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1. The Overending, by Rick Johnson | Dedicated Review

In the Overending (the second book in the Wood Cow chronicles), author Rick Johnson continues his story of an intricately detailed world where danger and mystery lurk.

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2. Monday Review: POISON by Bridget Zinn

The first and only time I had the privilege of meeting author Bridget Zinn was during Kidlitcon in Portland a handful of years back. About my age, she was sweet and funny and quiet and one of so many kindred spirits I met that weekend, my first ever... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on Monday Review: POISON by Bridget Zinn as of 4/14/2014 7:21:00 PM
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3. Creating Your Own Flourish List

Now that I’ve outed myself as the secret author of books by Elizabeth Ruston, I can freely talk about one of the concepts in the book Love Proof.

We writers always hear “Write what you know!” Well, I’ve known many of the things I wrote about in Love Proof, including the life of a striving law student, the beginning uncertain years of practicing law, the sometimes disgusting personalities of some of the lawyers you have to deal with, and yes, even the unexpected excitement of accidentally falling in love with your opposing counsel. Yeah, that happens.

But I’ve also known the kind of poverty Sarah Henley experiences in the book. And that was really interesting for me to write about, because I know I still have some vestiges of that poverty mentality deep inside my brain. And I have to actively make choices to move myself past that way of thinking.

One of the things Sarah does in the book to deal with her own poverty mentality is to create a Flourish List. It’s an idea that came to me a few years ago, and something I tried for myself before ever putting it into my fiction.

The name comes from both definitions of flourish: “an extraneous florid embellishment” (or as Sarah puts it, “something I want, but don’t actually need”), and “a period of thriving.”

I don’t know about you, but at times I am MUCH too stingy with myself. I call it frugality, but sometimes it’s just being harsh for no great reason. Perfect example from last night: I was down to maybe the last half-squeeze on my toothpaste tube, and I could have forced out that last little bit, but I decided to make a grand gesture of actually throwing it away–that’s right, without it being fully empty (call the frugality police, go ahead)–and treated myself to a brand new tube. I’ve had to give myself that same permission with bars of soap that have already broken into multiple parts that I have to gather together in a little pile in my palm just to work up a decent sud. Lately, out they go, fresh bar, and if I feel guilty, I know it will pass.

So where did this new radical attitude come from? A few summers ago while I was backpacking in a beautiful section of the South San Juan mountain range in Colorado, I had an afternoon to myself when I sat out in a meadow, my faithful backpacking dog at my side, while my husband took off to fish. And as Bear and I sat there looking at the small white butterflies flitting over the meadow flowers, the thought occurred to me that those butterflies were not strictly necessary. Not in their dainty, pretty form. They could have been ugly and still done the job. Or they could have left their work to the yellow and brown butterflies–why do we need the extra? But having pretty white butterflies is a form of nature’s flourish.

And that led to the companion idea that if flourish is allowed in nature, wouldn’t it be all right to have some of it in my own life?

So right then and there I pulled out pen and paper and started making my Flourish List. Spent an hour writing down all the things I’d wanted for years and years, but never allowed myself to have. I’m not talking about extravagances like a private jet or a personal chef, I’m talking about small pleasures like new, pretty sheets (even though the current ones were still in perfectly good shape); new long underwear that fit better; a new bra; high-quality lotion from one of the bath and body shops; fancy bubble bath. The most expensive item on my list was a pillow-top mattress to replace the plain old Costco mattress we’d been sleeping on for the past twenty years.

I gave myself the chance to write down everything, large or small, just to see it all on paper. And you know what? It wasn’t that much. I had maybe fifteen items. Then, still sitting out in that meadow, I did a tally of what I thought it would all cost. I knew the mattress would probably be very expensive, so I estimated high (no internet connection out there in the wilderness, otherwise I could have researched actual numbers). I think I ended up estimating about $3,000 for the whole list. And that sounded pretty expensive to me. So I just put the list away and promised myself I’d start buying some of the cheaper items when we got home.

And I did. New underwear. Vanilla lotions and bubble baths. New sheets. And finally, a few months later, a pillow-top mattress, on sale, less than $400. By the time I checked off the last item on my list last fall, I had spent less than $1,000. That might still sound like a lot, but in the greater scheme I felt like it was too small an amount to have denied myself all those little pleasures all those many years. Especially if I had bought myself one of those items every year–I know I never would have noticed the cost.

So that’s my suggestion for today: Create your own Flourish List, just like Sarah and I have, and give yourself the pleasure of writing down every small or large thing you want for yourself right now. All the little treats. Maybe they’re not so little–maybe this is the year you need a new car or some other big-ticket item. But that’s a “Need” list. This is your Flourish List–everything you want but don’t necessarily need.

And then? Treat yourself. Choose one item every week or every month, and give it to yourself. And if you feel strange about replacing something you don’t like with something you know you will, then remember to pass on that other item to someone else who might love it more than you did. I’ve done that with clothes, kitchenware, books: it feels so good to take everything you don’t want and give it to a thrift store where someone else can be happy to have found it, and found it so cheaply. Maybe there’s someone out there with a Flourish List that includes a pair of boots like the ones that have just been gathering dust in your closet. Stop hoarding them. Move them on to their new, appreciative owner.

And by doing that, you make room in your own life for things you’ll appreciate and enjoy. It’s hard to invite abundance when you’re chock full of clutter. Make some room. Make your list. And then start treating yourself the way you deserve by no longer withholding those little items that you know will make you smile.

I felt pretty great throwing out that nearly-empty tube of toothpaste last night. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. But I didn’t really realize that until I sat in a meadow and enjoyed the simple sight of some unnecessary butterflies.

0 Comments on Creating Your Own Flourish List as of 4/13/2014 2:17:00 PM
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4. Book Review- Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

Title: Fire and Flood
 Author: Victoria Scott
Series:  Fire and Flood #1
Published:  25 February 2014 by Chicken House
Length: 336 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: Book 2 will be called Salt and Stone. I highly approve of the alliteration.
Summary :  Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place.
Review: Tella’s brother is dying. Her parents move them all out to the remote areas of the land, away from all civilisation. Still, Tella receives a blue box inviting her to the Brimstone Bleed, a competition taking place in jungle, desert, sea and mountains, the winner receiving the Cure for any illness whatsoever. Tella accepts it, and finds herself in a competition a where everyone wants to win.
 I’ve heard lots of people compare to The Hunger Games. This is accurate.  One person wins only. People die. People really want to win. Happy upbeat announcer at all stages of the game. I like the added motivation for competitors of the chance to have the chance to save a loved one.  
 The Pandoras, protector animals that have been created specially to help the competitors, are essentially  were pokemon, but a little more normal. I loved Madox, and the fact that the differing ways people treated their Pandoras said quite a lot  about them.
I didn’t really care much for the characters, apart from Cody (dying brother who is absent for most of the novel) and the twins. Tella doesn’t really do much compared to other dystopian and survival heroes, instead, love interest Guy does most of it. Not saying boys can’t do things, but for a heroine, it would be  nice if she did more than tag along.
It was fun to read in some places. Tella’s voice is funny, and the story moves through the areas quite quickly.
I’d like to know more about the world. Technology must have advanced somewhat to get Pandoras, but other than that, we don’t know how the world differs to ours. There’s hints of it towards the end, but I’d like to see more in future.

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a book that is quite like The Hunger Games, but with added pokemon and less strong characters.

0 Comments on Book Review- Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott as of 4/10/2014 3:33:00 PM
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5. Peter the Brazen

I’m finally done with Peter the Brazen, and I feel I can say definitively now that it is the worst. The worst. I hardly know what else to say about it, or how to catalog its various failings.

I thought I was going to enjoy this book. Peter Moore is a wireless operator, and he’s the best wireless operator. He can hear things no one else can hear, and other wireless operator recognize…I don’t know, the inflections of his Morse code, or something. And he doesn’t have a lean, sardonic countenance, but he does have a tendency to smile inappropriately, which practically amounts to the same thing. So, all of that boded well. And I was prepared for some racism, because this is the kind of book where the existence of actual Asian people is completely irrelevant to the glamour of Asia. But in general I thought that this book wouldn’t be very good, but that I would enjoy it.

I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.

We can start with the racism, which is of the “protagonist who supposedly knows China like the back of his hand can’t tell the difference between people from Asian countries” variety. There was a Eurasian girl who wasn’t evil, and maybe one or two Chinese people who were well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful, but as a whole, George F. Worts paints the entire population of a continent as pretty much worthless. Not that he has a very high opinion of humanity in general — I saw here the same kind of cynicism that made me uncomfortable in Girl Alone. He also gets in some jabs at Dutch people – no discernible traits besides being boring and liking to eat — and Mexicans — the “fiery gladness” of knocking a “greaser” into the ocean. There’s not anything in particular I can pick out to take issue with, just grindingly awful racial determinism throughout.

As bad as the racism and xenophobia were, the misogyny was worse. Peter Moore is apparently irresistible to women, but I’m not sure why. I mean, if two women have similar coloring he can’t tell the difference between them (even if he’s in love with one of them), and if they’re “exotic” he makes up stories about them for his own amusement, and if a woman tells him her husband beats her, he doesn’t believe it until he sees the bruises and then asks her why, as if she must have done something to deserve it. Which I guess makes sense, since he mostly views women as men’s possessions anyway.

Worts credits him with  “quaint, mid-Victorian views regarding woman,” and if mid-Victorian views regarding women consist of distrusting them and treating them as objects then, yeah, he does, but I don’t know why we’re supposed to like him for it.  I kept thinking of a quote from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: “I’m told the women literally bow down before him, if that’s what women do.” Women do literally bow down before Peter Moore in this book, but no, that’s not what women do.

Then there’s the writing, which is terrible on two levels. At the sentence level, it’s hideously flowery. People who refer to guns as “blue steel” already have a mark against them in my book, but that’s just the beginning of Worts’ excessive reliance on colors for description. I think my favorite bit was the number of synonyms for “red” he used in describing a cinnabar mining city. Here is a bit of it: “And instantly he was obsessed with the flaming color of that man’s unappeased passion. Red—red! The hovels were spattered with the red clay. The man, the skinny, wretched creature who begged for a moment of his gracious mercy at the gate, dripped in ruby filth. The mule sank and wallowed in vermilion mire.”

There are a lot of bits like that.

My favorite sentence, though, was one of the less flowery ones: “And Peter was all alone, although his aloneness was modified to a certain extent by the corpse at his feet. “

The language is hilariously terrible, but everything else is just terrible. I don’t know what to call the other level on which the writing is terrible. Plot? Character development? Basic logic? It’s probably all of the above. The way people act just doesn’t make sense. The omniscient third person narration says things that exist in an alternate reality where it does make sense. Peter spends a lot of the climactic action scenes unconscious, although I guess that’s for the best.

And nothing is ever resolved or explained. Like, Peter spends the entire book trying to figure out why the guy who rules the city of Len Yang keeps kidnapping beautiful young women to work in his mines. And I would still kind of like to know why, but I suspect that there isn’t actually a reason. If there is one, Worts certainly doesn’t let us in on it.

There were moments, even halfway through the book, when I though the whole thing might genuinely be a joke, it made so little sense. It’s not just the usual thing where an author ascribes to a protagonist all sorts of qualities that they don’t actually seem to have. It’s a more far-reaching version of that, where you can tell the author is ascribing to the narrative all sorts of things that aren’t there. I mean, it’s also got the thing where the protagonist is supposed to be super competent but in practice is terrible at everything, but that’s sort of commonplace compared to the whole story’s weird, disjointed, “does George F. Worts understand how events are supposed to follow each other” quality.

So, uh, yeah. This book is objectively terrible. It’s also subjectively terrible. Don’t read it. The bits that are terrible in a funny way aren’t worth it.


Tagged: 1910s, adventure, china, georgefworts, stupid

9 Comments on Peter the Brazen, last added: 4/11/2014
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6. Getting Over the Need To Be Polite

You’ll just have to trust me that there’s a story behind this. Mine isn’t as interesting as the one that taught me this lesson:

One of my favorite women adventurers is Helen Thayer. She’s a New Zealander by birth, now living in Washington State, and I first heard of her when I read her book Polar Dream.  Here’s the description:

In 1988, at the age of 50, Helen Thayer became the first woman in the world to travel on foot to the magnetic North Pole, one of the world’s most remote and dangerous regions. Her only companion was Charlie, her loyal husky, who was integral to her survival. Polar Dream is the story of their heroic trek and extraordinary relationship as they faced polar bears, unimaginable cold, and a storm that destroyed most of their supplies and food.

So yeah, super burly. I’ve referenced that adventure in a few books of mine–Doggirl and Parallelogram 3: Seize the Parallel–because I remain so thoroughly inspired and impressed by what Ms. Thayer accomplished despite the incredible danger and hardships. And that wasn’t her only big adventure. She and her husband and the dog from Polar Dream lived among wolves for a year (see her book Three Among the Wolves) and later, when she was in her 60s and her husband was in his 70s, they both trekked across the Gobi Desert, just the two of them and a few camels (see Walking the Gobi: A 1600 Mile Trek Across a Desert of Hope and Despair). You can understand why she’s a hero of mine.

And one of her lessons that has always stuck with me is the one about being too polite.

Here’s the situation: On her last morning in civilization before Helen set off for the magnetic North Pole, the Inuit villagers who had graciously hosted her the night before took their hospitality one step further by helping Helen pack up her sled for the journey. Helen had a particular packing system in mind, but she didn’t have the heart to tell the villagers she didn’t want their help. They were so happy and enthusiastic about it, she didn’t want to hurt their feelings. So she just smiled and said thank you as she watched them stuff her gear and clothing every which way into various pockets and pouches. She figured she’d fix it all later once she was alone in camp that night.

Big mistake.

Because when she finally stopped skiing across the ice that first night and began setting up her camp, she could feel the cold beginning to affect her fingers. She understood the dangers of frostbite. She needed to put on her pair of heavy, insulated mittens, but where were they? As she frantically searched for them, she could feel the dry cold and the wind chill of minus 100 quickly taking their toll. By the time she finally found the mittens, her fingers already felt like hard wooden blocks. The damage was done.

When she woke up the next morning, her hands were swollen and covered with blisters. And they felt incredibly, horribly painful. They stayed that way for the whole first week, making everything so much harder: lighting her stove, dressing herself, setting up and breaking down her camp–anything that required manual dexterity and ended up leaving her fingers throbbing with agonizing pain.

All because she’d been afraid to say, “No. No, thank you. I need to do this myself.”

What’s amazing is you’d think someone as brave as Helen Thayer would have no trouble telling people no. But it just shows you hard it can be sometimes to retrain ourselves to do what might seem impolite.

Years ago I saw an Oprah episode where she interviewed Gavin de Becker, the guy who wrote The Gift of Fear. Does anybody else remember that episode? He talked about how predators sometimes test their prey by insisting on “helping.” “Oh, here, let me bring this to your car. You dropped this, I’ll just bring it upstairs for you.” And when you say, “No,” the predator still insists. Because he’s testing whether he can dominate you.

De Becker and Oprah discussed how it wasn’t just dangerous criminals doing that, it could also be friends or family members. De Becker said, “Anyone who won’t hear your ‘no’ is trying to control you.” When you think of it that way, you can probably see it all around you: in your bossy co-worker, your critical mother-in-law, even your well-meaning sister or friend. Here you are taking a stand and actually using your “no,” and the person refuses to accept it.

Annoying, and, as de Becker points out, also potentially dangerous. People practice on us. We need to practice, too.

This is all a way of saying the same thing someone once told me: “It’s only fair if it’s fair to you, too.” How’s that again? You get a vote. If it’s nice for someone else, is it also nice for you? Or are you going to end up exhausted/broke/angry/resentful/out of time to watch your favorite show if you do “just this one more” favor?

Don’t get me wrong–it feels good to be nice. No doubt about it. But it feels less good to always be the one giving and giving, while your own store of personal energy and good will feels like it’s slowly draining away. Then, if you’re like me, one day it’s finally enough, and the answer for everybody is “No, no, and NO,” even if a few of those would have been yesses if they’d caught you on a better day. And maybe that grumpy, surly no-ness lasts for a lot longer than you meant it to–*cough* three years–and you realize when you come out of it that you could have had a much easier life and been much happier if you’d only moderated your yesses one by one instead of letting them all pile up in such an unbalanced way.

See where I’m going with this?

As my best friend sometimes has to remind us both, “We don’t have to act nice, we are nice.” And if you look closely at your own behavior, you can see the times when you’re just performing–wanting to appear nice–as opposed to genuinely wanting to do something out of love or friendship or simple human kindness. There is a difference. One of them drains you, the other fills you up. It’s very noticeable once you really start looking at it.

Sometimes you need to work the problem backwards. How will you feel afterward if you say no here versus yes? Forget how hard it might feel in the moment to tell someone no–think about how you want to feel afterward. If you really, really want to go home tonight and slip into something slouchy and treat yourself to an evening of quiet and Call the Midwife, then why are you saying yes to anything else? Don’t you get a vote, too? Don’t you ever get the yes?

Or, like I’m doing today, you work out a balance: ten nice things for other people, ten nice things for yourself. That seems like the best recipe for me lately to be able to handle all of my obligations cheerfully. I know at the end of a long stream of yesses today I’ll get to sit down and binge watch season 2 of The Mindy Project.

Now that’s my kind of balance.

0 Comments on Getting Over the Need To Be Polite as of 4/9/2014 1:49:00 PM
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7. Because You’ve Secretly Wanted To Do Stunt Work

Come on, who hasn’t? Even in your pretend alternate life? We can be honest here.

Here’s a short video to whet your appetite, courtesy Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. (I’ve become obsessed with Amy’s website and all her many videos, so I can promise this won’t be the only one you’ll see.  But it’s a fun place to start!)

0 Comments on Because You’ve Secretly Wanted To Do Stunt Work as of 4/7/2014 8:57:00 AM
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8. Taking the Risk of Trying Something New

I recently discovered this wonderful website by artist and writer Stephen McCranie. You could spend hours clicking on every one of his comics/lessons. Here’s a good place to start, with his lesson on why we should be happy to make friends with failure.

0 Comments on Taking the Risk of Trying Something New as of 4/4/2014 11:23:00 AM
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9. The Sandman, by Andrew McLeish | Dedicated Book Review

This charming story is perfectly suited for reading at bedtime—and best geared to readers aged 7 and older. Young readers will enjoy reading the story on their own but its comedic styling also makes it fun to read aloud. It is a dangerously exciting story but has a soothing end. The rhythm of the words and the playful tone of the story help to put bedtime fears to rest.

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10. The Mark of the Dragonfly: Jaleigh Johnson

Book: The Mark of the Dragonfly
Author: Jaleigh Johnson
Pages: 400
Age Range: 10 and up

I quite enjoyed The Mark of the Dragonfly a brand-new middle grade/middle school fantasy novel by Jaleigh Johnson. The Mark of the Dragonfly is set on another world, one that bears a resemblance to ours, but also includes non-human races and humans with unusual gifts. Piper lives on her own in the bleak Scrap Town 16, eking out a living as a scrapper and a machinist. Scrappers salvage items from other worlds that arrive in certain areas via meteor storms (an example is a book: "Embossed on the front cover was a picture of a girl and small dog. Next to her stood a grinning scarecrow, a lion, and man who looked like he was made entirely of metal.") 

Piper has a gift for machinery, and is good at refurbishing some of the recovered items. But she longs for more. Her life changes forever when she finds a mysterious, fragile girl in the scrap fields. Piper ends up on a quest to help Anna find her home, though the two girls are pursued by a powerful and dangerous man.  

The adult quibbler in me questions how Piper's world can be similar to ours in many ways, despite being on an apparently separate planet. But this wasn't enough to dampen my appreciation for the book. I liked Johnson's inclusion of other intelligent races, coexisting with humans in the world. 

But the real reason that I enjoyed the book is that the characters in The Mark of the Dragonfly are quite strong. Piper is angry about her father's death, and determined to make a better life for herself. She struggles plausibly with doing the right thing. Anna is a bit more of an enigma, by design, but she is fascinating, too. She has only fragmented memories of her life, but she is drawn to books, and can spout various arcane bits of knowledge. There are some nice supporting characters, too, including a potential love interest for Piper (all quite PG, still suitable for upper elementary and middle school kids).

The plotting in The Mark of the Dragonfly moves along quickly, with several dangerous encounters that will keep readers turning the pages. The ongoing puzzle regarding who Anna is, and why she is being pursued, lends a more over-arcing suspense. 

The Mark of the Dragonfly wraps the initial story up nicely. No cliffhangers here. But given the depth of the world that Johnson has created, I do hope that there are future installments. Recommended for fans of middle grade fantasy with strong characters and unusual worlds. This one is going to stick in my memory, I'm sure. 

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Source of Book: Advanced review copy from the publisher

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© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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11. The Good Little Devil and Other Tales by Pierre Gripari plus 7 ways to turn your (child’s) words and pictures into a book

Do you think there is an age at which you’ll stop reading aloud to your children?

Have you already reached that stage?

Why might you keep reading to an older child who can already read themselves?

These are some of the questions I’ve been contemplating as part of a discussion, initiated by Clara Vulliamy, about reading to big kids. I’ve also been thinking about books which I think work especially well as read-alouds to big kids, kids who can read perfectly well themselves.

the-good-little-devil The absurd, magical, funny collection of tales which make up The Good Little Devil and Other Tales by Pierre Gripari, with illustrations by Puig Rosado, translated by Sophie Lewis are curious and intriguing, and make for especially interesting read-alouds to “big” kids.

Adults in these fairy tales are often foolish and fooled, children save the day, taking everything in their stride, there is great humour, wit and cheekiness, as well as the occasional tinge of gruesomeness. Plot twists and turns which might leave my grown-up sensibilities unsatisfied perfectly resemble stories children will tell themselves, with little psychology, minimal internal reason, but plenty of pace. Talking potatoes, giants and shoes in love, witches hiding in cupboards – this book is full of off-beat, silly and enjoyable stories.

But one of the reasons why I think this book works particularly well as a read-aloud, as a shared experience with an adult, is that the book – translated from the French – is full of richness and new horizons that are easier to explore with someone else along for the ride. The book is set in Paris, and has a distinctly Gallic flavour (from the illustration featuring a naked female chest, to a helter skelter ride through French history, via a strong, albeit often tongue-in-cheek Roman Catholic presence), and whilst the wackiness of the tales will be enjoyed by older children reading alone, I think lots that could be missed on a solo reading might be fruitfully explored and doubly enjoyed with a grown-up around.

Each story in this collection has one or two drawings by the Spanish illustrator Puig Rosado

Each story in this collection has one or two drawings by the Spanish illustrator Puig Rosado

Perhaps this all sounds a bit worthy and educational, and that’s not at all what I’m aiming at. Rather, I’m thinking about to what extent books are enjoyed with or without (some) background knowledge. The language and style of writing in this book is perfect for say 9 year olds to read themselves, (and it clearly is enjoyed by lots of children, having been translated into 17 languages, with more than 1.5 million copies sold around the world) but my experience of it was that it was a book which became considerably enriched by sharing it.

Library Mice says: “The Good Little Devil and Other Tales is the one book I’d recommend to any child of any age, from any country.
Julia Eccleshare says: “Delightful trickery abounds in this collection of magical tales all of which are spiced with a sophisticated sense of humour and sharp wit.
The Independent says: “[For] Readers of all ages who appreciate a good story and a kooky sense of humour“.

A view down rue Broca. No. 69 is on the left, just after Les Delices des Broca. Image taken from Google street view.

A view down rue Broca. No. 69 is on the left, just after Les Delices de Broca. Image taken from Google street view.

One aspect that my kids and I particularly enjoyed about The Good Little Devil and Other Tales was the discovery Gripari wrote these stories with children: Gripari created them along with kids who would sit with him outside his favourite cafe in Rue Broca, Paris in the 1960s. As Gripari writes in his afterword:

The stories in the collection were. thus, not written by Monsieur Pierre alone. They were improvised by him in collaboration with his listeners – and whoever has not worked in this way may struggle to imagine all that the children could contribute, from solid ideas to poetic discoveries and even dramatic situations, often surprisingly bold ones.

My kids were so excited by the idea that kids just liked them had helped a “real author” write a “real book”. It was an inspirational moment for them, and with a glint in their eyes they were soon asking how they could turn their stories into books.

And so it was I started to investigate ways to turn M and J’s own words and pictures, stories and illustrations into books of their own. I soon realised that I was not only finding ways to support my kids desire to write, I was also discovering ways to store all those creations of theirs I can’t bear to part with, as well as objects that could be turned into unique Christmas or birthday presents for family members.

Here are 7 ways to turn your child’s words and pictures into a book. Some of these approaches could also be used by classes or creative writing/art groups, to create publications that could be used for fundraising projects.

1. The slip-in book

displaybookStationers and chemists sell a variety of display books that can be adapted for self publication. Choose the size you want and simply slip in your pictures and text! Photo albums often offer greater variety of binding, and come in many more sizes, so these are useful if you want to include documents which aren’t a standard size. Display books typically have either 20 or 40 pockets, giving you 40 or 80 pages in total. Depending on whether there is a separate pocket for a title page, you can use stickers to give your book a title.

Advantages: Very easy to produce, and cheap. Minimal printing required, and no typesetting needed! Older children can make these books themselves as all it requires is for them to slip the original into the binding.
Disadvantages: Only one copy of each book can be made this way (unless you photocopy the originals).
Cost: £ (Display books in my local stationers started at £2.50, and photo albums at £5 for larger ones)
Ideal for: Storage solutions, one-off books.

2. Comb bound

Comb_bind_examplesMany local stationers offer a cheap and quick option using comb binding. For this option you’ll need to prepare your images and texts so that they can be printed (normally at A4/letter size, not at smaller or nonstandard sizes), and this may involved scanning images and a certain amount of typesetting. Once you’ve prepared your document, binding can be very quick (a matter of minutes), and because you’ve prepared an electronic copy you can bind as many copies as you’d like. It’s possible to buy coil binders (£100-£300) and this might be an effective option for schools.

Advantages: Cheap and quick, good for multiple copies.
Disadvantages: Can look a bit “cheap” (I think slip in books look more appealing; they can look like real hard back books), can be a little flimsy.
Cost: £ (comb binding at my local stationers – Rymans, for UK folk – started at £3.49 for 25 sheets, going up to £7.49 for 450 sheets). Don’t forget you’ll have to include printing costs too.
Ideal for: short runs of books at a low price

3. Glue bound

Image Source:  University of Birmingham Bindery

Image Source: University of Birmingham Bindery

Is there a university near you? If so, they will often have a binding service, aimed at students with dissertations, but open to the public too. If you’re looking for something which looks a little more like a paperback than a comb bound book, a glue bound book might be for you. Again, you’ll need to prepare your text and images so they can be printed, but once you’ve done that, you can print and bind as many copies as you like.

Glue binding (sometimes known as Thermo binding) is quick (often a while-you-wait) service, and you can often get your pages printed and bound at A5 size rather than A4 (making the finished product look more like a “real” book).

Advantages: Finished book can look quite a lot like a “real” book, which is very satisfying!
Disadvantages: Glue binding is considered “temporary” and so isn’t ideal for books which are going to be read very many times. Glue binding won’t work if you’ve very few pages in your book; most binders I’ve spoken to recommend an absolute minimum of 24 sides (12 pages).
Cost: ££ (glue binding at my local university was £7.50 per book). Don’t forget you’ll have to include printing costs too.
Ideal for: When you want a cheapish option which looks like a real book. University binderies are also often able to give some advice on typesetting and layout, so if you’re not confident about your skills in those areas.

4. Self published via Amazon’s CreateSpace

createsapceCreateSpace is a fairly easy tool to use to create paperback books. It has an extremely clear step by step process you can follow. There’s quite a variety of formats, both in terms of size, black and white printing or full colour, or cream paper instead of white (the former being better if you want to be dyslexia friendly, though this option is only available for black and white printing). To make your life much easier, you can download templates with much of the formatting done for you (for example margins set up correctly) – I’d definitely recommend doing this, though it isn’t a requirement. Once you’ve downloaded the template you’ll fill it in with your child’s writing and images, just like you would in a word processing document.

Both my kids have used the template and typed straight into it (rather than writing by hand and then me typing up their words). Adding images works just like it does in a word document, the only thing I’ve found you need to be careful of is making sure your images are of a high enough resolution. When you/your child has finished their document (perhaps with multiple stories and images) you need to upload your work as a print-ready .pdf, .doc, .docx, or .rt. CreateSpace then checks everything is ok before you go on to design your book cover.

You can order M's first book by clicking on this photo!

You can order M’s first book by clicking on this photo!

Advantages: The CreateSpace step-by-step guide is thorough and pretty easy to use. The resulting books have definitely had the “wow” factor with my kids.
Disadvantages: For a whole variety of ethical reasons you might not want to deal with Amazon. Everything is done online so you may want to think about personal details. M has used a pen name, so her real name doesn’t appear online, and if you were publishing work by children in a school you might want to consider only using children’s first names, especially if the name of the school also appears on the book you create (this is less of a concern if you don’t make the book available for the public to buy).
Cost: ££ The cost to create the book is nil. The final purchase price depends partly on page number and the use of colour (the more pages, and the use of colour make books more expensive), and whether you want to sell book at cost or to make a profit. M’s book (64 pages, 6″x9″, full colour) has a public cost price of £6.24 (although price is actually set in $). although as the author M can order copies at about half that price (though there are then postage costs to pay).
Ideal for: Producing books which really look like paperback books. Great if you want family and friends to be able to buy their own copy. You can also choose to publish your book in Kindle format.

insidequeneldasfirstbook

5. Self published via Lulu

lulu-logoI’ve yet to use Lulu, but Juliet Clare Bell has a really useful post on using Lulu in school over on Picture Book Den. Having taken a quick look at Lulu it looks quite similar to CreateSpace, although you can do hard covers, and A5 and A4 sized books (CreateSpace mostly does standard US Trade sizes, and doesn’t offer hardbacks.)

6. Using the Scholastic We Are Writers scheme

we-are-writersThe Scholastic We Are Writers scheme is specifically designed with schools in mind. It costs nothing for the school to set up and publish, thought each final book costs £5.99 (though you can sell it for more if you wish to make a profit) subject to a minimum order quantity of 50 books. A nice feature is that the books come with an introduction written by a leading children’s author (although this isn’t personalised to your school)

Advantages: You can run We Are Writers as part of your Scholastic Book Fair to earn Scholastic Rewards for your school.
Disadvantages: Not ideal if you just want a few copies of the book you create. Although the cover is full colour, the interior of the book is black and white only, so not ideal if you wish to include artwork. Books must contain a minimum of 50 pages.
Cost: ££
Ideal for: Schools wanting to create books which are text based.

7. Book Creator for iPad

bookcreator200pxThe Book Creator App makes ‘fixed layout’ e-books and is apparently very easy for kids to use to create books with lots of images. I’ve not used it, but here’s a series of case studies where it has been used in the classroom, and it would seem families at home could also easily use this app (free for your 1st book, then up to $4.99 for unlimited use).

My thanks to @candyliongirl and @sue_cowley for helpful suggestions when exploring options for creating books.

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of The Good Little Devil from the publishers.

3 Comments on The Good Little Devil and Other Tales by Pierre Gripari plus 7 ways to turn your (child’s) words and pictures into a book, last added: 3/24/2014
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12. Spy Animal Game




It's time for an  update. Some crazy things are happening around here at the moment and I don't mean Max's disgusting pie pig contest.  We finally have the next four book proofs to edit then they can be released, so watch this space!  To give you a heads up they are titled Diamond in the Ruff, Ruff in Hollywood, It's A Ruff Life Being Dognapped and Ruff Resort.  They are all an amazing read and like my first adventure will have you sitting at the edge of your seats, or was it me that did that when I read the first one.  They'll have you LOL and that's a promise.  I mean who can't help but laugh at that stupid dog Max?  If you don't you'll end up crying out of frustration, or is that me again?  Anyway I'll let you know the release date nearer the time.

If you are a member of Goodreads.then go and play my Spy Animal Game.   Be the first to join in.

I'll tell you a new story soon but I'm just finishing off my new amazing fashion creations.  You'll here all about them in book 8.  Max is out somewhere, YIPEE!  I don't have to put up with his mangy flea ridden fur for a bit but I'm sure he'll have some mundane story to tell you when he get's back.

Bella

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13. Spring Reading 2014


Picture Books


Rip Van Winkle- Retold and illustrated by Will Moses, based on Washington Irving's book. Philomel Books a division of Penguin Putnam Books for young readers. New York 1999. This book is based on a  classical folk tale about a man who goes into the woods and falls asleep waking up many years later to a new world. This classic tale is retold with a combination of wonderful illustrations and words. It is probably better suited for the older child because of complex words and storyline. This new version brings a wonderful story back to our modern world. The storyline and sophisticated crafted words make it more suited for an older child.  

 
Patti Cake and Her New Doll- Written by Patricia Reilly Giff and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. Published by Orchard books New York an imprint of Scholastic Inc. 2014. The book describes one day in a life of a little girl named Patti and her home companions mainly a dog named Tootsie and a new doll she got. With an imaginative approach, the author turns an regular day into an adventure and makes the ordinary into the extraordinary. A good book for you to get for you kids.



 
The Fisherman & His Wife- Based on a story by Grimm and Illustrated by John Howe 1984. Published by Creative Editions Mankato MN, 2001. The fisherman is happy living a simple life until one day everything turns around when he catches a magical fish. The fisherman's wife cannot be satisfied with what she gets. Her greed takes away everything the fish gave them. It is a great book for the older reader and the illustrations are stunning.







   
   Trouper- Written by Meg Kearney and Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Published by Scholastic Inc. NY, 2013. The book is written from the point of view of a dog. The dog Trouper tells us his life story: how he lived on the streets t the time he was put in a pound and finally adopted. This book makes readers empathize with millions of abandoned dogs running on the streets or sitting in cages in the pounds waiting to find a loving home. I highly recommend this book to everyone.   




 
The Little Engine that Could
- Retold by Watty Piper and New Art by Loren Long. Published by Philomel Books a Division of Penguin Young Readers Group 2005. This is a great version of a classic. I loved how the writer and illustrator gave life to the characters. The story does not only teach children a lesson about never giving up, but it also introduces them to four kind of trains. I really loved this book and I strongly recommend you get it with your children. Each of us can accomplish anything we put our mind too.    


 Under the Same Sun- Written by Sharon Robinson and Illustrated by AG Ford. Published by Scholastic Press, New York 2014.  This is a great educational book about Tanzania a small country in Africa. One can vividly imagine the beautiful land of Africa with its lush scenery and many different animals. This book is very unique and the illustrations are amazing. The story is idle for a classroom setting.


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14. Ned & Rosco, by Robin Robinson | Dedicated Review

Ned is a book-smart turtle with a very introspective way of thinking. As Rosco cartwheels onto the scene singing a song, Ned’s long awaited moment of serenity is shattered and so begins the story’s true tale of accepting differences and finding a balance between learning and living.

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15. How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks

How to Catch a BogleHave you ever felt like something was lurking in the darkness just waiting for a chance to slurp you up into its slimy cavernous mouth? Certainly it was just your imagination…right? Not if you ask Birdie McAdam. She’s a bogler’s apprentice and she knows all-too-well that bogles (monsters to you and me) definitely do exist, and they are devouring children all over London. Working with her mentor Alfred Bunce, Birdie uses her lilting voice to lure the heinous creatures out of their hiding places so that Alfred can destroy them with the help of the legendary Finn McCool’s sword. Birdie is proud to be a bogler’s girl, but a series of curious events is pointing Birdie’s life in a new direction, no matter how hard she tries to fight the change.

How to Catch a Bogle is a delightfully fast paced and fantastical story filled with interesting characters sure to capture the attention of even the most reluctant of readers. The characters, even the bogles, are well-developed and readers will likely find themselves drawn into this surreal version of London in the late 19th century. Jinks does a great job of bringing the ubiquitous imaginary monster-in-the-closet to life without being overly terrifying. Each of the bogles that Birdie and Alfred encounters is unique and grotesque both while alive and in its death. This book would make for a great classroom read aloud for grades 4 through 6. Or, if you have a struggling or reluctant reader in your midst, grab the superbly done audio version, pair it with the text and set him or her off to discover how much fun a book can be.

Posted by: Staci


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16. One Dad's Journey To Becoming A Fiction Author by Carey Green, Author of Dragon Slayer: Beginnings

Print Length: 270 pages Publisher: Christian Home and Family (March 15, 2014) Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. Language: English ASIN: B00IUMGOPU Buy the book: Amazon Dragons have been forgotten, relegated to the realm of legend and myth. But tales of horror circulate among the common people. Rumors of their attacks float on the night wind. They are a fearsome presence that haunts the

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17. “The Story Behind my Queen Vernita Series,” by Dawn Menge

coastlineQueen Vernita is based on my Grandmother Vernita.  Every character in the book is someone in my life.  My illustrator takes a picture I have of them and creates a character of them doing an activity.  Queen Vernita’s adventures are based on my real travels.

Each book is based on repetition and the math concepts of years, days, weeks and seasons.  Each year Queen Vernita chooses a destination and twelve wonderful friends to visit, one for each month of the year.

Queen Vernita visits the Blue Ice Mountains is based on my trips to Alaska.  Queen Vernita and her friends learn about crabs, glaciers, seals, otters and more.  They ride horses, kayak, and snorkel in the cold glacier waters.

Queen Vernita visits the Islands of Enchantment is based on the Hawaiian Islands, Sea Captain Jeff and Enchantress Carrie. The adventures swim with dolphins, sharks, eels, they learn to fish and explore lava caverns.

Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer is co-written with my brother Heath Rhoades who participates in asteroid and comet astrometry. The visitors learn about the planets and comets in the solar system. They learn how to make a sun dial and tell time using it.

Queen Vernita Explores the Oceaneer’s Coastline is about her yearlong coach travel.  She and her friends learn about jellyfish, Stalagmites and Stalactites, they explore caves and camp in the Redwood forest.

Queen Vernita visits Gator County is currently being published.  Queen Vernita travels down south where she gets to hold a baby alligator , ride in the bayou, she learns about the Underground Railroad, visits plantations and the Mardi Gras.

Queen Vernita explores Baja Quails takes her further south to learn new languages and dances.  She visits a crystal cave, learns to surf, rides a new invention along the beach and visits a blowhole along the ocean.

More books in the series will include; Queen Vernita visits Volcanic Island with Sea Captain Jeff, Queen Vernita visits the Great White Mountains, Queen Vernita explores Paradise Reef, Queen Vernita sails the seas with John Alden and many more adventures soon to be written.

 ————————————–

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
dawn
   Dawn Menge is the author of the Queen Vernita’s educational series.  There are currently five books published.  Queen Vernita’s Visitors, Queen Vernita Visits the Blue Ice Mountains, Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer and Queen Vernita Explores the Oceaneer’s Coastline.  Dawn Menge’s series has won nineteen literary awards.
     Dawn Menge has been teaching severely handicapped students for fourteen years. She holds a Masters and clear credential as an Educational specialist.  She is currently working on her PHD in Curriculum and Instruction.
     Dawn Menge is the mother of three and the grandmother of five beautiful children.
PURCHASE HER BOOKS ON AMAZON
CHECK OUT HER LATEST BOOK: 
 
Title: Queen Vernita Explores the Oceaneer’s Coastline
Genre: Children’s literature
Author: Dawn Menge
Publisher: Outskirtspress

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18. The Half Pipe


I went skate boarding with Ben & Rover last weekend.  We went to the new skateboarding park.  We had a wicked day.  I haven't ridden a skateboard since I took down the demon in his monster truck and that was on a specially adapted racing board.

We started off on the ramps just as a warm up; we soon progressed to the half pipe.  That was something else; I'd never ridden the half pipe before and I only fell off 3 or 4 times. Ben, on the other hand, was a real pro.  He did some amazing jumps, turns and half turns.

Rover was pretty good too.  He didn't fall off at all. We'll have to plan a weekly visit here, I could really get into skateboarding as my new exercise activity.

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19. There's Still Time For You To Win a Copy of It's A Ruff Life

Hi, It's us again.  I know we still keep harping on about our great giveaway.  It is great.  You'll find that winning a copy of 'It's a ruff life' (Childrens Secret Agent, Spy, Action, Adventure Books for 8 to preteens) is really fun.

A ten year old boy, who's read the book, told his mum he wants all the other books to read.  He loved the story and so will you.  It's like other's have said very funny, very crazy and a thrilling and exciting read, which is the story of our lives!

You have just 1 DAY and 2 hours LEFT.  Take advantage of it. Click on the link below and ENTER TO WIN!   

GOOD LUCK! 

Bella & Max




Goodreads Book Giveaway

It's a Ruff Life by B.R. Tracey

It's a Ruff Life

by B.R. Tracey

Giveaway ends March 08, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

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20. Women's History Month Book Review: Dare the Wind: The Record-Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud, by Tracey Fern (Margaret Ferguson Books, 2014)

Recommended for ages 7-12.

In this picture book for older readers. Tracey Fern tells the little-known story of Eleanor Prentiss, an extraordinary woman who not only navigated a clipper ship but also set a record for the fastest time from New York to San Francisco, navigating around Cape Horn in a record-breaking 89 days, 21 hours.

If you're an avid movie-goer like I am, you may have seen the two major films this year set at sea, Captain Phillips and All is Lost.  Such movies always make me think about the "olden days," when sailors navigated by the stars and a sextant.  Doesn't it seem incredible?  Even more incredible (but true) is the life of Eleanor Prentiss, born the daughter of a sea captain in 1814 and taught everything about ships, including navigation, by her father, perhaps because he had no sons.  Certainly this education was highly unusual for a 19th century girl. The sea was in Ellen's blood, and, not surprisingly, she married a sea captain, who took her along on his merchant ships as her navigator.

When Ellen's husband was given command of a new, super-fast clipper ship, Ellen seized the opportunity to get as quickly as possible from New York to the tip of South America to San Francisco and the Gold Rush.  Speed was of the essence for those looking for riches in the gold fields of California.  The book portrays the considerable dangers of the voyage, including a period when the ship was becalmed (no wind, no movement!) and also the perilous stormy waters of the Cape. Fern does a terrific job of capturing the excitement of the journey, and Ellen's triumph when she sets a world record for the fastest time for this 15,000 mile voyage.  The book is greatly enhanced by the beautiful water-color paintings of Caldecott-winning artist Emily Arnold McCully.  The seascapes, and particularly the scenes of storms, are particularly effective.  Back matter includes an author's note with further historical information, and suggestions for further reading, both books and websites, a glossary, and end pages which show a map of the Flying Cloud's 1851 Voyage.

Highly recommended for Women's History Month and for those looking for stories of strong, heroic women and girls!

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21. LESS THAN 12 HOURS LEFT!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

It's a Ruff Life by B.R. Tracey

It's a Ruff Life

by B.R. Tracey

Giveaway ends March 08, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

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22. Toupees or Not Toupees


Lord Alfred doesn't look as good as this in real life, he has way less hair!  Some of his toupee's would be more suited to Max.  They don't have my sense of style.

Bella

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23. Recipe for Disaster - Ruff Life Style


The Doglet Academy introduced a new class this term.  It certainly wasn't my idea of a fun class.  I mean what famous doglet needs to learn how to cook?  I have a chef for that called Seamus.

This class was worth a lot of credits and it was an easy way to give me top marks for the end of the year.  And you know me, there's no way that I will come in 2nd best at anything. So I enrolled in the class.  I now wish I hadn't.  I'd have been far better off taking a Spanish or French class, or at least my beautiful paw nails would have been; participation in that class made them all soft.

The first thing the teacher said was that I had to get rid of the painted nails, as if...  So I used a pair of latex gloves.  Have you ever tried to work with latex gloves over your paws?  It's a recipe for disaster; the extra fingers flap around and get caught up in everything.

We made pastry but I kept getting my gloves caught under the rolling pin.  Eventually I put the pasty in a pie tin and filled it with some nice looking meat.  It looked great when it was finished.  Even the teacher said how nice and well presented it was. Of course, I made it, how else was it going to look with my natural style of flair?  I couldn't wait to take it home and gloat at Max as to how much better I was than him .  In fact I was going to eat some of it in front of him while he sat salivating.

When I got home I put my plan into action.  I went to find Max.  "Hey I've got something to show you."  I took a bite out of the pie.  The meat was nice but the pastry was hard. "This is really delicious." I then found a chewy bit, which seemed to take for ever to chew. Oh no, I thought when I realised that I had just eaten some of the latex gloves.  "Would you like some?  I made if for you."
"Thanks, what's wrong with it?"
"Nothing, I was just sampling it to show you how delicious it is." I said as I waked away.

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24. The Treasure of Snake Island: A Captain No Beard Story | Dedicated Review

In Carole P. Roman’s fifth installment of her award-winning Captain No Beard series, The Treasure of Snake Island, the crew of the Flying Dragon discovers the power of reading.

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25. Audio Review: How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell Narrated by David Tennant from Hachette Audio

Age Range: 8 and up  Grade Level: 3 - 7 Series: How to Train Your Dragon Program Type: Audiobook Version: Unabridged Publisher: Hachette Audio Audible.com Release Date: December 10, 2013 Language: English ASIN: B00HNCMW0E Buy on Amazon Chronicles the adventures and misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III as he tries to pass the important initiation test of his Viking clan, the

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