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Landscape with Invisible Hand
Author: M. T. Anderson
Published: September 12, 2017 by Candlewick

Summary: National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth – but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem “classic” Earth culture (doo-wop music, still-life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go – and what he’s willing to sacrifice – to give the vuvv what they want.

Review: 

  • Futuristic, dark satire that is an unusual, intelligent social commentary
  • Forces readers to think deeply about their personal, social, and political lives
  • Somewhat non-linear story with an interesting layout: each chapter has a title that corresponds with the artwork created by the main character
  • Stylistically, Anderson chooses every word with intention. The text is a 149-page novella that features chapters that can be taught instructionally as vignettes.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:  Teachers might ask students to begin by looking closely at the text for short passages that they find particularly interesting or inspiring. Students might write a one-pager that a) unpacks the passage they chose, and b) examines the passage through the lens of a topic that they find particularly interesting and relevant. For example, they might connect a passage to the following topics which are relevant in the text:

Art

Automation

Capitalism

Classism

Economy

Entrepreneurship

Existentialism

Extraterrestrial Life

Health Care

Immigration

Love

Politics

Poverty

Sickness

Nostalgia

Unemployment

After the students have written several one-pagers and explored a variety of topics, they might select one topic that interests them most. They can research scholarship about the topic and look across the entire text for relevant passages.

Sample research paper topics:

Examining economic disparities and classism within Landscape with Invisible Hand

Finding the soul: M.T. Anderson’s treatment of love and art in Landscape with Invisible Hand

Discussion Questions: Do you think M. T. Anderson had a purpose for writing this text?; What kind of social commentary does this text offer?; What does it tell us about love? Society? Humanity?; How does Anderson use art to enhance the story?; How is the text structured? How does this enhance your reading?

Flagged Passage: “We are tiny figures, faceless, pointing at wonders, provided for scale, no lives of our own, surveying the landscape that has engulfed us all.”

Read This If You Loved: Feed by M. T. Anderson; Books by Scott Westerfeld; The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

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Thank you, Candlewick!

RickiSig

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Gamer Squad #1: Attack of the Not-So-Virtual Monsters
Author: Kim Harrington
Published August 1st, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: What happens when your cool virtual-reality game . . . becomes REAL? Pokemon GO meets The Goonies in this action-packed middle-grade series.

Monsters Unleashed–where you catch virtual-reality monsters on your cellphone–is one of the hottest mobile games around, and Bex and Charlie just can’t stop playing. They even check out an old map in Charlie’s grandfather’s attic in hopes of discovering some forgotten places in town where the rarest monsters might hide. But they find a strange machine up there too, and after Charlie switches it on, the WiFi goes down . . . and Bex’s entire catalog of monsters vanishes! And that’s not the worst of it: all the creatures she’s collected on her phone escape into the real world. Can the friends nab the beasts before they become monster lunch?

Author Bio: Kim Harrington is the author of ClarityPerceptionThe Dead and Buried, and Forget Me for teens and the Sleuth or Dare and Gamer Squad series for kids. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and son. When not writing, she’s most likely reading, watching one of her favorite TV shows, or fantasizing about her next vacation. She can be found on Twitter (@Kim_Harrington), Instagram (@KimHarringtonAuthor) and on her website: www.kimharringtonbooks.com.

Don’t miss out on our Interview with the Author, Kim Harrington!!

Review: Kim Harrington’s new series combining video games, science fiction, and adventure is going to be a huge hit with middle grade readers! The first book is a quick, fun read which you cannot put down. Monsters Unleashed, I believe purposefully, is like Pokemon Go! in that the players walk around town looking for monsters to catch, but what would happen if one person’s caught monsters escaped?!?! That was happens with Bex and Charlie, and now it is up to them to figure out how to save their town. This is when it gets unique and crazy! How are they going to get all of the monsters? They are clever 🙂

I cannot wait to read the rest of the series! I cannot wait to see what Bex and Charlie do next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I can promise that this is a must buy for middle grade classroom and school libraries. Students are going to love these!

Discussion Questions: How does Bex and Charlie overcome their monster obstacles? What different strategies do they use?; What type of people are Bex and Charlie? Do you think that plays a part in them being able to be successful?; Do you think Charlie did the right thing when it came to his brother?; How is Monsters Unleashed and Pokemon Go alike? Different?; What characters surprised you with their interest in Monsters Unleashed? What does that teach you?

Flagged Passages: “The monster emerged from behind a tree. It was covered in fur, like a wolf, but also had two long, sharp fangs poking out of its mouth, and glowing red eyes. The VampWolf was the perfect combination of horrifying and terrifying. It was torrifying. I didn’t even care that wasn’t a word. I was so scared, I needed a new word.

‘Are you seeing what I’m seeing?’ I asked Charlie.

‘If you’re seeing an actual VampWolf walking toward us, then yes.’

‘How can this be happening?’ I looked down at my phone. The Monsters Unleashed app wasn’t even open. I wasn’t looking through the screen. The monster was really there, in the middle of the street.

This wasn’t a game. The VampWolf was right there in front of us on the street.” p. 26-27

Read This If You Love: Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman, Frenzy by Robert Lettrick, Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang, Frank Einstein by Jon Sciezska, Goosebumps by R.L. Stine

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**Thank you to Ardi at Sterling Publishing for providing a copy for review!!**

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5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior
Author: Mark Siegel & Alexis Siegel
Illustrator: Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, & Boya Sun
Published May 2nd, 2017 by Random House for Young Readers

Summary: The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves and more to their worlds than meets the eye. . . .

  • The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.
  • A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.
  • Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

About the Authors and Illustrators: 

Mark Siegel has written and illustrated several award-winning picture books and graphic novels, including the New York Times bestseller Sailor Twain, or the Mermaid in the Hudson. He is also the founder and editorial director of First Second Books. He lives with his family in New York. Follow Mark on Tumblr at @marksiegel and the 5 Worlds team on Twitter at @5WorldsTeam.

Alexis Siegel is a writer and translator based in London, England. He has translated a number of bestselling graphic novels, including Joann Sfar’s The Rabbi’s Cat, Pénélope Bagleu’s Exquisite Corpse, and Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese (into French).

Xanthe Bouma is an illustrator based in Southern California. When not working on picture books, fashion illustration, and comics, Xanthe enjoys soaking up the beachside sun. Follow Xanthe on Tumblr at @yumbles and on Twitter at @xoxobouma.

Matt Rockefeller is an illustrator and comic book artist from Tucson, Arizona. His work has appeared in a variety of formats, including book covers, picture books, and animation. Matt lives in New York City. Follow him on Tumblr at @mrockefeller and on Twitter at @mcrockefeller.

Boya Sun is an illustrator and co-author of the graphic novel Chasma Knights. Originally from China, Boya has traveled from Canada to the United States and now resides in the charming city of Baltimore. Follow Boya on Tumblr at @boyasun and on Twitter at @boyaboyasun.

Critical Praise: 

“[A] dazzling interplanetary fantasy . . . that will easily appeal to fans of Naruto or Avatar: The Last Airbender.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“With sensitive writing, gorgeous artwork, and riveting plot, this is a series to keep an eye on.” —Booklist, Starred Review

“This stellar team has created a gorgeous and entrancing world like no other!”—Noelle Stevenson, New York Times bestselling author of Nimona

“Epic action, adventure, and mystery will draw you in, but the heartfelt characters and their seemingly impossible journey will keep you turning the pages.” —Lisa Yee, author of the DC Super Hero Girls™ series

Review: I am always amazed when I read a book and the concept is so unique and well-crafted that I am in awe of every page and cannot predict anything that is coming. The Sand Warrior did just that. The Siegels have created a whole new world (well, five worlds, and I do really appreciate them including a map of the world at the beginning of the book to help the reader navigate) as their setting which allows for infinite possibilities of story.  

In addition to the new, cool setting, the characters in the book are so interesting! Each of them have their own unique backstory (and I look forward to learning more about them in future books) and are just so different. Oona is living in her sister’s shadow and struggling to be what everyone expects of her. Jax is perfection on the field but hasn’t really had a chance to live. And An is hiding a terrible secret and has had a rough life. Each of these characters has a trait that a reader will connect to and even if they don’t, as you read you really want to know more about them.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: You know that reader that loves Doug TenNapel and Kazu Kibuishi but you have run out of things to recommend to them because they are so picky about their graphic novels? Well, they are going to love this one (and some of the others I listed below). This is a must buy for classroom (and school) libraries!

Discussion Questions: Would you have made the same decision Oona made?; Did you predict the twist about Jax?; What do you think is going to happen in book 2?

Behind the Scenes of 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior: 

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Read This If You Loved: Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi, Bad Island by Doug TenNapel, Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence, The Time Museum by Matthew LouxRed’s Planet by Eddie PittmanSpace Dumplins by Craig Thompson, Last Day on Mars by Kevin Emerson

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**Thank you to Josh at Random House for providing a copy for review!**

 
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The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Published: April 5, 2016 by Yearling

A Guest Review by Kelsey Iwanicki

Summary: The Fourteenth Goldfish follows the story of Ellie, an 11-year-old girl, who is currently struggling to find her passion, especially following the gradual drop off with her one and only friend, Brianna. However, everything changes when her mother brings home a quirky and crabby 13-year-old boy, Melvin. Ellie notices striking similarities between Melvin and her seventy-something year-old grandfather until he comes clean and tells her that they are in fact the same person. Melvin has worked on developing a drug to reverse the signs of aging, which has successfully worked on himself.

As Ellie and Melvin get closer, they also form an unlikely friendship with a goth student, Raj. Together they give Melvin advice about being a teenager, such as giving him acne medicine and hair elastics. They also help Melvin eventually, after a few failed attempts, steal the same compound that reversed his age. Melvin’s original plan was to steal the gene so he could share it with the world and receive the Nobel Peace Prize. However, Ellie persuaded him not to on the grounds of moral ethics and how scientific impacts can be both positive and negative. Due to this, Melvin flushes the compound down the drain and starts to tour the country. Thanks to her time with her grandfather, Ellie is able to discover his passion in science and also gain a few friends along the way, Raj and Momo.

Review: What I liked most about this book was its quirkiness, mostly exemplified through Melvin. Although the relationship between Ellie and Melvin is untraditional, you can also get glimpses of a typical relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter is like, one that isn’t usually written about. The majority of characters are nontraditional, such as Raj, who is explicitly written as goth; Ellie, a girl scientist (although this is becoming more popular, usually boys are the ones in the STEM fields); and Melvin, as a grumpy 13-year-old.

What I didn’t like about the book was the build-up. Although they failed multiple times at stealing the compound, there was no suspense for when Melvin actually succeeded. Rather, he just came home one day with it. The climax actually was when Ellie had a self-realization that science has both positives and negatives, which honestly was kind of a let down because the plot had focused around getting the compound from the lab. Ultimately, it was a good theme because Ellie realizes there are good and bad things with any passion.

All in all, I did like the book, I think it could appeal to students who are interested in science and realistic fiction books.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book should definitely be included in a classroom library for independent reading because I think it would appeal for students because it is a little quirky and has some interesting characters. It could also prompt some interesting discussions for literature circles because students could discuss the ethics behind using a compound to reverse aging.

A teacher could also use it as a read aloud for a few reasons. It would be interesting to consider the other perspectives of characters such as Melvin or Melissa, Ellie’s mother. Additionally, they could talk about the character traits and what makes Melvin and Ellie such strong characters. Or, they could talk about science and ethics behind what scientists release.

Discussion Questions: If you had a compound that could reverse aging, would you take it? Why or why not?; If you discovered a compound that could reverse aging, would you deliver it to the public? Why or why not?; What do you think will happen to Ellie and Brianna’s friendship? Ellie and Momo’s?; What do you think the side affects are from taking the compound? / What do you think happened to Melvin?; Put yourself in Ellie’s shoes, how would you feel if your grandfather attended the same school as you?; What is the importance of the fourteenth goldfish?

Flagged Passage: “Average people just give up at the obstacles we face every day. Scientists fail again and again and again. Sometimes for our whole lives. But we don’t give up, because we want to solve the puzzle” (p. 47).

Read This If You Loved: El Deafo by Cece Bell; Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt; Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin; Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Recommended For:
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Thank you, Kelsey!

RickiSig

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The Time Museum
Author: Matthew Loux
Published February 21st, 2017 by First Second

Summary: The internship program at the Time Museum is a little unusual. For one thing, kids as young as twelve get to apply for these prestigious summer jobs. And as for the applicant pool . . . well, these kids come from all over history.

When Delia finds herself working at the Time Museum, the last thing she expects is to be sent on time-traveling adventures with an unlikely gang of kids from across the eons. From a cave-boy to a girl from the distant future, Delia’s team represents nearly all of human history! They’re going to need all their skills for the challenge they’ve got in store . . . defending the Time Museum itself!

Review: Delia’s life changes drastically when she learns the truth about her uncle and his career running the Time Museum. Unlike any museum that she’s ever been too, the Time Museum curates directly from historical periods by traveling through time. Because of her love of science and high intelligence, Delia is chosen not to only spend some time at the Time Museum but also to compete with five others for a coveted internship! This competition includes challenges that take them to different points in time and a task they have to compete. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Loux’s adventure-packed though humorous sci-fi novel will find a wide range of readers because it hits on so many different genres and is so well done. This is definitely a book to pick up for your graphic novel, sci-fi, and adventure fans! (Oh, and as a teacher, I mus say I love the theme!)

Discussion Questions: If you found the Time Museum, what time period would you want to visit?; Which of the characters have traits that are most similar to you?; What are the dangers of time travel? Do you think it’s worth it?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Loved: Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel, Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi, Lucy and Andy Neanderthal by Jeffrey Brown, Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown, HiLo by Judd Winick

Recommended For:

  readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

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ellie ultra #1

Ellie Ultra: An Extra-Ordinary Girl
Author: Gina Bellisario
Illustrator: Jessika von Innerebner
Published September 1st, 2016 by Stone Arch Books

Summary: Ellie is super excited for first day at Winkopolis Elementary School. After spending her whole life being homeschooled by super-genius inventor parents, she can’t wait to hang out with normal kids and learn normal things. But Ellie soon learns that her super powers make her stand out in a not-so-super way. Can she save the world and fit in with her new friends? Or is blending in the one thing this superhero can’t do?

Review: What a fun new early chapter book! I am so happy to see that group of books expanding to include so many diverse types of stories, diverse genres, and diverse characters. Ellie Ultra is just one of a few early readers with POC as protagonists that I’ve read recently (Juana & Medina and Bea Garcia are the others). And, especially right now, it is so important to have a diverse selection of characters for readers to relate to! Ellie is also different because it is sci-fi! It is a wonderful intro to the world of superheroes mixed with the widely understood topic of starting new things. This, and its sequels!, are going to be a book that many young readers are going to enjoy!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Ellie Ultra is going to be a wonderful addition to any early ed classroom library and as a read aloud. The after back matter of Ellie Ultra has a glossary, discussion questions, and writing activities for the classroom (more below).

Teacher and library section on Gina Bellisario’s website: http://www.ginabellisario.com/for-teachers-and-librarians.html

Discussion Questions: When was a time you had to do something new that you were worried about? What did you do to overcome your worry?; When was a time that something didn’t go as well as you’d hope? How did it turn out?

Two examples from the back matter:

-Ellie’s superhero cape is super special to her–she had to wait months to get it. Talk about an object that is special to you, What makes it so important?

-Ellie is worried that she wont fit in at her new school because her superpowers make her different, but our differences are what make us unique! Write a paragraph about what makes you special and unique.

Flagged Passages: “She [Ellie] had been counting the minutes until she could attend Winkopolis Elementary School for as long as she could remember. But first, she’d had some important things to learn at home, with her parents as her teachers.

In kindergarten, they’d taught her death-ray safety. In first grade, she’d learn how to stump an evil mastermind. And in second grade? That year they’d quizzed her on every super-villain in Winkopolis. Naming their weaknesses counted for extra credit.

It hadn’t been ordinary school, but Ellie’s parents weren’t exactly ordinary. They were super-genius scientists who worked for a special group called B.R.A.I.N. Ellie wasn’t sure what B.R.A.I.N. stood for–only the actual members knew that–but she knew the group squashed super-villains, just like she did. After all, Ellie was a superhero!” (p. 10-11)

Read This If You Love: Superheroes, Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale, Lola series by Christine Pakkala

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**Thank you to Gina for providing a copy for review!**

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Last Day on Mars

Chronicle of the Dark Star: Last Day on Mars
Author: Kevin Emerson
Publishes February 14th, 2017 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: It is Earth year 2213—but, of course, there is no Earth anymore. Not since it was burned to a cinder by the sun, which has mysteriously begun the process of going supernova. The human race has fled to Mars, but this was only a temporary solution while we prepare for a second trip: a one-hundred-fifty-year journey to a distant star, our best guess at where we might find a new home.

Liam Saunders-Chang is one of the last humans left on Mars. The son of two scientists who have been racing against time to create technology vital to humanity’s survival, Liam, along with his friend Phoebe, will be on the very last starliner to depart before Mars, like Earth before it, is destroyed.

Or so he thinks. Because before this day is over, Liam and Phoebe will make a series of profound discoveries about the nature of time and space, and find out that the human race is just one of many in our universe locked in a desperate struggle for survival.

Version 3

About the Author: Kevin Emerson is the author of The Fellowship for Alien Detection as well as the Exile series, the Atlanteans series, the Oliver Nocturne series, and Carlos is Gonna Get It. He is also an acclaimed musician who has recorded songs for both children and adults. A former K-8 science teacher, Kevin lives with his family in Seattle. Visit him online at www.kevinemerson.net

Social Media:
Kevin Emerson on Twitter: @kcemerson
Walden Pond Press Twitter: @waldenpondpress
Walden Pond Press Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WaldenPondPress/
Walden Media Tumblr: http://walden-media.tumblr.com/
LAST DAY ON MARS website on Walden Media: https://www.walden.com/book/last-day-on-mars/

Advance Praise: 

“Enigmatic enemies, sabotage, space travel, and short, bone-wracking bits of time travel make for a banging adventure.” Kirkus Reviews (Starred)

“Last Day on Mars is thrillingly ambitious and imaginative. Like a lovechild of Gravity and The Martian, it’s a rousing space opera for any age, meticulously researched and relentlessly paced, that balances action, science, humor, and most importantly, two compelling main characters in Liam and Phoebe. A fantastic start to an epic new series.” —Soman Chainani, New York Times bestselling author of the School for Good and Evil series

“Emerson’s writing explodes off the page in this irresistible space adventure, filled with startling plot twists, diabolical aliens, and (my favorite!) courageous young heroes faced with an impossible task.” —Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of the Unwanteds series

Review: The suspense that builds throughout this book is palpable! I really enjoyed how Kevin Emerson used a prologue to set the stage for Liam’s world so that once Liam’s story begins, we jump right into the chaos of the the last day on Mars for all humans. What I assumed this story was going to be ended up just being the tip of the iceberg. I knew the story was going to be about humans escaping a doomed Mars, but there is an underlying heart-stopping craziness that really adds suspense to the novel. 

AND you will be so mad when it ends because even though the current conflict is mostly resolved, there is definitely a cliffhanger, and you will be on your seat waiting for book 2 with me!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: My 8th grade teachers have their students take part in dystopian lit circles to discuss different components of utopian vs. dystopian societies, and I think Life on Mars would be a great basis to start a sci-fi lit circle set that would include books about the future of humans that don’t fit the exact dystopian/utopian definition. It would be a really interesting way to discuss authors’ representation of humans’ future. Or if you did this as a an inclusion to a text set, there are many articles, picture books, and movies out there that also touch on this subject.

Publisher Teaching Guide: 

Discussion Questions: What foreshadowing did the prologue give us for what happened to Liam?; What foreshadowing for book two did the end of book one give us about Phoebe?; What character traits does Liam embrace? What evidence supports your analysis?; What event do you think was what propelled the plot to what it became in the end?; Which character do you feel was the hero of the story?

Flagged Passages: “Earth Year: 2179. As you all know, for the past four years we have been documenting unusual activity in the sun. Increased radiation and solar flares have wreaked havoc on daily life. The best minds in the world have studied this data around the clock, and tonight I can report that while we still do not know the cause, the conclusion is unanimous: the sun is expanding and we are all in grave danger.” (p. 14)

Read This If You Loved: Feed by MT Anderson, Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis GillLife on Mars by Jon Agee

Recommended For:

  classroomlibrarybuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall

Blog Tour Stops: 

Jan. 27th  Unleashing Readers

Jan. 30th  SciFi Chick

Feb. 1st  This Kid Reviews Books

Feb. 3rd  Walden Media Tumblr

Feb. 6th  Word Spelunking

Feb. 7th  Novel Novice

Feb.  8th  Charlotte’s Library

Feb. 9th  Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Feb. 10th  Librarian’s Quest

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for having us be part of the blog tour!**

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