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Viewing Blog: Fiona Bayrock: Books and 'Rocks, Most Recent at Top
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The meanderings and musings of children's author, Fiona Bayrock, as she ponders the writing life, the process of writing, the biz, and the good books she's read lately.
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1. Cybils! ...and they're off!

As the Nonfiction Picture Book (NFPB) category organizer for the 2011 Cybils Awards, I've just come through a 6-week cybils whirl. First, selecting two panels of judges, and then going through all the nominated NFPBs to determine eligibility. Lots of fun, for sure, but oh, my, I'm sure glad things are settling back into regular life again!

We had many amazing bloggers who wanted to b
e Cybils judges this year. In fact, there are another half dozen or so I would have included in a heartbeat had I had the space. Sometimes I lost an armwrestle with another organizer, and sometimes the decision was as simple as making sure each panel had a variety of kidlit viewpoints represented. So if you didn't get on a panel this time, take heart, and do apply again next year.

We ended up with two super-skookum---if "skookum" can be superlativized, ha!---judging panels in NFPB this year, each with a terrific mix of teachers, librarians, reviewers, parents, editors, and writers, and a blend of new and experienced folks. I'm thrilled to be working with such thoughtful fellow nonfiction lovers.

The first round panel (me included!) has already started motoring through the 87 books on the official NFPB nomination list. Having read half of them, I've already got a nice "cream" list going and can see that narrowing that down to a shortlist of 5-7 books is going to be a challenge in the coming months.

My nose is always in a book, especially nonfiction pictures books, so I was surprised when many of the nominated books were new to me. I'm excited to share many of them in upcoming blog posts.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the blogs of the Round One Judges:

Janssen Bradshaw at Everyday Reading
Susan Murray at From Tots to Teens
Cathy Potter at The Nonfiction Detectives
Laurie Thompson at Laurie Thompson
Jennifer Wharton at Jean Little Library
Paula Willey at Pink Me
& Me, right here at Books and 'Rocks

I'll post links to the Round Two Judges when they kick into gear in December. Read along with us, won't you?

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2. There's Always a "Wow"

Even with a binderful of clips, it's still exciting to find contributor copies in the mail. Today the September/October issue of KNOW arrived with my KNOW YOU column on saliva.

Definitely not the most glamourous of subjects, but certainly an interesting one. Oh, who am I kidding? It doesn't matter what topic I write about, whatever is under my magnifying glass always turns out to have some interesting facet to it, usually several, and at least one that blows me away. I love that about science writing---the constant stream of fascinating tidbits that make me say things like,

"Wow, who knew?"


"No way! That's amazing."


"I didn't know that. That is so cool."

I guess I'm a bit of an info-junky, because as much as I enjoy sinking my teeth into a juicy book-length project, those short forays into new subjects for magazine assignments are pretty addictive. As of a few days ago, I'm working on my next fix, also for KNOW. Currently on the desktop? Caves---a topic loaded with wonderful surprises. I'm excited.

So, how many hours til the first "Wow"? Keep your money in your pocket. It's a sucker bet.

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3. Cybils!

This year's Cybils Awards have started and I'm thrilled to be the organizer of the Nonfiction Picture Book category.

The call for judges went out today, so if you blog about Children's Lit and are interested judging in any of the categories, head on over to the Cybils blog for more info about what that entails. Applications via a nifty online form will be accepted until Sept 15.

Being a judge is a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun.

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4. Control-z Epic Fail

Okay, so I wanted to clean up the blog a little bit, but somehow I ended up deleting great chunks.


And Control-z, my hero of keyboard shortcuts, didn't come to the rescue. Dang. So now we're skipping from Cybils shortlist to...well...Cybils again. Yes, it's time for the 2011 Cybils, and I'm happy to be a part of it again this year. Tune in tomorrow for more info, including what I'm up to and how you can get involved, too!

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5. Cybils Shortlists...a bonanza of good reading!

It's Cybils shortlist day!

Here are the shortlists for the nonfiction categories:

Nonfiction/Information Picture Books:

Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way to Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History! by Shana Corey
The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton
Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual Size Animal Encyclopedia by Teruyuki Komiya
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca
Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins
Faith by Maya Ajmera, Magde Nakassis, and Cynthia Pon
Middle Grade & Young Adult Nonfiction Books:

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
The Frog Scientist by Pamela S. Turner
I Can't Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure by Larry Smith
Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge
Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker

Read snapshot descriptions of the nfpb books and mg/ya books at the Cybils blog.

This is the first year in several that I haven't been part of the Cybils nfpb shortlist discussions and boy, did I miss it. But, man oh man, this is such a strong year for kids' nonfiction---for all ages...hey, you know the competition is tough when Nic Bishop doesn't make the shortlist!---so I don't envy the tough job it must have been to choose so few from the list.

As soon as the nomination lists came out I went looking for as many of the nfpb nominations I could get my hands on. I didn't manage to find them all, but of the ones I did, I can think of another half dozen at least that would have been at home on the shortlist. Here are a few of the ones I enjoyed that I thought were particularly well done:

You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! by Jonah Winter
Where Else in the Wild? by David Schwartz
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino
Redwoods by Jason Chin
Q is for Question: An ABC of Philosophy by Tiffany Poirier
Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths by Nic Bishop
Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life by Molly Bang
Life in the Boreal Forest by Brenda Z. Guiberson
Just the Right Size: Why Big Animals Are Big and Little Animals Are Little by Nicola Davies
In the Trees, Honey Bees! by Lori Mortenson
It's a Snap! George Eastman's First Photo by Monica Kulling
One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky
Pippo the Fool by Tracey E. Fern

I'm sure there will be more to add to this list as I make my way through the to-read list, but for now, when you've read through the shortlist and are looking for more good kids' nonfiction, give these a whirl. And be sure to check out the other 0 Comments on Cybils Shortlists...a bonanza of good reading! as of 1/1/1900

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6. Punctuation Confessions

Okay, so somehow I ended up taking a five month hiatus from blogging. Don't know how that happened, but I'm thinking since an April-to-September timeframe coincides with the school break, it must be one of those rhythm things. Not "circadian", more like school-adian or something. But, well, I'm back. And what better way to dive back in than with a celebration, eh?

Happy National Punctuation Day!

Had I known earlier that punctuation baking was an option, I'd be munching on comma-shaped cookies right now, but I didn't, so on this auspicious occasion, I thought I'd confess to share some of my punctuation proclivities, instead. All writers have 'em. It's part of our "voice". Here's mine:

—I'm strongly attached to my Oxford comma, a.k.a serial comma, a.k.a Harvard comma.

—My first drafts always contain way too many ellipses. Delete. Delete. Delete. Well, most of them, anyway.

—My first drafts never contain enough commas. Sprinkle. Sprinkle. Sprinkle.

—I have an overfondness for the exclamation mark. There's just something satisfying about plopping that point after the line that underscores the !!! of it all. However, like the ellipses, most of them don't make it into the final version. Although I did manage to get an exclamation mark in three of my book titles.

—I love the look of "smart" quotation marks in Word, but I don't use them because too often they end up facing the wrong way. If they can't tell the beginning of a quote from the end, then they really aren't too smart, are they? Or maybe it's just non-techno-geek me who hasn't figured out how to use them properly. Heh.

—I'm an em-dash girl. I don't know that there's a piece of my writing that doesn't contain at least one. Such a useful little thing.

—I collect comma commotions and apostrophe catastophes. Somehow this simple little mark can lead to very funny outcomes when used incorrectly—up or down This isn't a sign that I'm a grammar snob, just that I'm easily amused.

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7. National Poetry Month - Poetry Makers Series

April is National Poetry Month. Like nonfiction, poetry tends to not get its due, so I love that we set aside a whole month to shine a spotlight on it. I hope it gets people into the habit of thinking about poetry. . . a habit that'll carry over into the rest of the year.

Bloggers are featuring children's poetry this month in some very creative ways. Today, I'm going to point you to the Miss Rumphius Effect blog where Tricia has undertaken the gargantuan challenge of featuring an interview with a different children's poet every day this month. And her list will knock your socks off: Joyce Sidman, Paul Janeczko, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Avis Harley, Marilyn Singer, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Jane Yolen, and J. Patrick Lewis to name a few. And the month's just half over!

Happy Poetry Reading!

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8. Blog Tour - Day Five

Day 5
Becky at Becky's Book Reviews is hosting the final stop on the Bubble Homes and Fish Farts blog tour today.

It's been a great week! Here's the complete list of stops:

Monday at The Well-Read Child
Tuesday at Abby (the) Librarian
Wednesday at A Year of Reading
Thursday at Celebrate Story
Friday at Becky's Book Reviews.

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9. Blog Tour - Day Four

Day 4
Today, I'm visiting Deb at Celebrate Story as part of the Bubble Homes and Fish Farts Week-long blog tour.
Want to win a copy of Bubble Homes and Fish Farts? Deb's giving one away on April 1 (no foolin'!). All you have to do is leave a comment at her blog on my Q&A post.

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10. Blog Tour - Day Three

Day 3
Today, the Bubble Homes and Fish Farts Week-long Blog Tour stops by A Year of Reading. Their students asked the questions in this Q&A! Every day, a new Q&A at a new blog.

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11. Blog Tour - Day Two

Day 2
Every day this week a new Q&A on a new blog. Today, I'm visiting Abby (the) Librarian .

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12. Blog Tour - Day One

Day 1
The Bubble Homes and Fish Farts Week-long blog tour kicks off today over at The Well-Read Child. Every day, a Q&A at a new blog.

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13. Book launches at Bubble Stampede...live or virtual?

Laura and I have a pair of posts up at the Bubble Stampede blog where we talk about our book launches. I went live, Laura went virtual. Interesting... Drop by and eavesdrop.

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14. BC Book Prize Shortlists

The shortlists for the BC Book Prizes have been announced. This is a very prestigious award. I'm so proud of my writer and illustrator friends whose names appear on these shortlists. Way to go, guys!

Children's Literature is represented by two categories:

Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize
Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize

Here are the shortlists:

Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize

by Graham McNamee
Wendy Lamb Books

The Lit Report
by Sarah N. Harvey

My One Hundred Adventures
by Polly Horvath

The Séance
by Iain Lawrence
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

A Thousand Shades of Blue
by Robin Stevenson

Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize

Good-bye Marianne
by Irene N. Watts
Illustrated by Kathryn E. Shoemaker

The King Has Goat Ears
by Katarina Jovanovic
Illustrated by Philippe Beha

Polar Worlds: Life at the Ends of the Earth
by Robert Bateman
Scholastic Canada Ltd

Rosie and Buttercup
by Chieri Uegaki
Kids Can Press

Stanley At Sea
by Linda Bailey
Kids Can Press

Full descriptions are available on the BC Book Prizes website (scroll down to the Egoff and Christie prizes).

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15. Just One More Book!!

If you've never heard of justonemorebook.com grab a cuppa (there's way more than a cuppa's worth, you'll need a refill, for sure) and head over there to listen to their podcast chats about children's books and interviews with children's book creators.

Today, Andrea and Mark are talking about Bubble Homes and Fish Farts. You can link to that podcast from here.

If you're interested in what other people are saying about the book, I've posted some links on my website.

Non-thebook posts resume tomorrow. :^)

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16. Welcome to Launch Month!

Okay, so right up front I'm going to apologize for spending a disproportionate amount time talking about Bubble Homes and Fish Farts this month. But ya know...having a book come out, is kind of like having a baby. It's a VERY exciting event. Like a new parent, you carry your new book around everywhere, showing everyone you meet...you send out announcements and talk incessantly about the latest cute thing it did, sometimes to the rolling eyeballs of friends and family. So, forgive me as I jump up and down. I hope you'll share my excitement.

If you're in the Chilliwack or Vancouver BC areas, I hope you'll drop in to one of the upcoming book launches. The Vancouver Aquarium has designated animal bubbles as their Super Saturday theme around my March 14 launch there, with kids activities starting at 8:30 a.m. At the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve on March 28, we'll have all kinds of outdoor bubbley fun to add to the mix. Carolyn Conahan, my amazing illustrator, has created templates for kids to colour and turn into animal hats and masks. More info about the launches here.

Then, on March 23-27, I'll be setting off on a blog tour. More details to come.

Meanwhile, some nice folks invited me to be a guest on their blogs this month, so if you want to hear me yibber yabber about blogging, head on over to Alice's CWIM Blog, or if you're interested in my thoughts about where the cool science books of today came from, I have an essay up at Unabridged, and the students at the Institute of Children's Literature peppered me with questions about writing process last month and that transcript can be found here.

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17. 15 events in 2 weeks...yeah, right.

On Bubble Stampede this week, Laura and I talk about how we did on trying to fit in 15 events in 2 weeks around the launch of our books. Yes, you read right--fifteen. Drop on by and eavesdrop.

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18. Yowsa, YALSA!

Woohoo! The good folks at the Young Adult Library Services Association, fondly referred to as YALSA, have announced a new nonfiction award to be awarded starting in 2010!

The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

From the YALSA website:
(where you can find more info about the award)

"The award will honor the best nonfiction book
published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a
November 1 – October 31 publishing year. The
award winner will be announced annually at the
ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media Awards,
with a shortlist of up to five titles named the first
week of December. The award will be presented
at ALA Annual Conference. "

A wonderful addition to the ALA slate of awards. They'll be in search of a good name for it, methinks.

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19. If you write nonfiction, you gotta read this article

If you're a nonfiction writer, you must, must, must go to the School Library Journal website and read "The Quest for Authenticity: A Writer Reveals How She Finds the Heart of a Story" an article by Tanya Lee Stone. She gets right to the heart of the nonfiction writing journey. Excellent piece. Here's a taste:

I am like a detective, taking nothing at face value, solving riddles. It is exhilarating.
There is a certain satisfaction
in placing a missing piece in a puzzle. Likewise, it is gratifying to pull out a piece that has been slotted in where it doesn’t belong, righting a previous wrong.
. . .in the end, if the passion is
there, and you’ve told the story in the best way you can, your nonfiction can’t be anything less than honest and authentic.

See what I mean? Now, get on over there and read the rest.

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20. Seven Things...

A few weeks ago, fellow Charlesbridge author Chris Barton listed the next seven things he planned to do to support his forthcoming picture book, The Day-Glo Brothers. He then invited seven authors with new books---moi among them---to chime in with seven things they were doing for their new books.

Well, as you know, I've filed the last month under D for doozie, which put me *waaaaay* behind on blog reading, so I'm just chiming in now. Okay, Chris, here goes...

The next seven things I plan to do to support Bubble Homes and Fish Farts:

1. Give a "Ten Things Every Children's Author Should Know" talk at my local library: February 9, 2009 at 7 pm, Chilliwack main branch. (If you're counting shameless plugs in this blog post, this is #3)

2. Create and send a handout template to the folks at the Vancouver Aquarium for them to photocopy for my March 14 book launch there. This means I get to test different bubble solutions to see what works best for the super duper bubble makers kids will make at the launches. Have I mentioned being an author is fun?

3. Go through my eight pages of teacher guide notes to create science and language arts activities for a Bubble Homes and Fish Farts guide.

4. Be Jan Fields' February Guest Chat Author at the Institute of Children's Literature a.k.a. ICL. I'll be talking about "Funky Nonfiction". For more info, click here and scroll to #4.

5. Chase down and fiddle to get web-ready and print images to complete my online press kit.

6. Sit on the CWILL "How to Get Published" panel at the Vancouver Public Library.

7. Be the March guest blogger at "Unabridged" , the Charlesbridge blog.

Looks like I'll be getting out of my office some.

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21. Cybil-y Excitement


After much deliberation and several hours of pounding keyboards to each other from both coasts in two countries, I am excited to report that the nonfiction picture book judging committee has found an overwhelming favourite to declare as this year's Cybils winner. But, heh, sorry . . . it's still a secret, so I can't tell you which book it is, yet! For the official announcement, tune in to the Cybils blog tomorrow, February 14. I'll list it here, too, once it's been made official. Just one more day...

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22. And the 2008 Cybils winners are...


What a terrific list! And, unlike previous years, I've actually read many of them this year.

Easy Readers -
I Love My New Toy by Mo Willems
Fantasy & Science Fiction
___MG -
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
___YA - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Fiction Picture Books -
How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham
Graphic Novels
___Elementary/Middle Grade -
Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
(ill. Nathan Hale)
___ Young Adult -
Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki (ill. Steve Ralston)
Middle Grade Fiction -
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

Young Adult Fiction -
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Poetry -
Honeybee by Naomi Shihab Nye

MG/YA Nonfiction -
Nonfiction Picture Book -
Nic Bishop Frogs by Nic Bishop

I found and gushed about Nic Bishop Frogs last June, so I was very excited when it made the shortlist, and thrilled when my fellow judges ended up loving it as much as I did. The two tenets of the Cybils---literary quality and kid-appeal---are found here in spades. Here's the category blurb:

"Nic Bishop is known for his jaw-dropping nature photography. Open a book cover with his name on it and you'll be greeted with stunning action shots, exquisite attention to detail, and sharp, sharp close-ups that inspire awe. Couple that with Bishop's equally crisp, up-close and personal writing in Nic Bishop Frogs, and you've got an award-winning combination of text and illustration that captures a child-like wonder about a topic that is anything but new. That's quite a feat. Bishop's language is interesting and playful, and his analogies and references are right on, squarely aimed at where kids' heads are at. Simple word choices never talk down, but will allow newish readers to find success easily. The book flows logically, covering life cycle, defense, diet, habitat, and other essentials you'd expect to find in an animal book, but the organization is refreshingly kid-friendly, meandering through the topics as though Bishop and the reader were having a conversation while sitting in a marsh waiting for a frog. It's intimate and personal and accessible---frogs as you've never seen them before. Fascinating process notes are sure to inspire young photographers."

For descriptions of the other winners, check out the Cybils blog.

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23. Nonfiction Blog Duo Becomes a Trio?

Despite a plethora of amazing nonfiction books for kids published in the last decade or so, children's nonfiction remains the poor cousin in the children's lit field, rarely getting its due, so whenever a new source of nonfiction discussion presents itself, I say get out the noisemakers and celebrate. Got your horns handy?

Right now, my two favourites are:

I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids)
...where you'll find a range of nonfiction authors blogging about whatever's on their minds—it could be Steve Jenkins waxing philosophical about the big picture, Tanya Stone celebrating the release of a book from her heart, or David Schwartz talking popcorn math. Always thoughtful and a little different, with the goal of getting the word out about fresh, exciting, and indeed—as the blog name says—interesting nonfiction for kids.


Nonfiction Matters
...where Marc Aronson asks the hard questions about nonfiction for kids---its role in kids' lives and education, and the role nonfiction authors could/would/should play in bringing the world to young minds. Thought-provoking and often cutting edge.

Well, thanks to discovering Peggy Thomas' new Writing Nonfiction for Children blog this week, it looks like the duo may become a trio. Peggy Thomas, the author of Farmer George Plants a Nation and daughter of Margery Facklam (Very cool. Who knew?), describes her new blog as "a site for writers and readers who have an interest in children's books, especially nonfiction. We'll talk about how to write, how to research, and great books and writers out there." Woohoo!

Early into the life of the blog, Peggy's posts so far are meaty and promise thoughtful discussions to come. I'm keeping an eye on this one!

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24. Bubble Stampede - Word-of-Mouth Marketing


Laura and I are talking about
word-of-mouth marketing
—yours, mine, and ours—
over on the Bubble Stampede blog today. Drop by and eavesdrop.

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25. Share a Story - Shape a Future

Literacy is a huge passion of mine. A love of reading opens doors to worlds never imagined (including our own), and is a critical component of success later in life. I can't imagine how the quality of my life would be diminished if I couldn't read. The thought horrifies me.

Because of this, I support online and community literacy efforts whenever I can. Today, I want to get the word out about a new blogger literacy campaign called:

Share a Story - Shape a Future

Using the power of the Internet to share ideas about ways to engage kids as readers, blogging librarians, teachers, parents, and other people passionate about literacy and getting kids to read will offer ideas on ways to promote reading and books:

"This is an ensemble effort not only to celebrate
reading among those of us who already love
books, but to encourage each other to reach
beyond ourselves and do it in a way that we
are neither judging nor instructing others. This
is a venue for communicating practical, useable,
everyday ideas. The event begins March 9, 2009
and lasts one week. Each day we will have a
group of bloggers sharing ideas around a specific
theme. There are a number of book giveaways
and free downloads that will be announced by
the various hosts as we get closer to the kickoff."

Given the folks who are involved, this should turn out to be an amazing resource. You can read more about it here, including the topics and schedule.

I'm behind it 100% and hope you will be, too. Reading is important in so many ways. Get the word out. Share the link with those you know who have children in their lives. Let's get more kids reading.

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