 1swamp3_1swamp2_1 sawmp1_1hiding gator

Look at these wonderful drawings created by the students of Ms. Crowley, Media Specialist at St. John Vianney School. I love to see these. These are true artists! A big thank you to the students who created these lovely illustrations. I’ve enjoyed all of the extra details you’ve added. So Fantastic!  

Just to let you know that if there are other little artists that have enjoyed the book, I would love to see your drawings as well! You send, I’ll post!
The Swamp Where Gator Hides, Dawn Publications, Marianne Berkes, Author, Roberta Baird Illustrator

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2. Baby Foxes Nursing

(Link to YouTube video) A few days ago, I filmed this family of red foxes at the edge of the wild woods behind my house. The male fox greets the vixen as she nurses five new kits. The mother's lactation lasts for about six weeks.

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3. A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

A Nest is Noisy Written by Dianna Hutts Aston; Illustrations by Sylvia Long Chronicle Books. 2015 ISBN: 9781452127132 Preschool on up I received a copy of this book from the publisher. They’ve done it again!  The award-winning duo, Dianna Hutts Aston & Sylvia Long, have added a fifth title to their informational science picture book series. (An Egg is Quiet, A Seed is Sleepy, A

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4. New Item

There's a new item in the barn—baby chicks in the incubator. 

 

They're posing for their first portrait. Well, actually they don't pose at all. They doze, eat, and poop on a five minute cycle. The sticker is from the grocery store.


My other challenge is Handsome the uber-friendly cat. He keeps wanting to jump on my lap and get patted.


In keeping with the tradition of titling my sketchbooks with the first words that appear in it, this one is called "New Item."
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Materials
Pentalic Aqua Journal (5 x 8 inch)
Schmincke Small Watercolor Set 
Nalgene 2-Ounce Jar
Watercolor Brush Set
Gouache

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5. International Giveaway: Eco Kids Planet Magazine

I’m a great believer in kids’ magazines. For a start, they are a great way to support your child’s reading for pleasure:

  • They’re designed for dipping in and out of, making it easy to squeeze a bit of reading in at any point of the day. Brief articles, often highly illustrated also break down barriers reluctant readers might have; blocks of text tend to be relatively short, and the reader doesn’t feel s/he has to make a huge commitment to enjoy or learn something.
  • You can choose ones closely aligned to real interests your child has. Maybe your child is crazy about horses – there’s a magazine for that. Or cycling or gardening… you don’t have to stick to magazines aimed at children.
  • They’re reading material you can have very easily to hand. They can be stashed in bags for journeys out, they can be read at kitchen tables. Magazines (and newspapers) “hang around” making for easy serendipitous reading.
  • Their timely nature creates a buzz about reading – whether the magazine gets delivered once a week through your letterbox, or you know it comes out once a month and so make a special trip to the newsagents. The fact that magazines appear at certain times creates a frisson of excitement, and something that many kids will look forward to if you subscribe or get into the magazine habit.
  • Many magazines are highly illustrated, either with photos or artwork. Just because kids can read themselves, it doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy illustration of one sort or the other. Indeed, in today’s world with a highly visual focus, images are almost essential if you want to grab people’s attention.
  • ecokidsmagazinecovers

    Eco Kids Planet Magazine is a new nature and environment magazine aimed at children aged 7 to 11. The magazine uses narrative non-fiction, i.e. fun, fictional characters in a story format, to convey facts about nature and the environment, providing children with real world examples of how they can make a difference when it comes to looking after our planet.

    ECO_6_quiz

    ECO_6_interview_dolphin

    It’s a brilliant success story: Eco Kids Planet Magazine was originally a Kickstarter project, but it is now stocked in one of the biggest newsagent/bookshop chains in the UK – WHSmiths. However, you can also get your hands on copies by entering a today’s brilliant international giveaway. First prize is a year’s subscription to Eco Kids Planet Magazine, and the Runners-Up Prize is a bundle of 6 past issues. Both prizes would be great for schools as well as families.

    The nitty gritty of the giveaway

  • This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE
  • To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post.
  • For extra entries you can:

    (1) Tweet about this giveaway, perhaps using this text:
    Win a year’s subscription to @EcoKidsPlanet – a kids’ nature magazine – over on @playbythebook’s blog http://www.playingbythebook.net/?p=32552

    (2) Share this giveaway on your Facebook page, Google Plus page or blog

    You must leave a separate comment for each entry for them to count.

  • The winner and runner-up will be chosen at random using random.org.
  • The giveaway is open for two weeks and closes on Earth Day ie Wednesday April 22nd 5pm UK time. I will contact the winner and runner-up via email. If I do not hear back from the winner/runner-up within one week of emailing them, I will re-draw as appropriate.
  • You can find out more about Eco Kids Planet Magazine on their website: http://www.ecokidsplanet.co.uk/.

    Good luck with the giveaway!

    ECO_5_environmental_board

    ECO_5_mad_about_madagascar

    3 Comments on International Giveaway: Eco Kids Planet Magazine, last added: 4/8/2015
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    6. The Winged Variety

    Here's an assortment of winged creatures I've illustrated for some books...





    Watercolor Illustrations by
    Steven James Petruccio

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    7. Egg: Nature's Perfect Package

    Egg: Nature's Perfect Package   by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015 ISBN: 9780547959092 Grades K-3 The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from the public library. Louise and I have been on the lookout for the best nonfiction books of 2015. So far this year (as in past years)  biographies and history books outnumber science books by a large margin. However, there is

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    8. How to get squirrels to dance


    I figured out a way to get the squirrels in my backyard to dance, and I'll show you how. They climb up on a platform painted like a disco dance floor, and reach inside a stuffed animal head to get some delicious organic peanut butter.



    While they're reaching for the treat, they do some incredible breakdancing moves. Here's the link to a video showing some highlights.

    I shot the clips from inside my house about four feet away. I didn't speed up the moves at the end. They just kept getting more and more excited about the peanut butter.


    The head is a "Happy Bee" plush (4-inch diameter) from a dollar store. I used a glue gun to add the pompom nose, the google eyes, the smiley mouth, and the buck teeth. I made a stiff lining for the head using a plastic ball that I also found at the dollar store. I cut a 3-inch opening in the ball, big enough for the squirrels to move in and out with plenty of clearance.

    The bottom of the head is suspended 8.5 inches above the platform from two metal picture-frame wires that keep it facing the camera.

    I learned to use metal wire the hard way, because first I used monofilament fishline, and the little thieves nipped off my first head and ran away with it.

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    9. HighFive Magazine: “Watch Us Move!”

    This is an illustration of mine printed in HighFive. Kids’ keeping active–with a little help from animals!

    h5-watchusmove-spread

    h5-watchusmove-2

    h5-watchusmove-3

    h5-watchusmove-1

    h5-watchusmove-4

    h5-watchusmove-5

    (Copyright Highlights for Children)

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    10. Missouri SCBWI PAL Postcard Art Contest

    Our regional SCBWI chapter is going to send out a postcard to schools to promote our local PAL children's authors and illustrators. It's meant to encourage school principals, teachers and librarians to invite book creators for school visits.

    They had a illustration contest for the art side of the postcard and they just announced that I was the winner!! Not only will my art be featured on the card, but I also get a free portfolio critique at our upcoming conference! Here is my piece:


    Congrats to the second and third place winners. You can see them here.

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    11. Are you an Animal Helper?

    image training marcy griffith with tortoise lin_and_sebastian bobcat with ball Victoria with raccoon

    The pet industry is a billion dollar business and many Americans share homes with four-legged friends, or aquatic creatures. Each day people are taking care of their animals and enriching their lives just like the people featured in the Animal Helpers series.

    In a recent interview, Author Jennifer Keats Curtis shared with Arbordale how zookeepers and rehabilitators have influenced her interactions with her own dog. Just like animals in zoos, pets need enrichment. Even the smallest fish can be trained.

    So, here are a few training experiments that you can do at home to enrich the lives of your pets.

     Dogs

    Your dog might have hi-five down or may love a game of fetch, but what about when you are away?

    Newton26-27flatPlay a game of find and seek with treats or even your dog’s food. When you dog is in another room place small treats or a little food in simple hiding spaces around a room. Have your dog use it’s nose to seek out the food. For the first few times you may have to help your dog out, but they will quickly get the hint.

    Take learning one step further with puzzles. Many local pet stores carry treat puzzles where dogs must use their nose to get the reward. This enrichment will entertain and tire out your pooch!

    Cats

    Cats may be a little harder to please, but they are easily trainable too! A happy cat has many toys to bat around, or even a bc_20-21fishing pole with a furry ball at the end can entertain a cat for hours, but many people have trained their cat to do much more.

    Start out small with treats or a piece of food and hold it just above the cat’s nose. Lift the treat until the cat sits down. Repeat this several times and give the cat a treat as soon as it sits. Soon the cat will be siting each time you lift the treat.

    Many cats scare easily so be sure to reward your cat and not stress it out. Scaredy cats are very difficult to train.

    Fish

    You can train your pet fish to recognize when it’s dinnertime. Flash a light and then goldfish_1feed the fish. Do this over several days feeding the fish the same amount of food each time and see what happens. Some fish put their mouths out of the water; others may swim in a pattern. This is a fun experiment in animal behavior just like Pavlov’s Dogs.

    Do you want to learn how zookeepers entertain and train big cats, sharks or even a gorilla, check out Jennifer Keats Curtis’ series Animal Helpers and coming soon Primate School!


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    12. Hopeful Corgi


    At my friend James Warhola's house in Long Island City, I sketched his Welsh corgi named Maya. 

    She wondered why I was giving her so much attention, and whether I might feed her a bit of spaghetti or garlic bread. 

    She only held this pose for about 30 seconds. After she moved on, I tried to remember the initial position. I continued the sketch for about 15 minutes as she moved around the kitchen.



    The drawing is in a Pentalic watercolor sketchbook. I used Caran D'ache Supracolor water-soluble colored pencils, blended with a Niji water brush. I always carry a tube of white gouache with me, and used it for highlights in the eyes and touch-ups along the muzzle.

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    13. Spectacular Spots

    Spectacular Spots  by Susan Stockdale Peachtree, 2015 ISBN: 9781561458172 Grades PreS-2 The reviewer received a galley from the publisher. Susan Stockdale, author and illustrator of Stripes of All Types and Bring on the Birds, has a new informational picture book for very young readers. Spectacular Spots features spotted creatures in their natural habitats. Each page includes a colorful

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    14. Disruptive Coloration



    Male leopard in South Africa, Wikipedia photo by Lukas Kaffer 
    Disruptive coloration is a type of camouflage that makes an animal disappear against its surroundings. It appears in nature on both predators and prey to interfere with their perception of each other.



    It can not only disguise a subject against its background, but also against others of its own kind, making the boundaries of the form hard to see. The effect would be especially powerful when these zebras are running off in all directions.

    Abbott Thayer with Richard Meryman, Peacock in the Woods, 1907.
    Early in the twentieth century, a group of artists and scientists developed an interest in this topic, including Abbott Thayer, a student of Jean-Léon Gérôme. His book called Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom contributed to the use of camouflage in World War I.

    Doing a painting like this goes against our artistic instincts to separate forms from the background, yet the effect presents a powerful appeal to the viewer.
    John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) The Hermit (Il solitario)1908
    Other painters took up the idea around the same time, including John Singer Sargent. In his painting "The Hermit," he posed an old man in the foothills of the Alps and lit him with sun-dappled light, which nearly loses him in the the background. 

    In the left center of the picture are two well-hidden gazelles. The animals were based on a stuffed gazelle that Sargent brought with him as a prop on his alpine travels. 
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    15. Home is where the heart is...

    Houses don't come in one shape or size. The mole lives underground, the seal lives in the ocean and the  deer and fox live in the meadow. 

    These are illustrations from Pitter and Patter written by Martha Sullivan, published by Dawn Publishing and illustrated by me, Cathy Morrison. It's one of their new spring releases. 

    Welcome Home and Happy Spring!



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    16. Robin Hood

    mouse hoodRBaird_1
    “Underneath this little stone
    Lies Robert Earl of Huntington;
    No other archer was so good -
    And people called him Robin Hood.
    Such outlaws as he and his men
    Will England never see again.” 

    _Roger Lancelyn Green

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    17. Animals Playing Instruments – #kidlitart's Twenty-Eight Day Challenge

    The folks over at #kidlitart* wanted to help illustrators find their voices as illustrators, so they set up this challenge.

    The idea is to draw something every day for the month of February featuring a theme, creature, idea, character, etc. that you LOVE. 'To illustrate things that you are ALL ABOUT – not just as an artist. As a person. What tickles your fancy? What do you geek out about? What stories would you tell if you just had the chance?'

    I've had this idea for a while to illustrate the alphabet with animals playing instruments, since I love art, animals and music. I started out innocently enough, then I got to researching both animals and instruments I've never heard of, and it starts to get really exotic! I am having a lot of fun with this!

    Here are the first batch:

    ALLIGATOR PLAYING AN ACCORDION



    BADGER PLAYING BONGOS



    CAPYBARA PLAYING CYMBALS



    DIK-DIK PLAYING A DJEMBE
     


    ELEPHANT PLAYING AN EUPHONIUM



    FERRET PLAYING A FLUGELHORN

      
    GOAT PLAYING A GUITAR
     


    HEDGEHOG PLAYING A HARMONICA



     AN INDRI PLAYING AN IYA ILU


    * #kidlitart is an hour-long Twitter chat on Thursday nights at 8 pm Central, where children's illustrators talk about anything to do with kidlit art.

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    18. Book Review: Olive and the Great Flood, by Connie Arnold

    Book description:

    Olive is a gentle, friendly dove who wants to help her friend Noah, his family and the other animals with her on the ark. She tries to soothe them during the rain and has an important assignment, to discover when it's safe to venture from the ark after the flood. Suggested age range for readers: 4-8

    My thoughts...

    This is a lovely picture book to read and enjoy. In her simple, lyrical language, most appropriate for young children, talented children's author Connie Arnold tells the story of Noah, his Ark, and the Flood. At the heart of it is Olive, the beautiful dove, who has a most important job to do in this already most important tale. The tone is calming and peaceful, making this book not only educational but also perfect as a bedtime story. I really enjoyed the colorful illustrations by Kathleen Bullock. They really fit and suit the story. Children will have fun pointing out all the animals both in the Arc and under the seas. I truly recommend this delightful picture book for young children!

    Purchase from Amazon and Guardian Angel Publishing

    Visit the author's website at: http://childrenbooks.webs.com 

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    19. Chernobyl's Wild Kingdom by Rebecca L. Johnson

    Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: life in the Dead Zone By Rebecca L. Johnson Twenty-First Century Books. 2015 ISBN: 9781467711548 Grades 5-12 To review this book, I borrowed a copy from my local public library. On April 26, 1986, Reactor Number 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded sending extremely high levels of ionizing radiation into the atmosphere that would cover the area.

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    20. The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats

    The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery  by Sandra Markle Millbrook Press, 2015 ISBN: 9781467714631 Grades 4-7 Sandra Markle's third book in the Scientific Mystery series is just as engrossing as The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs and The Case of the Vanishing Honey Bees.  In The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats readers are introduced to a problem: bats are

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    21. No Landscape but...More 3/5 Challenge Art

    Here are a few more of my early illustrations, moving between whimsical and more realistic.





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    22. Manatee Mom & Calf

    This remains one of my all time favorite illustrations.  Not so much for the technical aspect but I feel I captured the love of mother and calf when they are reunited in the story.  I love illustrations, by any artist, that go beyond the words and capture the feeling.





    illustration from
    MANATEE WINTER
    by StevenJames Petruccio

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    23. Giant Rodent Painting in the News


    Scientists at York University in the UK and Montevideo in Uruguay have published some new ideas about Josephoartigasia, the extinct giant rodent that I reconstructed a few years ago. They asked if my painting could be used for the press announcement. The idea of these creatures using their teeth as powerful weapons has been very popular. 

    I would love to imagine two male Josephoartigasia in a rutting contest, with David Attenborough narrating.
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    24. The Sleeping Dogs of Cecil Aldin


    Cecil Aldin (1870-1935) was a British illustrator who loved to draw dogs.


    He illustrated a book called Sleeping Partners featuring his dogs "Cracker," a white bull terrier, and "Micky," a dark Irish wolfhound. 


    Micky was the tolerant type who would let his buddy walk all over him.


    One of Aldin's teachers was Frank Calderon, who wrote one of the best books on animal anatomy. 


    Aldin drew for the Illustrated London News, where he developed a following that later translated into print sales.


    He used his own dogs and those of his friends for models. 


    He called his own dogs "The Professionals" and visiting dogs "The Amateurs."


    He would let them run loose in his big studio and wait patiently for them to settle into a sleeping position. He often did a quick outline from life and then elaborated it from memory later.



    Aldin's dogs became so famous from his drawings that they received their own fan mail. When at last the bull terrier died, The Times wrote an obituary:
    Cracker, the bull terrier, for many years the beloved companion and favourite model of the late Cecil Aldin, died July 31st, Mallorca. Deeply mourned.
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    On the Web

    Books

    Sleeping Dogs on GurneyJourney

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    25. Book Review: The Last Wild/The Dark Wild

    I read both of these books together, so I'm going to do what I rarely do and review them together. If you haven't read the first book, you might want to stop after my review of The Last Wild, because my review of The Dark Wild will, of necessity, have spoilers for the first book.



    The Last Wild
    by Piers Torday

    In a dystopian future, all animals have died out from an illness called "red-eye" that mutated to spread throughout the animal populations. The only animals still living are a few hardy species like cockroaches. Even the bees are dead, which means that there are no more food crops. The only food left is a synthetic food called Formul-A, and the only supplier of Formul-A is the Facto corporation, essentially giving them control of the remaining human population.

    Twelve year old Kester Jaynes has been incarcerated in Spectrum Hall Academy for Challenging Children for six years. The Academy is just as horrible as its name makes it sound: the children live regimented, restricted lives, and breaking the rules is punished by solitary confinement. Kester can't even complain: he hasn't been able to speak since his mother died. The words just won't come out.

    Kester keeps company with a cockroach at lunch, but one day he's surprised to hear the cockroach speaking to him in his head. Shortly after that, one hundred pigeons break through his window and help him escape from Spectrum Hall. Kester discovers that Facto lied: the animals are not all dead. There is a group of them — a Wild — still living on the edge of civilization, and Kester has a unique ability to talk to them through a kind of mental connection. Between the red-eye virus and the cullers sent out by Facto to kill any remaining animals, the Wild is in grave danger. Kester sets off with the pigeons, the cockroach, a stag, and a wolf cub to find his father, who used to be a vet, and try to find a cure for the red-eye.

    If all this sounds a bit unbelievable, it is, but that's ok. This isn't the kind of book that has to be realistic. The characters and the situations are somewhat exaggerated, like you might find in a Roald Dahl or a Lemony Snicket book, with the same kind of dark humor found in those books.

    The main characters are Kester and a girl named Polly, whom he meets along the way, and various animals. Kester and Polly are good characters, but the animals are really the best thing about this book. Torday has done an outstanding job of giving the animals unique voices that really fit their personalities. Kester develops through the story, as he learns to be self-reliant and to take responsibility.

    The pacing is good, and the plot keeps you turning pages, as Kester, Polly and the animals go from one situation to another as they try to make their way to the city to find Kester's dad. The Last Wild is a unique and interesting book, and a good read. I've read a lot of books, and I can honestly say that I haven't read anything quite like it.

    Diversity?

    There isn't really any diversity that I saw in the book. In fact, in a few cases I was bothered that some of the villains had impediments or physical characteristics exaggerated in a negative way for comic effect. For example, the evil headmaster stutters.

    Who would like this book?

    Middle-grade readers, particularly those who like animal fiction. Be aware that The Last Wild is a dark book, and there are deaths; some animals are killed by evil people in front of Kester and Polly. Sensitive children who are bothered by such things may want to give it a pass.

    I suspect that this book would have strong appeal for fans of the Warriors series. It's a very different kind of book, but I think that Warriors fans would appreciate not only the animal characters, but also the dark conflicts in a dangerous world, the Wild community, the theme of personal sacrifice, and the well-paced plot.






    The Dark Wild
    by Piers Torday

    Kester and Polly have saved the Wild, and helped Kester's dad find a cure for the red-eye virus. But the Facto corporation isn't going to give up their control of the world and everything they've worked for so easily. Selwyn Stone, the head of Facto, wants something more than to kill all the animals. He wants what Polly has, the secret she swore to her parents that she'd never reveal.

    Other factions are also after the secret, and Polly escapes into the city to protect the secret. Kester sets off after her, to help and protect her, but before he can find her he discovers another Wild — an army of bitter, angry animals living under the city, who are determined to destroy the human race. Kester is caught in the middle, and must try to find a way to stop the Dark Wild, while also saving Polly and the animals of his Wild from Facto.

    The Dark Wild is a gripping read, and just as thrilling as The Last Wild. In the first book, Kester had to learn to be a leader, but in this one he learns something much more difficult: the value of loyalty, personal heroism, and sacrifice. Other characters develop as well, particularly the wolf cub, who is beginning to grow up and become an adult wolf.

    It's also just as dark as the first book, if not more so. In one painful scene, Kester, as a prisoner, has to watch Selwyn Stone taxidermy a squirrel who had been one of Kester's friends. The squirrel was already dead, killed earlier in the book, but it's quite a horrifying scene.

    Some things are not resolved by the end of the book, so there may be another book on the way.


    FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.



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