Here Comes Teacher Cat
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Claudia Rueda
Published: August 8, 2017 by Dial
Goodreads Summary: It’s back to school for the New York Times bestselling Cat when he steps in as a substitute teacher.
Cat is not pleased to be tapped as substitute teacher. Not only is it cutting […]
Here Comes Teacher Cat
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Claudia Rueda
Published: August 8, 2017 by Dial
Goodreads Summary: It’s back to school for the New York Times bestselling Cat when he steps in as a substitute teacher.
Cat is not pleased to be tapped as substitute teacher. Not only is it cutting into his naptime, but a roomful of kittens is a little, well, scary. At school, he’s faced with six adorable kittens and follows the lesson plan of music, building, and painting–only in pure, mischief-making Cat style. By the end, Cat has learned a thing or two about inspiring others by being himself. But even more heart-melting and humorous is what the kittens have learned from Cat.
Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is very funny. Every time my son and I read it together, he giggles wildly across the pages. Cat is very unhappy when he is asked to play the role of teacher for the day. He doesn’t want to have to deal with the kitties, and he just wants to nap. He gets pretty creative, though, and it makes for a wonderfully fun story. I really like this book because it is very easy to ask my son questions while reading it. For example, I will ask him “What is Teacher Cat doing now? How do you think he feels? What are the kitties doing?” It is also very easy to practice making predictions with this text.
Discussion Questions: How does Teacher Cat change from the beginning to the end of the story?; How is he creative?; What does this story teach us?; Why did the author/illustrator choose to have Teacher Cat and the kitties hold up signs rather than speak?; Who is the narrator?
Reading by Brightly:
Read This if You Loved: Any of the Here Comes _____ Cat books by Deborah Underwood, Won Ton and Chopstick by Lee Wardlaw; One Leaf Rides the Wind by Celeste Davidson Mannis; If Not for the Cat by Jack Prelutsky; I Haiku You by Betsy E. Snyder; Dogku by Andrew Clements
**Thank you to Penguin for providing a copy of this book for review!**
It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Anticipated Publication: September 19, 2017 by Two Lions
Goodreads Summary: A fresh take on a young Jack who is not keen on climbing any beanstalks and would much prefer to tell his own story.
Ricki’s Review: This book is hysterical. My four-year-old and I love reading it. (I am not entirely sure he understands that it is a fairy tale retelling, but he still adores it.) Every night, it is the first book he picks to read together. The book has an unnamed narrator who insists on telling the traditional “Jack and the Beanstalk” story. Jack has other plans, though. He and the giant decide that they don’t want to follow the traditions of the story. As you can see below in the flagged spread, Jack pushes back on the tale. I laugh every time I read this. My favorite part is the appears of Cindy (Cinderella), who invites Jack to her ball. Josh Funk is an incredible author, and I will read anything that he writes. This is a fantastic book for teachers to use in their classrooms.
Kellee’s Review: Trent loves the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. They must read it at his school because he knew the whole story, and I think it is hilarious that he argues with me about what is happening in the book. We’ve talked about how this is a different Jack story but he, like the narrator, just really wants Jack to do what he is supposed to. I love the way that Josh Funk has broken the 4th wall and has the narrator talk to the characters; it is such a unique way to twist the fairy tale and makes it so hilarious. I look forward to reading this to Trent and students for many years.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Most obviously, this book would be great to kick off a unit on writing fairy tale retellings. It teaches students to break the mold and repurpose stories to add humor and intrigue. It would also be fun to pair this story with other fairy tale retellings to ask students: What did the authors do to revision the stories? How are they successful?
Check out a book trailer, collector’s cards, and more at https://www.joshfunkbooks.com/
Discussion Questions: How does Jack break our expectations?; How are Jack and the Giant different from the narrator? Who did you find yourself rooting for?; How does the author add humor to the story?; How is the text structured to help the reader follow both the narrator and Jack?; What other fairy tales could you retell?
Read This If You Loved: Dear Dragon by Josh Funk; Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk; Whose Story is This, Anyway? by Mike Flaherty; Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett; A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
About the Author and Illustrator:
**Special Thanks to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for Providing Copies to Review*
Reaching Reluctant Readers
As a former teacher and current parent, I’ve had some experience in introducing kids to reading. And while there’s no magic potion that works for all kids, I’ve learned that oftentimes the messenger is as important as the message. Even reluctant readers will warm up to the task […]
Reaching Reluctant Readers
As a former teacher and current parent, I’ve had some experience in introducing kids to reading. And while there’s no magic potion that works for all kids, I’ve learned that oftentimes the messenger is as important as the message. Even reluctant readers will warm up to the task at hand when they see that someone else is actually enjoying it. So, when encouraging youngsters to read, remember to make it fun – for both of you! Here are a few suggestions:
Step out of routines:
Make special times to read. Don’t save reading time for just before bedtime, or it can become just another rote exercise like brushing teeth and washing up. You can have a reading night where you turn off the TV and let everyone pick a favorite book to read for thirty minutes or longer. For younger readers, you can create special snuggle-read time on weekends or after preschool.
Remember to take time after reading to discuss the book your child has read (or listened to someone else read.) Let them voice their opinions about what they liked best in a story. Even if they focus on illustrations, let them know that you value their insights about books. This discussion time is especially important because it lets even pre-readers feel like they’re part of the reading process.
Likewise, in the classroom, elevate reading from an assignment to an experience. A great way to do this is to find short, funny poems that you can read in under a minute, and read them to introduce a related class lesson. Shel Silverstein and Kenn Nesbitt are two great authors to begin with.
Lights, camera, read!:
Don’t just read a book, act it out. Without donning makeup and costume, you can bring characters to life with just a bit of inflection. Is the character sad? Use your saddest, poutiest tone to convey that emotion. Is the character happy? Unless you’re in a library, let your child feel the character’s joy through your own exuberance and RAISED VOICE. Is there more than one main character? Use different voices for each character. In my picture book, The Deductive Detective, I create fourteen unique voices to bring the story to life and give each character its own distinct personality.
Is your child already starting to read? Let them read the text for one character and you read the text for the other. Some great books for together reading are The Duckling Gets a Cookie?!?, Green Eggs and Ham, and You Read To Me, I’ll Read To You. For older, elementary school age readers, look for books with lots of dialogue. Tom Angleberger, Kate DiCamilla, Chirs Grabenstein are great authors for compelling characters and dialogue.
Make trips to the library or bookstore special occasions instead of errands. Let your kids see other children enjoying books. Let them linger, browse and choose their own books. It’s a special feeling when one book out of hundreds on the shelf “speaks to you.” Kids have so little autonomy in their lives, let them enjoy this one freedom of choosing their own book and it will make reading that much more special for them.
For teachers, try offering several books that you’ve pre-selected for a specific lesson and let the class vote, or even better, let individual students (especially the reluctant readers) take turns voting for which book to read. That small, simple action gives them reason to be invested in the book.
Get serious about reading with series:
Most reluctant readers don’t have favorite books, they have favorite characters. That’s why most book series are character driven. Once young readers make a connection with a character, the effort to make sense of language and understand plot becomes less intimidating, because they are in the company of a friendly character with whom they relate. In each subsequent book in the series, the characters, setting and premise are familiar, so understanding those elements takes less effort. With each book, the process gets easier and more enjoyable. In my chapter book series, The Tyler Files, for example, readers will find the same characters, with the same mannerisms, in the same school setting. The only change is a new source of mystery in each book, but because readers are familiar with the characters and premise, it’s easier to dive right in and get to the heart of the story.
For the very young, you can’t beat Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems. For chapter book readers, Mary Pope Osbourne and Jim Benton have wonderfully engaging series.
Make “em laugh, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh!:
But by far, the best way to hook reluctant readers is to hit them in the funny bone. According to the Kids & Family Reading Report, 70% of kids want to read a book that will make them laugh and 54% want books that allow them to use their imagination. That’s why I make sure all the books I write are 70% funny and 54% creative!
For a child that sees the written page as a chore akin to taking out the trash, an unexpected burst of laughter can change their whole perspective. I know many teachers feel it’s their duty to be “serious” about reading, but getting kids seriously into reading is more important than boring them to death with serious lessons. There will be plenty of time for serious lessons later, but if you don’t hook a reader in elementary school, you never will. And study after study has shown that kids respond best to books that make them laugh – even if their sense of humor is worlds apart from your own.
For funny picture books, I recommend Mar Barnett, Doreen Cronin, and Jon Scieszka. For comical chapter books, check out Dav Pilkey and Herman Parish.
About the Book: Tyler has a big problem. His pants won’t stop talking! How will he make it through the day without becoming the school laughingstock? And how will Tyler survive his pants’ “off the cuff” remarks to the school bully (and to his secret crush?) With a little help from his best friend, Tyler gives a first-hand account of the mysterious, improbable and occasionally funny events that are so strange they can only be found in THE TYLER FILES.
In addition, THE TYLER FILES breaks new ground in the chapter book genre by adding interactive backmatter to the end of the story. Tyler poses questions to stimulate creative thinking in readers. He introduces and give examples of idioms related to the story. He gives 10 fun facts about pants, and even tells some jokes!
About the Author: Brian Rock’s latest PB was MARTIAN MUSTACHE MISCHIEF (First Light Publishing, 2015.) His previous PB, THE DEDUCTIVE DETECTIVE, (Arbordale, 2013) was a featured title of the month by the Children’s Book Council (Feb 2013.) His additional PBs include WITH ALL MY HEART (Tiger Tales, 2012) and DON’T PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD! (First Light Publishing, 2005.) Children’s Poet Laureate, Kenn Nesbitt included one of Brian’s poems in his anthology of poetry, ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME (Little Brown, 2016.) Brian received his master’s degree in Children’s Literature/Creative Writing from Hollins University. His poems for children have appeared in Highlights for Children, Poetry Train, and various regional publications. He is a former teacher who taught at-risk students for six years, and he is a member of SCBWI.
The Tyler Files looks like the perfect book to use to reach a reluctant reader! Thank you for the post, Brian!
Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw
Author: Todd Calgi Gallicano
Published August 29th, 2017 by Delacorte Press
Summary: A new action adventure series set in our famous national parks! Enter the world of the Department of Mythical Wildlife, where our protagonist, Sam London, is tasked with protecting legendary animals that secretly live amongst our treasured wildlife.
Haunted by a dream of a mythical gryphon, Sam London uncovers an ancient secret that will change the way he sees the world forever. Recruited by Dr. Vance Vantana, an eccentric zoologist and park ranger sent by the government, Sam is whisked away on an adventure that takes him to the farthest reaches of the globe. Along this journey, Sam learns an incredible truth: mythical creatures are real and living among us in our national parks. A special department in the U.S. government ensures that their existence remains hidden.
But Sam’s dream is an omen that the secret may now be in danger. Someone seeks the power to expose these creatures and overthrow humankind–and that power can only be found in a magical talisman known as the gryphon’s claw.
“A fun-filled start to a series that is sure to keep lovers of Rick Riordan running to the shelves.”-SLJ
“A death-defying, globe-spanning adventure, packed with creatures out of folklore and myth….[Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw is] a solid series opener and debut for Gallicano, who stocks his story with engaging characters, human, and otherwise.”-Publishers Weekly
Review: I could not stop raving about this book as I read it! I tweeted about it, talked to everyone I saw about it, and even mentioned in a couple of IMWAYR posts. You know why? Because it is so much fun, the plot is so well-crafted, and finally my fans of Riordan’s mythological adventures are going to finally have a book that they’re going to love has much as his books. However, I don’t want you to think this is a Riordan copy-cat. It is a totally unique adventure with mythical creatures. I loved the combination of mythologies from different cultures, humor!, the new explanation of mythical creatures living with us yet hidden among us, and the inclusion of national parks in Sam’s story.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw will be a perfect new addition to mythology units in middle school to share along side Percy Jackson and other Riordan words. Gallicano even included a glossary of the mythical creatures that will be a wonderful asset to classrooms. However, I feel that primarily the book will be found in students’ hands.
Discussion Questions: What do you think the cliffhanger means?; What character traits does Sam posess that helped him in his adventures?; Which mythical creature would scare you the most? Which mythical creature would you want to have in your house? Which mythical creature would you want to hang out with?; Do you think Phylassos did the right thing in hiding his identity? About getting Sam London involved in the adventure?; Discuss Chriscanis and his journey in the book.; How did Sam’s story fit the Hero’s Journey?
Flagged Passages: “The flapping of the creature’s massive wings sent up a swirling column of dust that blanketed the plateau and rose hundreds of feet into the air. In Death Valley, these whirlwinds of dirt were often called sand augers — twisting, dust-filled tornados that fed off the desert floor as they moved across the landscape. Sam had forgotten about this part of the dream and closed his eyes and covered his mouth a moment too late. When he heard the wings slow and felt the haze begin to settle, he cautiously opened his eyes. They instantly stung from the dissipating cloud of dust, and he coughed as particles of desert sand forced their way into his throat. But it was all suddenly worth it–the stinging, the coughing, the lying, the possible grounding for eternity–for what he saw standing before him was truly extraordinary. Phylassos had returned.”
Read This If You Love: Mythology, Mythical Creatures, Adventure
**Thank you to Random House Children’s Books for providing a copy for review!**
Vanished!: A T.O.A.S.T Mystery
Author: James Ponti
Published August 22nd, 2017 by Aladdin
Summary: Florian Bates—the only kid on the FBI Director’s speed dial and several international criminals’ most wanted lists—must uncover the truth behind a series of middle school pranks that may or may not involve the daughter of the President of the United States in this hilarious second novel in the T.O.A.S.T. Mystery series.
Middle school is hard. Solving cases for the FBI is even harder. Doing both at the same time— well that’s just crazy. But that doesn’t stop Florian Bates!
After helping the FBI solve an art theft at the National Gallery and uncovering a DC spy ring, Florian’s finding life at Alice Deal Middle School a little boring. But that’s all about to change! His FBI handler, Marcus, has a job for him! Is it a bank robbery? Counterfeit ring? International espionage? Actually it’s middle school pranks…
Sounds pretty ordinary except that the pranks are happening at a prestigious private school attended by the President’s daughter who may—or may not—be involved. So Florian and Margaret are going undercover to see if they can use their TOAST skills to figure out what’s going on before the media gets hold of the story.
However, once the crime-solving pair arrive at the school, they discover that there’s a lot more than a few pranks going on and the conspiracy of silence reaches all the way to the top. Then a student vanishes in the middle of a concert at the Kennedy Center and things take a sinister turn!
Can Florian and Margaret save the day? Or are they about to get toasted?
Review: Like Framed!, Vanished! is a crazy adventure of a mystery with twists and turns that make the reader struggle to solve the mystery before Florian does! Once again Ponti’s mystery is easy to follow yet complicated enough to make it so that the reader doesn’t figure everything out before the end (which I think is the best kind of mysteries!).
What I love about this mystery, is that it teaches us more about the characters while also putting them in a whole new setting and mystery. I really enjoyed how different the two mysteries were and how Florian and Margaret’s character development really grew. Anyone who loves Framed! is going to be so happy with the sequel.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Like Framed!, I think it would be so much fun to play some mystery games with TOAST. And just liked Framed! dealt with art, this mystery includes classical music which can be explored along with it being introduced in the story.
Discussion Questions: Who did you think the prankster was?; Did the solution to the mystery surprise you?; What foreshadowing clues were there to show who the villain was?; What part of Florian and Margaret’s time in school is most realistic to the real experience?; How does Margaret help Florian face his bullies?
Flagged Passages: (When the headmaster doubts that Florian and Margaret can help, they put TOAST on display.)
“‘You have nothing to worry about, Dr. Putney,’ I assured him. ‘W’re discreet. We’ll approach it the same way you approached your church mission. Just like when you went to Brazil and adapted to their customs, we’re guests and will respect the customs and traditions unique to Chatham while we do our work.’
Marcus shot me a wink.
‘Y-y-yes,’ he stammered, trying to make sesne of what I’d just said. ‘But how did you know that?’
‘How did I know what?’ I asked. That you went on a mission? Or that it was to Brazil?’
‘Both,’ he replied.
‘TOAST,’ I said.
‘The Theory of All Small Things.’ answered Margaret. ‘The idea is that little details often give away much bigger pieces of information than you think. When you add them up, you have an indisputable truth. That’s how we’re going to find who’s responsible for the pranks. Florian and I are going to use TOAST.’
He looked back and forth at us like we were speaking a foreign language. ‘What little details could possibly tell you that I took a mission to Brazil?’
‘On the wall beside your desk are your college diplomas,’ I explained. ‘They’re from Bringham Young University. Over ninety-eight percent of the students at BYU are Mormon. And roughly a third of all Mormon men go on a mission.’
‘Okay, but that means two-thirds don’t,’ he said as a challenge. ‘What makes you think I did?’
‘You’re featured in the welcome video not only as a headmaster but also as a graduate of Chatham Day,’ I replied. ‘But there’s a six-year gap from your high school graduation until the date you received your bachelor’s. That’s four years of college with two years left over for your mission.’
‘As to Brazil,’ Margaret said, picking up without missing a beat, ‘that was easy. There’s a picture of you on the far bookcase when you were about twenty years old. You’re standing in front of the giant Christ the Redeemer statue, which is in Rio. There’s also a picture of your family on your desk. It looks like a vacation shot and it in you’re wearing a yellow-and-green jersey. Anyone who plays soccer knows it’s the jersey of the Brazilian national team. I’m guessing you became a fan while you lived there and you’ve continued ever since.’
He sat for a moment flabbergasted, unsure what to say.” (p. 32-34)
Read This If You Love: Mysteries like FRAMED! by James Ponti, Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher, Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
Author: Dusti Bowling
Published September 5th, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books
Summary: Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.
Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.
*“Aven is a perky, hilarious, and inspiring protagonist whose attitude and humor will linger even after the last page has turned.” —School Library Journal (Starred review)
“Connor’s Tourette’s support-group meetings and Aven’s witty, increasingly honest discussions of the pros and cons of “lack of armage” give the book excellent educational potential. . . . its portrayal of characters with rarely depicted disabilities is informative, funny, and supportive.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Bowling’s sensitive and funny novel . . . demonstrates how negotiating others’ discomfort can be one of the most challenging aspects of having a physical difference and how friendship can mitigate that discomfort. . . . [an] openhearted, empathic book. —Publishers Weekly
Review: From the very first page, you know that Aven is awesome. In the first paragraph you learn that she doesn’t have arms but it doesn’t matter to her. The only reason why she is upset is because someone else freaked out about her armlessness. She is brave and funny and resilient. The way that she is able to joke around about her physical difference to help ease the reader and the other characters is a true talent. The stories she creates about what happened to her arms just to freak people out truly cracked me up. And Aven’s awesomeness is followed closely by her parents’. I adore them. They are the pinnacle of parents. They are kind yet tough and are raising an independent, wonderful young woman. Then there is Connor who is also so well-crafted. His Tourette’s syndrome is dealt with in a thoughtful way and also doesn’t define Connor just like Aven’s armlessness doesn’t define her. This is a book of amazing characters coming together to find their place in the world.
You are going to love this book. Your students are going to love this book. Parents are going to love this book. Your fellow teachers are going to love this book. This is a book that is going to get a lot of love!
Check out Dusti’s “Spotlight on Dusti Bowling” feature in Publishers Weekly to hear more about her inspirations.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Please add this title to your collection of read aloud and classroom library books that you share with students to promote empathy, kindness, and friendship with those with differences as well as facing hardship and stepping up to challenges. You will not be disappointed!
Discussion Questions: After reading Aven and Connor’s story, how has your attitude and future actions towards those with differences changed?; How was Aven’s story inspiring to you?; Why did you feel that author made the choice to have Aven’s family move at the beginning of the book?; Did you predict the connection to Stagecoach Pass?; How were Connor and Aven able to help each other?
Flagged Passages: “When I was little, a kid pointed at me on the playground and shouted, ‘Her arms fell off!’ then ran away screaming in terror to his mom, who had to cuddle him on her lap and rub his head for like ten mintues to get him to calm down. I think, up until then, I hadn’t thought about the idea that my arms must have actually fallen off at some point in my life. I had never really thought about not having arms at all.
My missing arms weren’t an issue for me or my parents. I never once heard either of them say, ‘Oh, no, Aven can’t possibly do that because that’s only for armed people,’ or ‘Poor Aven is so helpless without arms,’ or ‘Maybe Aven can do that one day, you know, if she ever grows arms.’ They always said things like, ‘You’ll have to do this differently from other people, but you can manage,’ and ‘I know this is challenging for you. Keep trying,’ and ‘You’re capable of anything Aven.’
I had never realized just how different I was until that day that horrible kid shouted about my arms having fallen off. For the first time I found myself aware of my total armlessness, and I guess I felt like I was sort of naked all of a sudden. So I, too, ran to my mom, and she scooped me up and carried me away from the park, allowing my tears and snot to soak her shirt.” (Chapter 1)
Read This If You Love: Wonder by RJ Palacio, Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, How to Speak Dolphin by Ginny Rorby, Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson
**Thank you to Dusti Bowling and Sterling for providing a copy for review!**
The Misadventures of Max Crumbly: Locket Hero
Author: Rachel Renee Russell
Published: June 7, 2016 by Aladdin
A Guest Review by Emily Baseler
GoodReads Summary: Max Crumbly is about to face the scariest place he’s ever been: South Ridge Middle School. There’s a lot that’s great about his new school, but there’s also one big problem—Doug, the school bully whose hobby is stuffing Max in his locker. If only Max could be like the hero in his favorite comics. Unfortunately, Max’s uncanny, almost superhuman ability to smell pizza from a block away won’t exactly save any lives or foil bad guys. But that doesn’t mean Max won’t do his best to be the hero his school needs!
Review: This book is the beginning of a soon to be very popular series. I suggest you purchase a copy of this book for your classroom library while you still can. In June, the 2nd book will be released and I have a feeling it will not be available on the shelf for long. This book has a very similar style to the “Dairy of a Wimpy Kid” series which children across grade levels love. This book introduces relevant themes to a middle grade reader such as peer conflict, coping with bullying, pop culture, relationships, friendship, surviving middle school, and learning to laugh at yourself. This book was an easy ready and would be ideal for a more reluctant reader or to read for pleasure.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is one of the rare few written in second person. Max Crumbly, the narrator, is writing journal entries addressing the reader as “you.” “The Adventures of Max Crumbly” would be an interesting text to explore point of view with your students. You could also use the text to highlight the use of exclamation and variation of font. Additionally, the text could be a resource when reviewing the writing process. There are entire sentences scratched out, arrows redirecting the narrative, edits, revisions, and inclusions in the final text.
Discussion Questions: Is this style of writing something you think you would be able to create?; How does the point of view of the narrator impact your perceptions as a reader?; What value did the illustrations add to the text—if any?; Are there any themes or topics in which you can identify/connect with?
Online Resource: http://maxcrumbly.com/
Read This If You Loved: Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renee Russell, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
Thank you, Emily!
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