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1. A true Dutch treat

Fairy Godfather A true Dutch treatI hope you jumped on those Sutherland Lecture tickets yesterday because they are gone baby gone–I understand that even the waiting list is full. A big fan of John Green’s books, I am nevertheless nervous about being in an auditorium filled with John Green Girls, beautiful, complicated and ka-razy creatures that they are. Or do I infer too much? Come say hello–I’ll be the flustered chaperone in the corner.

In the meantime I am off to White Plains today to visit Brian Kenney’s library and speak to the Youth Services Section of  NYLA tomorrow morning. Then a weekend with our lovely Dutch friends in Rye, taking the adorable Julia, Mads, and Lizze to see Matilda on Broadway, for what else are fee peetvaders for?

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The post A true Dutch treat appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. #515 – Nate Rocks the City by Karen Pokras Toz

Today is a rather long post. Eleven-year-old Nate Rockledge, his older sister Abby, and his once best friend Lisa Crane are here for a short interview followed by a review of the new–and the final–Nate Rocks book: Nate Rocks the City.        Let’s get started.

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Today Kid Lit Reviews welcomes Nathan Rockledge (aka Nate Rocks), his older sister, Abby, and his know-it-all classmate, Lisa Crane. They are all characters in the Nate Rocks series, the newest being Nate Rocks the CitySince this is the last book, I thought it would be fun if you each talked about your favorite moment from the series. Who wants to go first?

Lisa Crane :  Oh!! Me! Me!

Yes of course, Lisa, go ahead.

Lisa : Well … In Nate Rocks the Boat, there was this scene where Nathan was leaving for summer camp and his parents were giving him a going away party…

Nathan: Oh no! Really? Do we have to bring that up here?

Lisa: Hey! She said I could talk about my favorite moment from any of the books, right?

Nathan, please, Lisa, cont–

Lisa: So anyway, we were playing horseshoes – Nathan and me – and of course Nathan was missing them all, while I was getting them all. So I kindly offered to show Nathan how it’s done, only he got a little too close to me, and BAM the next thing you know, he’s on the ground crying like a big old baby. He says it’s because I hit him, but I think it’s because I beat him at horseshoes.

Nathan: You gave me a black eye!!

 Abby: It was awesome.

 Nathan: Can we move on?

Sure, Nathan. How abou–

 Abby: Ooh – I have one!

 You characters sure are, um, ready. Abby?

 Abby: So in Nate Rocks the World, Nathan was trying to get back at me for – well that really doesn’t matter – anyway, he put food coloring in my shampoo bottle, but Dad wound up using it instead of me, and he wound up with PURPLE hair! HAHAHAHA! It was so funny, and Nathan got in so much trouble.

 Nathan: You got in trouble, too.

 Abby: Not as much as you though – it was classic.

 Nathan: So far, this interview isn’t quite as much fun as I thought it was going to be.

 I’m sorry, Nathan. You’re the star, so what is your favorite moment?

 Nathan: Hmmm, that’s such a hard question because I had so many great moments in every book! I really did love going to New York City in this last book though. I got to save the city from aliens, I jousted with knights in the museum, and the last scene – well let’s just say if you’ve read Nate Rocks the World, I had a chance to go full circle. I don’t really want to give anymore away than that. Overall though, the entire series was a blast. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did – even the parts with Abby and Lisa.

 Lisa: “Hey!”

Abby: “Not funny, Nate.”

Nathan: Thanks for reading and thanks for having us on your blog today!


rocks city.

Nate Rocks the City

by Karen Pokras Toz

Grand Daisy Press    2/14/2014

978-0-9848608-9- 0

Age 7 to 12     142 pages


Hey New York! Are you ready for Nate Rocks? Fifth grader Nathan Rockledge has been counting down the days—and meals—until his class trip to New York City. Now that the big event is finally here, he can barely stand the excitement. After all, isn’t this what being a fifth grader is all about? Oh sure, his Mom is one of the chaperones, his annoying sister Abby is tagging along, and that know-it-all classmate, Lisa, will be there as well. However, none of that matters. Not when he’ll be with his best friends, Tommy and Sam.

While seeing the sights, his teacher wants his class to take notes, but Nathan has other ideas. With paper and pencil in hand, Nathan prefers to doodle, transforming himself into Nate Rocks, boy hero. Amid ninja pigeons to fend off, aliens to attack, and the baseball game of the century to save, will Nate Rocks be able to save the day one more time?


“The piercing sound of the house alarm rips through the neighborhood as our car pulls into the driveway. ‘Nate! Come quick!’ Mrs. Jensen screams over the sound of the siren.”

The Story

Nate’s fifth grade class heads to New York City for their class trip. The chaperones include Nate’s mom and her best friend, Mrs. Crane, mother of the most annoying girl in the entire world—Lisa. Thanks to a Philadelphia Philly baseball player, the kids are getting two extra days and tickets the Phillies versus Yankees baseball game at the end of their trip. Nate counts his days by meals, starting with eleven meals. Nate savors every New York meal, even in the hotel cafeteria.

The group goes to Central Park, The City Zoo, the Statue of Liberty, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art before the final trip to Yankee Stadium. The last two days of the trip, Nate’s dad and older sister join the group. Mrs. Cogin, Nate’s teacher, gives each middle grader a journal to write notes about their trip as reference for an essay they will write later. Not much for words, Nate tends to draw his notes. Several times during the trip, Nate envisions himself as Nate Rocks, a hero to those around him. As Nate begins drawing the area around him changes. People are gone or settings change. Always, someone grabs him and an exchange like this occurs,

“Nate! Thank goodness we found you!”

“Me? Why me?”

“Why because you’re Nate Rocks, of course!”

Nate does whatever needs done, such as stop robotic birds from destroying New York City. The urgent task that only Nate Rocks can accomplished is competed and then this same adoring thanks occurs,

“You did it, Nate! You saved me/us!”

Finally, someone sharply brings Nate back to reality, reminding him that he is holding up the group or just annoying his mother. The last day of Nate’s trip to New York City culminates with a baseball game, the Philadelphia Phillies against the New York Yankees. Nate Rockledge goes out in Nate Rocks fashion one last time.


Nate Rocks the City ends the Nate Rocks series. At age ten, Nate rocked the world and the boat and at age eleven, he rocked the school and now the city. In each one Nate envisions himself a hero, his current surroundings melting into a different scene and situations only an imaginative eleven-year-old boy can outwit. Nate’s biggest problem is fifth grader Lisa Crane. Lisa and Nate have spent a lot of time together as they grew up, thanks to their mothers being best friends. Nate sees Lisa as annoying and he is correct.

Ms. Toz writes like a pro. Punctuation errors, capitalization, spelling, and typos are all missing from Nate Rocks the City. One look at the credit page explains why the text is clean. Ms. Toz hired an editor from a company called There for You. Nate’s last story flows well from one scene to the next. His creativeness shines and makes his drawings come alive in his mind, on his pad, and for the reader. Ms. Toz thoroughly researched New York City and its sites before writing Nate Rocks the City. From the exhibits at The Metropolitan Museum of Art to the shops in Times Square, she has the details.

It is odd that both dad and Abby, Nick’s fifteen-year-old sister, would join the group midway through the fifth grade trip, like it were actually a family vacation. I suppose it was a way of getting all the usual characters into the story and for that, it is hard to place blame. Dad working as another chaperone at least fit nicely into the story, when he wasn’t getting the boys lost in the city, but Abby really made no sense.

All through the story—and in every Nate Rocks series—Nate envisions himself the hero of one situation or another. It is easy to know when Nick goes off on one of his tangents! You will find an exclamation point at the end of nearly every sentence! Nick sees these adventures as something exciting! At Yankee Stadium, Nate finally becomes that hero, exclamations not needed. I like the idea of Nate behind what happened, but the scene did not stand up. I would love to explain why, but it is the ending and I have no right to ruin it for anyone.

Nate Rocks the City is an enjoyable story with terrific imagination, too perfect annoying mom behavior, and a giant sense of fun kids will enjoy. The story is a fast read. Not wanting to leave the story helps this along. Kids will love Nate Rocks the City, whether as a fan of the series or a first time reader. Nate knows how to put on a show. Like the others, Nate Rocks the City can stand on its own, but read in order is more fun as Nate gets better with each book. The series is perfect for boys. Even young reluctant readers will find the Nate Rocks series worth keeping. I am sorry to see Nick leave us, but he does so in fine Nate fashion. Nate does indeed Rock the City!

Check out the Nate Rocks Series HERE.

Buy Nate Rocks the City at AmazonB&Nauthor websiteyour neighborhood bookstore.


Meet the author, Karen Pokras Toz at her website:  www.karentoz.com

Find other great books at Grand Daisy Press website: http://www.granddaisypress.com/ 

You can also find Karen Pokras Toz here:

Blog: http://kptoz.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/karenptoz

Twitter: www.twitter.com/karentoz

Amazon: http://bit.ly/amznNRTC

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/bnNRTCity

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5009570.Karen_Pokras_Toz


NATE ROCKS THE CITY. Test copyright © 2014 by Karen Pokras Toz.



#1 Nate Rocks the World

#1 Nate Rocks the World

#2 Nate Rocks the Boat

#2 Nate Rocks the Boat

#3 Nate Rocks the School

#3 Nate Rocks the School



on sale! 99¢ through March 21, 2014


Millicent Marie Is Not My Name

Millicent Marie Is Not My Name

Pie and Other Brilliant Ideas

Pie and Other Brilliant Ideas







nate rocks city


Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Digital Book, Series Tagged: chapter books, children's book reviews, fifth grade school trip, Grand Daisy Press, Karen Pokras Toz, Lady Liberty, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, reluctant readers, Times Square

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3. Burlesque in New York: The writing of Gypsy Rose Lee

By Noralee Frankel

In celebration of the anniversary of the first burlesque show in New York City on 12 September 1866, I reread a fun murder mystery, The G-String Murders, by Gypsy Rose Lee. “Finding dead bodies scattered all over a burlesque theater isn’t the sort of thing you’re likely to forget. Not quickly, anyway,” begins the story.

The editors at Simon & Schuster liked the setting in a burlesque theater and appreciated Gypsy’s natural style, with its unpretentious and casual tone. Her knowledge of burlesque enabled her to intrigue readers, who were as interested in life within a burlesque theater as in the mystery. Providing vivid local color, the novel describes comedic sketches, strip routines, costumes, and the happenings backstage. In a typical scene in the book, Gypsy muses about her strip act: “The theater had been full of men, slouched down in their seats. Their cigarettes glowed in the dark and a spotlight pierced through the smoke, following me as I walked back and forth.” Describing her band with precision, she wrote, “Musicians in their shirt sleeves, with racing forms in their pockets, played Sophisticated Lady while I flicked my pins in the tuba and dropped my garter belt into the pit.”

Gypsy worked as hard on her writing as her stripping, and The G-String Murders became a best seller. “People think that just because you’re a stripper you don’t have much else except a body. They don’t credit you with intelligence,” Gypsy later complained. “Maybe that’s why I write.”

Gypsy Rose Lee, 1956

Gypsy Rose Lee, full-length portrait, seated at typewriter, facing slightly right, 1956. Photo by Fred Palumbo of the World Telegram & Sun. Public rights given to Library of Congress. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The G-String Murders briefly describes Gypsy’s career as a burlesque queen at a fictitious theater, based on those owned by the Minsky family, in New York City. In the book someone strangles a stripper, La Verne, with her G-string. The police turn up an abundance of suspects, including Louie, La Verne’s gangster boyfriend; Gypsy; and Gypsy’s boyfriend, Biff Brannigan, a comic working in the club. After someone tries to frame Biff by placing the lethal G-string in his pocket, he aids the police in solving the crime. He’s also concerned that the police suspect Gypsy and he wants to clear her by finding the actual murderer. After deducing the identity of the murderer, Biff proves his theory by suggesting that Gypsy act as bait and remains in the theater alone to tempt the murderer to strike again.

More than just a page-turner, Gypsy’s novel stresses the camaraderie among the women. Sharing a dressing room, they throw parties with everyone contributing to buy drinks and food. The women joke, drink together, and confide in each other. The women also sympathize with each other over man problems and working conditions. Gypsy describes the strippers’ dressing room with a complete lack of sentimentality. The cheap theater owner is indifferent to the disgusting condition of the stripper’s dressing room toilet. To help the women, the burlesque comics pool their meager resources to buy the strippers a new toilet.

Gypsy expressed her conviction in the importance of organized labor through a character in The G-String Murders: Jannine, one of the strippers recently elected secretary to the president of the Burlesque Artists’ Association. When the strippers receive a new toilet, the candy seller suggested having a non-union plumber install it to save money. She refuses, forbidding any non-union member to enter the women’s dressing room. She snapped, “Plumbers got a union. We got a union. When we don’t protect each other that’s the end of the unions.” She reminded the other strippers of conditions before they joined a union, when they performed close to a dozen shows without additional compensation.

In the novel, Gypsy provided Jannine with another opportunity to talk about solidarity among burlesque performers and the unequal class structure in the United States. In a tirade against the police over the treatment of the strippers during the murder investigation, Jannine raged that the performers, both the strippers and comedians, might squabble but they were loyal and do not inform on each other. When a police sergeant tried to interrupt her, she retorted: “It’s the social system of the upper classes that gives you guys the right to browbeat the workers!”

Gypsy peddled the G-String Murders in the same clever ways that she publicized herself. In a prepublication letter to her publishers, she offered to “do my specialty in Macy’s window to sell a book. If you prefer something a little more dignified, I’ll make it Wanamaker’s window.” In an interview, she joked that if people did not know her in bookstores, she would remove an earring and ask, “Now, do you recognize me?”

As an added bonus, Gypsy put a lot of herself into this book, so the reader learns quite a bit about her burlesque work life, her sense of humor, her political beliefs, and sense of independence. Spending time with this mystery is a perfect way to celebrate a New York City burlesque anniversary.

Noralee Frankel is author of Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee. She recently co-edited the U.S. History in Global Perspective for National History Day. Dr. Frankel is a historical consultant and can be reached through LinkedIn or Facebook.

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The post Burlesque in New York: The writing of Gypsy Rose Lee appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick, 307 pp, RL 4

The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick, besides being a fantastic book, also happens to be one of the first books to be published by the brand new imprint Algonquin Young Readers. I want to take a paragraph here to tell you about Algonquin Young Readers, the recently created arm of Algonquin Books, publisher of acclaimed best selling books for adults such as Like Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

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5. Invisible Inkling: The Whoopie Pie War, written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Harry Bliss, 151 pp, RL 3

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - INVISIBLE INKLING WHOOPIE PIE WAR -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> Last year I reviewed Dangerous Pumpkins, the second book in Emily Jenkins' Invisible Inkling series, illustrated by the marvelous Harry Bliss.

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6. Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani, 297 pp, RL 4

Same Sun Here is now in paperback! The Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani was impossible to put down and frequently had me in tears. I can't imagine what it must be like to be one of the librarians who sit on the Newbery panel each year, but as I read The Same Sun Here I kept thinking, "This book deserves a medal. This is exactly the kind of book those librarians seem to love."

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7. Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus, 340 pp, RL 5

First reviewed in 2011, Gods of Manhattan is very much like Wildwood in that it is a fantasy squarely set in America as well as a fantasy that presents a world within a world. This time, there is a ghost world of historical figures running New York City alongside the flash and blood politicians. Excellent fantasy and adventure and really great history as well! It's really hard not to pick up

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8. Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters, 272 pages, RL 5

First reviewed on 9/24/10, Lesley L.L. Blume's book was a wonderful discovery to me, the kind of book I know the 11-year-old-me would have loved with Cornelia and Virginia becoming fast friends. As it is, I recommend this book to young readers whenever I can. A magical, moving story that travels the world. When I was a kid and reading chapter books some thirty years ago, a book like

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9. City of Orphans by Avi, 350 pp, RL 5

City of Orphans is now in paperback! While I have read a handful of books by the prolific, Newbery Award winning author Avi, his most recent book, City of Orphans, is the first I have reviewed here! In 1991 Avi won the Newbery Honor for his book The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, a unique work of historical fiction in which the twelve year old Charlotte goes from a proper young girl to

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10. Otis Dooda : Strange But True, by Ellen Potter, illustrated by David Heatley, 240pp, RL 3

SEND ME PICTURES OF YOUR CHILD'S LEGO CREATIONS AT books4yourkids@gmail.com TO SHARE IN THIS REVIEW! FIRST PHOTO RECEIVED WINS A SIGNED COPY OF:  Otis Dooda : Strange But True! <!-- START INTERCHANGE - OTIS DOODA STRANGE BUT TRUE -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";

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11. P.S. Be Eleven, by Rita Williams Garcia, 274 pp, RL 4

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - P S BE ELEVEN -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> With her new book, P.S. Be Eleven, Rita Williams-Garcia picks up where  her multiple-award winning One Crazy Summer, began and ended - with the Gaither sisters,

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12. Mourning and praising Colony Records

By Liz Wollman

Colony Records, which will close on Saturday, September 15th after 64 years of business, is no mere record store. A cavernous, crowded, and never particularly tidy place, Colony has kept one foot firmly in its Tin Pan Alley past, and the other in its media-saturated present. The largest and easily most famous provider of sheet music in New York City, Colony also houses cassettes, CDs, DVDs, karaoke recordings, an absolutely enormous collection of records, and all kinds of memorabilia: pop music action figures and Beatles mousepads; signed, fading photographs of A-, B-, and C-list celebrities from every decade that the store has been open; novelty key chains and promotional buttons from countless Broadway musicals; old concert programs, playbills, and t-shirts; Ramones coffee mugs and “Glee” lunchboxes; and locked shrines in dank corners, filled with dusty Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley collectibles. The staff, depending on whom you talk to, is comprised either of snobbish, standoffish jerks or brilliant, walking encyclopedias who can help you locate a piece of sheet music within seconds of your humming a few notes from the song in question, no matter how obscure. I suppose that genius and churlishness, just like Tin Pan Alley and rock and roll, are hardly mutually exclusive; the owners’ understanding of this is, in the end, likely why Colony managed to last as long as it did.

Photo by William Ruben Helms. Used with permission.

Colony Sporting Goods became Colony Records when its owners, Harold S. (“Nappy”) Grossbardt and Sidney Turk, took it over in 1948. Their sons, Michael Grossbardt and Richard Turk, are the current and will be the last owners. Initially located at 52nd Street and Broadway, Colony moved in 1970 to the Brill Building, at Broadway and 49th Street, where it has remained. On a typical day, visitors to the store include tourists from all over the world, members of the theater industry, professional and amateur musicians, and record and memorabilia collectors. Countless celebrities have patronized Colony in its six decades: Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, John Lennon, Elton John, Neil Diamond, and Jimi Hendrix. The bizarrely image-conscious Michael Jackson used to make furtive visits via a back entrance, specifically to buy up enormous amounts of his own memorabilia. According to lore, both Bernadette Peters and Dusty Springfield decided to become entertainers after merely walking by the store and hearing music emanating from it. When James Brown visited, he apparently exclaimed, “This smells like a music store!”

He’s right; it does. And before paying my last visit to Colony this past week, I’d completely forgotten what a music store smells like. Also, what one looks like and feels like.

I am no stranger to Colony. I’ve bought plenty of sheet music from them in the 25 years that I’ve called myself a New Yorker. In that stretch of time, I have been, at various times and sometimes simultaneously, a reasonably good vocalist, a truly terrible pianist, a middling guitar player, and a music scholar who writes frequently about the post-1960 stage musical. I’m not an atypical patron, I think. In the weeks since news of Colony’s closing broke, I’ve heard plenty of people mention that they used to go there regularly when they dabbled in trumpet or in cello, or taught guitar or voice lessons, or before they decided to quit pursuing a career in the theater, or before Amazon started carrying everything they needed.

Yet despite how much it has served us New Yorkers — not to mention the millions of tourists who stroll, sometimes maddeningly slowly, through Times Square at some point during their visit here — I wasn’t terribly surprised by the news that Colony had fallen prey to declining sales, the Internet, and (the final straw) a landlord who plans to quintuple the rent of the store. None of this is shocking, especially when it comes to commercial real estate in Manhattan, which at this point heavily favors conglomerates. Really, the big news to me, at least initially, was not that Colony was closing. It is that Colony has managed to stay open for so very long.

Think about it: Colony opened in 1948. During the 1950s, rock and roll arrived, purportedly to destroy Tin Pan Alley in one fell swoop. During the 1960s, again purportedly, young people en masse abruptly turned their backs on the musical tastes of their elders. During these decades, Colony only grew in size — —so large, in fact, that its owners had to relocate. Its move, in 1970, coincided with one of the darkest periods in New York City’s history. Mired in financial crisis, and inching dangerously close to bankruptcy, New York was hardly a happy place in the 1970s. Times Square, Colony Records’ new home, had become internationally notorious — a sleazy, crime-ridden example of everything that had gone wrong with the urban jungle.

And yet Colony survived it all. It outlasted Beatlemania, psychedelia, disco, punk, hair metal, and hip-hop, MTV, VH1 and the first two decades of the Internet. It outlasted Napster and the dot-com boom. It outlasted Tower Records, HMV, Patelson’s, and Footlight Records. Arguably, it even outlasted, for a while at least, the neighborhood around it; Times Square was given a Disneyfied “facelift” in the early 1990s, which has resulted in a more tourist-friendly and seemingly safer, if also increasingly generic and corporate urban environment. Since it first opened in the postwar era, Colony has grown with and adapted to the times in ways that none of its past competitors managed. My initial reaction, then, was merely to praise Colony — not to mourn it for a second — because in the end, sixty years is a pretty impressive run for a family-owned business in the middle of Times Square.

But then I went to visit, and my logic gave way to a surprisingly emotional wave of nostalgia.

James Brown was right: it’s the smell of the place that gets you first — a mix of old, comfortably dusty things; of vinyl and paper and cool, musty formica. The sounds, too: a mix of Beatles songs blasted through the speaker, competing with several languages being spoken by as many tourists. “Look, honey, a Lady Gaga backpack!” a woman with a thick Long Island accent shouted down the aisle at her absolutely mortified pre-teen son. A man in a suit and sunglasses paced back and forth through the brass section while he talked shop on his phone. “We need to give them more bang for the buck this year,” he said. “Maybe we could get another few animals up on the stage this time around?” As “Strawberry Fields” came on over the speakers, I wandered through the aisle of picked-over cassette tapes, passed a group of Italian women looking at Beatles memorabilia, and found a huge basket of promotional pins from past Broadway musicals. I grabbed three, almost at random, from shows that all flopped at least a decade ago: Nick and Nora, Mayor, James Clavell’s Shogun: The Musical. The producers of those shows would have killed for even a fraction of the run that Colony has had.

Photo by William Ruben Helms. Used with permission.

I was about to leave, but then I started rifling through music books for the sake of rifling through music books. New ones, used ones, ones for woodwinds, piano, violin, voice, and guitar. They are, I am sure, all available online should I ever decide to become a terrible violinist or a horrible oboeist. But wandering through so much sheet music, being able to reach out and touch it, page through it, admire the quality of the paper is — much like spending an hour or two in a store flipping through records, or cassettes, or CDs — something I’d completely forgotten the pleasure of. I’ve spent a great deal of my life killing time in stores like these. I miss them, even as I understand that times change and modes of commerce with them. The automats are gone, too, from Times Square. So are the dime museums, the grindhouses, the arcades and the penny restaurants, and yes, the notorious if occasionally hilarious XXX theaters (a favorite marquis post from the early 1980s: “Hot As Hell! A Potent Groin Grabber!!”). I am sure that whatever chain store opens up in the place of Colony — be it a Gap, an Urban Outfitters, or a particularly snazzy Applebees — will, someday, also eventually close up shop.

I ended up purchasing the three pins, along with two used books of classic rock and pop songs “for very easy guitar,” which is about my speed these days. Warren, the longtime Colony employee who rang me up, gave me one of the pins for free, and then called my attention to the song that had come on over the speakers. “Man, this is the Beatles before they even sounded like the Beatles, you know?”

“Sure,” I replied, snapping out of my fog of nostalgia to focus on his. “Because it wasn’t their song, right? It was one of the songs they covered. It was originally by — by –”

“It’s ‘Matchbox,’” he said. “Carl Perkins. 1955? No. 1956.”

I chuckled. “Thanks.” I said, taking my bag and preparing to leave Colony for the last time, and realizing that my eyes were welling up. “For everything. I’ll miss you.”

He didn’t look surprised at all. “I know,” he said, gently. “We’ll miss you, too.”

Elizabeth L. Wollman is Assistant Professor of Music at Baruch College in New York City, and author of Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City and The Theater Will Rock: A History of the Rock Musical, from Hair to Hedwig. She also contributes to the Show Showdown blog.

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13. Back to Bataan by Jerome Charyn

This is the story of Jack, a lonely 11 year old boy.  To begin with, he is the only scholarship student at the Dutch Masters Day School, for which he must deal with some mean-spirited boys despite being top in his class.   His mother is away most of the time, working for the war effort and trying to cope with being left alone to care for things on the home front.   Poor Jack has also been having a hard time trying to cope with the loss of his father at the Battle of Bataan.  And so, Jack decides the thing for him to do is to drop out of school, enlist in the army and find General MacArthur and go back to Bataan to defeat the Japanese in the south pacific.  

Naturally, Jack doesn't get much support for this idea, but after his girlfriend breaks up with him and finds "love" with the rich, overweight Alfredo, a boy their class, life begins to feel like one abandonment after another.   Then Jack decides to take out his anger by hurting Alfredo"s family.  Afterwards, knowing it was wrong and believing he has committed a major crime, Jack takes the cowardly way out and runs away to Riverside Park rather than facing the consequences.  There, he finds acceptance, and companionship with some homeless led by the a tyrannical leader simply named The Leader.  

But are things really as wonderful as Jack thinks they are living with The Leader and his faithful companions.  Or does Jack find himself in his own personal war, where he must decide if he really is a coward or a brave enough soldier to do the right thing.  

At first, I was attracted to this short novel because it is a YA World War II story.  Next, I have a hard time resisting a novel set in my favorite place, New York City.   In the end, I found Back to Bataan to be a novel that stuck with me for a long time and I ended up with a mixed reaction to the story of Jack.   

First of all, the cover that came with the E-book led me to think it was a story about an old teen, not an 11 year old boy.  So disregard this cover.  Once I wrapped my mind around Jack's age, the story seems more for a younger reader, maybe someone on the cusp of MG/YA.  

Back to Bataan turns out to be a nice coming of age story of a boy seeking an appropriate male role model after he losses his own dad.  And this is a kid who needs guidance.   But everyone seems to fail him, except the one totally unexpected person in the story.  Which was a nice message - sometimes you find that the one who will help and guide you in life is the most unexpected person of all.  
And Charyn, who grew up in the Bronx during the war, gives a very realistic slice of life picture of NYC in the 1940s in Back to Bataan.  Now, I lived here all my live and have been in enough old soda fountain places to know the real deal and Charyn describes them to a tea or should I say an egg cream.  For the uninitiated, try going to Lexington Ave and 83rd Street and enjoy an egg cream at The Lexington Candy Shop, opened in 1925.

And the title Back to Bataan: now I watch that old 1945 John Wayne movie Back to Bataan on enough rainy afternoons with my brother to know that in 1942, after General McArthur was ordered out of Philippines, where Bataan is, he uttered the words "I shall return" and apparently young Jack took these words to heart.   But, it turns out,  he finds his own Bataan right in the heart of New York City.

If you are looking for something different to read about World War II, Jerome Charyn's novel Back to Bataan just may be the book for you.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was obtained from the publisher.

About the author:  Jerome Charyn (born May 13, 1937) is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.”

New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,” and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.”

Since 1964, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture.
Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.

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4 Comments on Back to Bataan by Jerome Charyn, last added: 9/25/2012
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14. Menchanko Tei

I’m always on the look out for good ramen, here in New York City. A nice bowl of Ramen is one of the most satisfying things in the word. A nice salty broth, chewy slurp-able noodles, and a few pieces of delicious Cha-shu, I salivate just thinking about it.  Fortunately, authentic Ramen isn’t too hard to find here in the city, but some places are certainly better than others. One such place that has yummy Ramen (and yummy Oden as well) is Menchanko Tei.



Located on 45th right off Lexington, Menchanko Tei is only steps away from Grand Central, making it an easy place to get to. They get their name from their signature dish, Menchanko, which combines a bowl of Ramen, “men” meaning chinese noodles which is where ramen comes from, with traditional Sumo Wrestler stew (albiet with some added seafood for good measure), Chanko. The Menchanko itself is good, but personally, I prefer their more traditional kinds of ramen. Here, a bowl of Ramen will set you back between $9-$11 depending on what kind it is and what you want in it, a price I totally say is worth it.









Here are my two favorite kinds of Ramen available at Menchanko Tei. On the right is the Hakata Ramen, with broth made from Pork Bone, and on the left is a bowl of Shoyu Ramen, a traditional Tokyo style ramen with Soy Sauce in the broth. Not complicated dishes, but both of these are delicious are highly recommended. The noodles are filling, the broths are tasty, and the pork and eggs are cooked right.  If you enjoy Ramen and either live or find yourself here in New York City, I recommend getting one of these bowls for yourself. Menchanko Tei also has a daily don (rice bowl) delicious oden, and a nice selection of drinks. I highly recommend it if you’re looking to go get yourself, or maybe a date, a bowl of Ramen.

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15. Interning At Vertical: Thoughts on NYCC.

While I plan to do a big post detailing my experience of interning for Vertical at New York Comic Con, I thought I should do a small one detailing some of my thoughts and expectations on the subject. I have never worked for a company at a convention before, nor have I ever have been at con volunteer, however, I used to work in conjunction with New York Comic Con (and at the time, New York Anime Festival) at various events around the city. So I’m familiar with interacting with the lovely con masses. This time, I’ll be working as an exhibitor and as a member of the industry. Definitely intriguing, if not a little scary, to think about.

As you probably have heard by now, and should know if you’ve kept up with the blog (please do this, I’d appreciate it :D ) we’re bringing out josei superstar and Sakuran author Moyoco Anno, and I’m really proud to be working with the company that’s doing this. I don’t know if I’ll get to meet her myself, but I’m still very excited for it to be happening! I’m also excited to be working at the booth. I’ve done booth duty for NYCC/NYAF at other events, and I’m really stoked on getting to do it for Vertical. I implore you to come and say hi, and if you feel like it to pick up a new release or two as well! I think it will be a lot of fun meeting and talking with other fans of the titles we put out, maybe get into a debate over which Tezuka title reins supreme, and simply just soak in the experience from a different perspective than I’ve ever done before.

Again, we’re doing a lot at NYCC this year. As always, we’ll be having a panel, Moyoco Anno will be having her own panel and several autograph signings, and we’ll have plenty of books to sell! Come check everything out, at New York Comic-Con.

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16. Rodent City: The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

Title: The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
Author/Illustrator: Helen Ward (from Aesop)
32 pages
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publ. Date: Sept. 11, 2012

Helen Ward's retelling of Aesop's fable is traditional in its approach. There are no surprises in the text. All ends as it always does: the town mouse still likes the town best and vice-versa. East-west, home is best, and all that jazz.

The reason I have decided to review  The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse here at Storied Cities is simply because Ward's illustrations are so lovely. The town is no "town" at all. It is New York City in the 1930s! At Christmas! What could be better? Not much, I tell you. At first the little country mouse is dazzled by "great towers of smooth stone and glass," electric elevators, sumptuous holiday feasts, and cozy Christmas trees that make great sleeping nooks. Unfortunately, the city also comes equipped with one highly menacing pug dog, who sends the country mouse scampering back to home-sweet-home. The town mouse, however, doesn't mind his canine pal and curls up for a good gorgonzola-induced nap.

There are only a few city scenes in this book but they are worth it, and country lovers will enjoy Ward's  illustrations of the more natural side of life. It's an excellent choice for some cozy holiday reading.

Want More?
Try a different variation on the country mouse-city mouse theme with Love, Mouserella, or the duo Brown Rabbit in the City/Moon Rabbit.
Read an article in The Guardian about Helen Ward.

4 Comments on Rodent City: The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, last added: 12/13/2012
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17. Neighborly City: Laundry Day

Title: Laundry Day
Author/Illustrator: Maurie J. Manning
32 Pages
Publisher: Clarion Books (HMH)
Publ. Date: April, 17, 2012

Laundry Day is going on my list of favorite new urban picture books. Set in early 20th century New York City, a length of red fabric floats down and lands on young shoeshine boy. He looks up to see miles of laundry lines criss-crossing the tenement-lined alleyway. Determined to find the owner of the vibrant cloth, he hoists himself up on the fire escape. Making his way from apartment to apartment he encounters the friendly inhabitants from various cultural backgrounds, including a Chinese grandmother, four young Polish girls, a harried Irish mother, an African-American prospector, and others. Each neighbor expresses their admiration for the fabric, using a cultural reference (and new foreign word) but it is not until he reaches the roof, that the shoeshine finds its owner.

Although the action of Laundry Day takes place in a single, rather confined location, author-illustrator, Manning, has marvelously created an uplifting portrait of a diverse and densely populated city. It looks like a lovely place to live -- interesting neighbors, different cultures and friendly faces. Manning illustrates the books using a multi-panel (or storyboard) layout which both enhances the feeling of close-knit living as well as nicely accents the shoeshine as he adeptly climbs railings, slides and tightrope-walks across clotheslines and shimmies up pipes. In this book, the city is indeed a fun place to be.

Laundry Day is an excellent choice for your next family story time, whether you're an urban-dweller or not. I highly recommend it.

Little Kid says: He climbed to the top!
Big Kid says: That looks a little dangerous.

Want More?
Visit Maurie J. Manning's website.
Reviews at Perogies & GyozaBookalicious and Waking Brain Cells.

13 Comments on Neighborly City: Laundry Day, last added: 2/11/2013
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18. Baby City: Lazy Little Loafers

Title: Lazy Little Loafers
Author: Susan Orlean
Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
32 Pages
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Publ. Date: Oct. 1, 2008

The narrator of this book is really on to something. She wonders why babies aren't doing anything more productive than pushing strollers and elevator buttons (both activities which are are more likely to annoy than improve the  lives of those around them.) Babies, she declares are just moochers. Worst of all, they get to all the things she wants to do, except she is required to go to school instead!

Karas' illustrations of a girl walking through the city with her (very stylish) mom and baby sibling bring Orlean's story to life. [Orlean is the author of the grown-up book, The Orchid Thief, which was the inspiration for the very bizarre move, Adaptation.]  Our narrator sees babies everywhere, from billboards to the park and the City is the natural choice if you are looking for a location that can be easily and realistically packed full of infants. Indeed, the illustrations reminded me of the heavily tot-populated nabes of the Upper West Side and Park Slope in New York City. (A Central Park hot dog vendor in a park scene reveals that the location is NYC).

This is a cute book and would be a nice choice for older siblings who frequently whine about why they don't get to do what their younger counterparts get to do. (Not that I know anyone like that....) But be warned, the book doesn't answer that question!

Big Kid says: That is Central Park.
Little Kid says: What's a "loafer"?

Want More?
Read the backstory at Susan Orlean's website.
Watch a video of Orleans talking about the book on The Warren Report.
Visit G. Brian Karas' website.

3 Comments on Baby City: Lazy Little Loafers, last added: 1/31/2013
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19. Signed By: Zelda, by Kate Feiffer, 232 pp, RL 4

Kate Feiffer's Signed by: Zelda (with wonderful cover art by Kelly Murphy) is her second novel for young readers and comes on the heels of nine pictures books, four of which are illustrated by her father, the great Jules Feiffer. Besides her own great track record as a children's book author and her wonderful lineage, I was intrigued by Signed by: Zelda because one of the main characters is

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20. rgz Newsflash: Reach Out and Read


So excited to learn of Reach Out and Read and then hear my work was chosen for the program. Check it out and visit the drive. Here's to readergirlz' little sister site, readertotz, and community service for them! 

Reach Out and Read prepares America's youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together. In the Greater New York region, we provide new, age-appropriate books and literacy guidance to over a quarter of a million children. 

Bedtime Kiss for Little Fish is one of 11 books included in the online Virtual Book Drivewww.reachoutandreadnyc.org/VirtualBookDrive.htm

This year the celebration is the 14th Anniversary of Reach Out and Read of Greater New York, on May 6, 2013, at The Helen Mills Event Space and Theater in New York City. Susan Kaufman, Editor of Time Inc.’s People StyleWatch Magazine will serve as Auction Chair. 

Pediatrician Dr. Leora Mogilner

Thanks for taking a look. And thanks to Scholastic for their contributions! 

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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21. Animated City: New York in Pajamarama

New York in Pyjamarama
Title: New York in Pajamarama
Author: Michaël Leblond
Illustrator: Frédérique Bertrand
Pages: 24
Publ. Date: 2013 (US Edition)
Publisher: Phoenix Yard Books

When I first saw the YouTube video demonstrating how New York in Pajamarama worked, I knew I had to share it with my kids! The book was originally published in France as New York en Pyjamarama in 2011 (where it was the fastest selling picture book of the year) and has finally made its way to the USA!

The Story:
One night, at bedtime, instead of falling asleep a boy in striped pajamas dons a red cape and flies off on a midnight adventure across New York City. Inviting readers to follow him, he takes in the whole city: from traffic-jammed streets to busy shopping districts, from leafy Central Park to sparkling Broadway. Eventually, the dizzying "skyscraper forest" overpowers him and he finally heads back home to rest, but not without mentioning that there will be a new journey soon. (There is a sequel, Lunaparc en Pyjamarama.)

How It Works:

The book comes with a large sheet of acetate marked with black lines. Each of the book's illustrations also contains an embedded "code" of lines and when you slide the acetate across the pages the effect is that the illustrations come alive (as demonstrated in the video, below).

The technique is perfect for conveying the constant movement of the city: dizzying lights, waving leaves, rushing vehicles and stampeding pedestrians! My kids loved the interactive nature of the book and there was a wee bit of arguing over who got to control the animation! We had to take turns for each page, but no one wanted to relinquish the acetate sheet!

My Recommendation:

I found this book to be marvelous and highly recommend it. Many of you may be familiar with the "Scanimation" books by Rufus Butler, but I always found those small books frustrating because the animation only occurred when turning the page and you have to be careful not to miss it. The great thing about New York in Pajamarama is that readers can open the large book flat to control and enjoy the "magic."

This is not a library book! It's a book to purchase (and I don't say that about many books since I love the library so much).

Want More?
Watch the YouTube Video:

Read a review at Library Mice or Kirkus.
On my parenting blog, we made a cityscape art project to go along with the book.

Big Kid says: Awesome!
Little Kid says: Awesome!

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but it in no way influenced my review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

3 Comments on Animated City: New York in Pajamarama, last added: 3/1/2013
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22. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, 183 pp, RL TEEN

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> nick & norah's infinite playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is a perfect storm of perfectness - for a certain kind of person who likes

2 Comments on Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, 183 pp, RL TEEN, last added: 3/16/2013
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23. thanking David Levithan, Books of Wonder, Ed Goldberg, and New York City for a special Sunday

Yesterday, in New York City, I joined the great cast of writers that the truly great David Levithan had gathered at Books of Wonder, a store famous and hallowed and grand. I met a student with a future, a librarian with a heart, a blogger with whom I'd corresponded, an AP English teacher, a science fiction writer, a screenplay writer, super cool Wonder staff, others. K. M. Walton and I compared war stories (we always do; this time I won). A.S. King swore she'd been practicing her salsa (but I don't know; the girl does write fiction). David revealed some of the new work on his Scholastic list, and I sort of begged, I hope that's okay, for one of the ARCs.

(David Levithan did not reveal, however, how he maintains his fresh-faced good looks after his long and uber successful week of moderating and hosting countless (all right, so someone counted them, probably even David himself) YA panels and conversations.)

And then something else amazing happened: Ed Goldberg, who wrote to me following the launch of HOUSE OF DANCE and who has remained in touch ever since—a stalwart cheerleader in times both green and fallow, a teacher, a librarian, a garden lover, a dad, a man in love with his Susan—took the train into the city and surprised me. Yes, indeed, the surprise was gonzo. And Beth Kephart, born on April Fools' Day, does not easily surprise.

After the signing, I wove through New York City. I share my quick snapshots here.

On the train there and back, I was reading Elizabeth Graver's new novel, The End of the Point.Help me, Rhonda: I can't wait to tell you about her book. (That is, if you haven't already read about it everywhere, my friend Elizabeth now on bestseller lists everywhere.)

1 Comments on thanking David Levithan, Books of Wonder, Ed Goldberg, and New York City for a special Sunday, last added: 3/25/2013
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24. Musical City: Tito Puente, Mambo King - Rey del Mambo

Tito Puente Mambo KingTitle: Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo
Author: Monica Brown
Illustrator: Rafael López
Publ. date: March 3, 2013
Publisher: Rayo/Harper Collins

Tito Puente, the Mambo King, was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents and went on to become one of the most important musicians and composers in Latino musical history.  Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo tells the story of Puente's life in a straight-forward tale from the time when he was a small child banging out catchy rhythms on pots and pans through his time in the Navy, at Julliard, all the way to the end of his career when he was recognized with 5 Grammys.

The text, which itself seems to sway to the beat of a mambo is in both English and Spanish, a tribute to Puente's heritage, but there is no sprinkling of Spanish words amongst the English text as one sometimes finds in bilingual books. Brown focuses primarily on general facts about Puente without getting into a lot specifics, but they are the types of events that young kids will enjoy hearing about: his love of dancing, his wish to be a bandleader, the sounds of the instruments.  My sons loved the repeated rhythmic phrases like "¡Tum Tica! ¡Tac Tic! ¡Tum Tica!  ¡Tom Tom!" at the beginning and end of the story.

López has created vibrant illustrations which fly across each full two page spread. A fun note in the copyright section indicates he used "acrylic paint that comes in recycled salsa jars from Mexico." Those swirling, spicy orange, red and brown colors of the salsa that used to inhabit those jars bring Puente's musical salsa to life. The city is ever present; skyscrapers and apartment buildings are colorful browns, purples and yellow, with windows always lit up as if constantly full of life.

This is a short biography. Older children who want to know more detail about Puente's life can read a biographical note in the back. I think the book is best used as a springboard to introduce kids to Latin Jazz. I would encourage you to listen to some of Puente's music (or watch a video like the one below) after reading the book.

I've read a lot of jazz-themed books but this is one of the few that is specific to Latin jazz. I encourage you to read it with your music-loving kids.

Want More?
The same team wrote and illustrated the bilingual My Name is Celia/Me llamo Celia : The Life of Celia Cruz/la vida de Celia Cruz.
Visit Monica Brown's website.
Visit Rafael Lopez' website.
Watch this video of Puente from 1965:

Big Kid says: He sounds like a great musician.
Litte Kid says: Can you still see his sticks?

Disclosure: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. Purchases made through links may result in my receiving a (very) small commission, at no extra cost to you. I was given a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

1 Comments on Musical City: Tito Puente, Mambo King - Rey del Mambo, last added: 5/3/2013
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25. Signed By: Zelda, by Kate Feiffer, 232 pp, RL 4

SIGNED BY ZELDA is now in paperback! Kate Feiffer's Signed by: Zelda (with wonderful cover art by Kelly Murphy) is her second novel for young readers and comes on the heels of nine pictures books, four of which are illustrated by her father, the great Jules Feiffer. Besides her own great track record as a children's book author and her wonderful lineage, I was intrigued by Signed by:

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