Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year! The 2017 Cybils Are Here!

2017 Cybils Finalists Reading List


Once again the amazing people on the Cybils team have prepared my yearly reading list. Despite the fact that I lazed around this year and haven't finished last years list, this year I'm going to try harder. And I'll try to blog more so I can apply to be a judge, which will mean reading and blogging more.

Looking over the list, I've read two already, so I'm starting with a bang.

There, I've started a reading challenge and made a New Years Resolution. I'm clearly doing Monday right so far this year. The list of books is below; as usual I've attempted to preserve the links that give an Amazon kickback to the Cybils team but sometimes I mess up.

Young Adult Speculative Fiction








  1. Scythe (Arc of a Scythe)by Neal Shusterman. In the future, DEATH has been banned and the government refuses to control the winnowers. Only our protagonists are willing to stand up against to corruption in their ranks. It's fun but moves to a familiar rhythm. I did like how the two protagonists played against each other, even after they were separated.
  2. The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones. In the PRESENT, demons are trading favors for body parts. It turns out they have a use for these parts, as Dee finds out when she encounters an unusual demon. This leads her to a break with her family, a chance at a future, and first love. And possibly to saving the world. It's fun and keeps the emphasis on the small problems (Dee's terrible life) rather than the world saving.
  3. Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser. All the river generations of her family have had a special connection with the river god, but not our heroine. Even as she steps up to captain the boat and deal with the sudden introduction of cute aristocrats and dynastic ambitions that niggles a bit, but then she learns her special destiny. It's a lot of fun, but sadly I'm at the time of life (parenting older teens) that I find young adult enthusiasm tiring rather than endearing. I plan to weather the years and get back to enjoying myself as my kids age.

They Both Die at the Endby Adam Silvera
HarperTeen
Nominated by: Jen Petro-Roy

Wonder Woman: Warbringerby Leigh Bardugo
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennifer Schultz


Young Adult Fiction







  1. Moxie: A Novel by Jennifer Mathieu. I was starting to drag my feet on reading more YA -- the kids were so emotional, so sure that their problems were the biggest ever (whether they were saving the world, their family, or their love lives), but this one charmed me completely. The girl had a sense of proportion but still wanted to try to make changes. She found love, but isn't ready to sound wedding bells. Friends mattered as much as new love. I will press this on my teen readers.
  2. Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson. Another one that knocked my socks off. This book about a girl attending a posh school on scholarship really examined the dynamics of beneficence, both by the school and by the mentors in the uplifting program the school selects for her. Does needing help mean being broken? Does accepting it mean accepting being judged and found wanting? How does racism feel from the outside (and from the inside?). 
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Great voice, timely book. Was a bit too by-the-numbers, but still an affecting and fresh book. (read in May 2017)
  4. Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali. Janna is a hijab wearing Muslim who worries about her grades, has a crush on a cute boy, has to give up her room to her brother, and earns extra money helping out with her eighty year old neighbor. But what really defines this year is the assault by the popular boy from the Mosque, which leaves her uncertain and unable to talk to her friends about the biggest thing in her life. How she navigates the next few months and learns to find her own strength makes for a fresh and convincing book.
A Short History of the Girl Next Doorby Jared Reck
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publisher/ Author Submission

The Inexplicable Logic of My Lifeby Benjamin Alire Saenz
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Maureen E

The Lake Effectby Erin McCahan
Dial Books
Nominated by: SteveL



Young Adult Graphic Novels




  1. Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld. I loved the graphics of the monsters, and appreciated the diverse characters that made it easy for me to tell who was doing what. The story of the energetic but short-sighted older sister who is frantically trying to keep her damaged younger sister alive after an apocalypse was gripping, and the hints of the similarly affected young man at the end made me want the sequel.
  2. Soupy Leaves Home by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Jose Pimienta. This is a short historical story drawn in a matter-of-fact way about a youth who starts riding the rails to escape an untenable home situation during America's great depression. There's a good balance between societal problems (joblessness, poverty) and personal issues (abusive parents, making good judgments), and everything seems very specific rather than educational. Amazingly, I had no trouble telling people apart, which is highly unusual for me with a graphic novel.
  3. New Super-Man Vol. 1: Made In China (Rebirth) (Super-Man – New Super-Man (Rebirth)) by Gene Luen Yang. I liked that I was rarely confused about who was who, but I don't like pulling against the narrative so much. I disliked the friendship between the heroes, which ignored the kidnapping and torture, I disliked the government agency that sponsored said crimes (even though in a surprise reveal it turned out to be bad! or at least ambiguous!), and the home life reveals seemed a bit emotionally cheap. But this is one of my first DC comics so maybe it works better with more context? This is a short historical story


Buddha: An Enlightened Lifeby by Kieron Moore; Illustrated by Rajesh Nagulakonda
Campfire books
Publisher/ Author Submission

Spinningby Tillie Walden
First Second Books
Nominated by: Pat Zietlow Miller

Tyson Hesse’s Diesel: Ignitionby Tyson Hesse
BOOM! Box
Publisher/ Author Submission



Older Non-Fiction


Senior High Non-Fiction








  1. A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg. I was fascinated by the ideas presented in this book. I love the idea of humans and dogs co-evolving, and enjoyed the archeological, genetic and social information put forward. A few times I was left unsure where the information came from (including, unfortunately, in the first few pages) and at the end I wanted more but the bibliography didn't help me find it.
  2. How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana. I had a mixed reaction. The parts about her early life were interesting, the description of the massacre and life as a refugee heartbreaking but fascinating, and her integration in America and struggles with American racisms maddening but effective. But I'm a curmudgeonly parent and found her teen rebellions and fights with her parents a bit dull, which is unfair but there it is. I assume actual teen readers would not have that reaction.
  3. Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights: From the Vote to the Equal Rights Amendment by Deborah Kops. I learned a lot from this, especially about American suffrage during President Wilson's tenure, and the brutal acts of the government when the women annoyed people too much. I thought it had a nice balance of current events during the women's protests. Alice Paul was unknown to me before, so I'm glad I've learned something about the author of the ERA, even if it never becomes part of America. But than America turns out to be a rather lousy place.
  4. Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the Worldb y Sarah Prager. This collection of short biographies of historical people who fit our modern idea of "queer" (the book talks about changing vocabulary and cultural context) is lighthearted and serves its purpose of showing that queerness was not invented last week but has been a part of the human condition as long as we've had humans. The tone is casual and almost trendy and seems to assume the reader lives somewhere welcoming and tolerant.

Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War IIby Albert Marrin
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Lackywanna

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothersby Deborah Heiligman
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Becky L.



Junior High Non-Fiction


Bound by Ice: A True North Pole Survival Storyby Sandra Neil Wallace
Calkins Creek Books
Nominated by: RebeccaGAguilar

Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’dby Mary Losure
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Lackywanna

Locked Up for Freedom: Civil Rights Protesters at the Leesburg Stockadeby by Heather E. Schwartz
Millbrook Press
Publisher/ Author Submission

Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicinesby Sarah Albee
Crown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Celebrate Science

The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Foundby Martin W. Sandler
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Linda Baie

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Teamby Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Heidi G.

Younger Non-Fiction


Middle Grade Non-Fiction


Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagleby Deborah Lee Rose and ‎ Jane Veltkamp
Persnickety Press
Nominated by: Becky
Fred Korematsu Speaks Up (Fighting for Justice)by Written by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi; Illustrated by Yutaka Houlette
Heyday
Nominated by: Mike Jung

Lost in Outer Space (Lost #2): The Incredible Journey of Apollo 13by Tod Olson
Scholastic Nonfiction
Nominated by: Becky L.

Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Soulsby Tonya Bolden
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Shelley Diaz

Red Cloudby S.D. Nelson
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Publisher/ Author Submission

Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive!by Ammi-Joan Paquette and‎ Laurie Thompson,‎ illustrated by Lisa Weber 
Walden Pond Press
Nominated by: Flowering Minds

Zoo Scientists to the Rescueby Patricia Newman
Millbrook Press
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Elementary Non-Fiction


Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survivalby Written by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho, illustrated by Brian Deines
Pajama Press
Publisher/ Author Submission

Danza!: Amalia Hernández and Mexico’s Folkloric Balletby Duncan Tonatiuh
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Kate B.

Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusionby Chris Barton, illustrated by Victo NgaiMillbrook Press
Nominated by: Jen Robinson

Hatching Chicks in Room 6by Caroline Arnold
Charlesbridge
Nominated by: Claire Annette Noland

Once Upon a Jungleby Laura Knowles, illustrated by James Boast  
Firefly Books Ltd.
Nominated by: Charlotte

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientistby Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens 
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Nominated by: Jessica



Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction


  1. Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood. I really like Sage Blackwood's books, and this one is no exception. She's always willing to work in shades of gray -- the good guys make bad choices, the bad guys have their own reasons. People mean well but fall short, and the children must differentiate between what they can do, what they should do, and what they must do. And the magic and dragons and cross-boy wielding barbarians are fun too!


A Face Like Glassby Frances Hardinge
Amulet
Nominated by: Sam Musher

A Properly Unhaunted Placeby William Alexander
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: Maureen E

Last Day on Mars (Chronicle of the Dark Star)by Kevin Emerson
Walden Pond Press
Nominated by: Debbie Tanner

Spirit Huntersby Ellen Oh
HarperCollins
Nominated by: Deb

The Countdown Conspiracyby Katie Slivensky
HarperCollins
Nominated by: Pat Zietlow Miller

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heartby Stephanie Burgis
Bloomsbury USA
Nominated by: Heidi G.



Middle-Grade Fiction








  1. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan. Easy middle grade read about a girl stumbling over the higher social expectations of junior high. She's a bit immature for her age and it shows. She's also Muslim, painfully shy, intimidated by her more devout uncle, and scared by an attack on her Mosque, making her an interesting and realistic character.
Armstrong and Charlieby Steven B. Frank
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Greg Pattridge

Caleb and Kitby Beth Vrabel
Running Press Kids
Nominated by: Mrs. Shh!

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactusby Dusti Bowling
Sterling Publishing
Nominated by: Heidi G.

Refugeeby Alan Gratz
Scholastic
Nominated by: Wendy

Restartby Gordon Korman
Scholastic
Nominated by: Deb

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamoraby Pablo Cartaya
Viking Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Melissa Fox



Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels








  1. Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani. I liked the illustrations and the realistic story -- amazingly for me, I could usually tell who was who from page to page. I was a bit disappointed with the resolution of the fantastic pashmina parts; it didn't seem integrated with the emotional themes of the rest of the book.

Real Friendsby Shannon Hale, ilustrated by LeUyen Pham
First Second Books
Nominated by: Becky L.

Suee and the Shadowby Written by Ginger Ly. Illustrated by Molly Park
Harry N Abrams
Publisher/ Author Submission

The Big Bad Foxby Benjamin Renner
First Second Books
Nominated by: Mel Schuit

The Dam Keeperby Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi First Second Books
Nominated by: Corrina Allen

Where’s Halmoni?by Julie Kim
Little Bigfoot
Nominated by: Anamaria (bookstogether)



Poetry (done)





  1. I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris. This ranked up there with Shel Silverstein for me, with poems referencing each other, poems making fun of themselves, poems celebrating words and childhood and children and humor. I shared it with my poetry-adverse son and he wasn't mad. I want to buy it and send it to kids I know, which is always a sign of a good Cybils book.
  2. One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes. This introduced me to a new form of poetry and then made me love it. The idea of reacting to a poem by writing a new poem based on the words in a line or a stanza (or the whole poem) sounded gimmicky until Grimes demonstrated the strength and power of the form. And the pictures were perfect.
  3. Bull by David Elliott. The different styles of poetry differentiated the different voices telling the story of Crete during King Minos's rule, with the Minotaur, his parents, his sister, his captor and his killer all chiming in. I don't particularly like the hip-hop style but it did suit Poseidon, and I'd gladly push this on kids interested in Greek Mythology (even if through Percy Jackson).
  4. Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market by Michelle Schaub. This picture book combined energetic illustrations with short poems evoking different aspects of a neighborhood farmers market, from dawn until shut down. All the senses are celebrated, various types of poems are used but the top of my head knew they were all poems.
  5. Keep a Pocket in Your Poem: Classic Poems and Playful Parodies by J. Patrick Lewis. A short picture book collection of classic poems or excerpts of poems accompanied by the author's twist on them. It's a great way to show poems as something people create and to encourage people (kids!) to make their own versions, or just to engage with poems as something living. The pictures are lighthearted but not goofy.
  6. Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote by Margarita Engle. This lovely picture book biography of Cervantes shows how imagination and creativity can sustain people even through tough situations. It gives some history of his childhood and how long the idea of Quixote worked within the author. I did tend to read it more as a nonfiction book than as poems, although the format reinforced the emphasis on imagination and fluency.
  7. Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley,‎ and Marjory Wentworth. Like Lewis's book this is a book of poems celebrating poets (especially ones from the Harlem Renaissance). It also has lovely images and I liked the poems, but since I am uneducated I didn't know the styles of many of the poets featured. I really wished they gave examples of the originals along with the homage pieces because I kept feeling like I was missing half the conversation. I bet most kids are also ignorant of some of these greats, but maybe it wouldn't bother them?

Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books (done)

Early Chapter Books (done)






These were all great -- I would be happy for any of them to have won.
  1. Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz. Enchanting mix of gentle self discovery and ridiculous shenanigans as the princess and her pet crocodile switch places to give her a day away from the royal grind. It feels more like an extended picture book to me, but the illustrations and words draw readers in and the story drives the message rather than the other way around. A delight.
  2. Overboard! (Survivor Diaries) by Terry Lynn Johnson. This felt like a real chapter book. I liked the firm setting and realistic kids who dealt with their extreme situation. As an adult, I resented the lesson the boy learned as he was forced to overcome his personal fears to rescue himself, but I think I wasn't as jaded when I was a kid. This is one I'm gifting to entice a slightly reluctant reader.
  3. My Fantástica Family (Sofia Martinez) by Jacqueline Jules. This feels like a first chapter book. I actually read it as 3 separate books as that's how my library is acquiring the series. Sofia is again brash but quick witted, and I like her extended supportive family. The problems are small but the energy is large, and the Spanish sprinkled throughout give it an authentic feel; that's how a lot of kids talk.
  4. Dragons and Marshmallows (Zoey and Sassafras) by Asia Citro. Another "real" book. Zoey has to step up and join her mom as caretaker to injured animals, and she uses a mixture of research, the scientific method, and empathy to figure out how to treat the baby dragon who applies to her family's rescue operation. I liked how it was Zoey and the cat on the line, although the adults were there to support her when she got overwhelmed.
  5. The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. Another extended picture book. The Princess just wants to take a nap, which I completely emphasize with but I'm not sure kids would agree. Her exhaustion is detailed with humor, so maybe. Meanwhile the Goat Avenger really wants to step up -- it's not quite that he's hoping for a monster attack, it's just that he'd be really good at dealing with it. I appreciate that even as Goat Boy wants to strut his stuff, it's clear that Princess Black is a much superior super hero.
  6. Wedgie & Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors. Definitely felt like a book. This one ran a bit long for me but the basic premise should have wide kid appeal. I can see it working well as a shared read, where the weaker reader takes the pages for Wedgie the Corgi and the other reads for Gizmo the genius. 
  7. Heartwood Hotel, Book 2 The Greatest Gift by Kallie George. Read like a book. The working class animals of the hotel won my heart -- our hero is a new maid and a bit worried about keeping up and clueless about cultural traditions that her orphan status kept her away from, such as gift-giving and secret santas. Meanwhile there are aristocrats and true hardship cases, and a tough winter for everyone.
  8. Barkus by Patricia MacLachlan. More of a texty picture book in feel. A girl and a dog bond over life, including school, a new kitten, and other domestic adventures. Fun, enticing pictures, and easy reading.

Easy Readers (done)


TAnother strong category -- I would be happy with any of the top five winning, and even the bottom two weren't bad.

  1. My Kite is Stuck! and Other Stories (A Duck, Duck, Porcupine Book) by Salina Yoon. I fell hard for Little Duck and never looked back. The wordless member of this group clearly carries all the brains for his team, and it would be fun to share a reading experience with kids following their adventures. I of course would volunteer to read Little Duck's parts.
  2. There’s a Pest in the Garden! (The Giggle Gang) by Jan Thomas. I had read the other book in this series first, so I could appreciate Duck's worries about his turnips. This would be a fun book to listen to a child read, and the final twist about who is really the pest would make all the effort worthwhile.
  3. We Need More Nuts! (Penguin Young Readers, Level 2) by Jonathan Fenske. I like numbers, and I have an affinity for annoying brothers who mean well but need a clue-by-four to understand that they have exceeded their sibling's patience. So this would've worked well for my family, and we are the kind of people who would appreciate the worries about the missing 11th nut.
  4. King & Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code (King and Kayla) by Dori Hillestad. I should mention that I solved the code before King, because I've read other code/spy books. The reading is gentle and a bit repetitive to encourage novices. I think my kids would have preferred the children not to need hints, though.
  5. Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy: Book 2 by Laurel Snyder. I enjoyed this book about two young kids (boys?) and their visiting grandfather, who cherishes them and enjoys spending time with them. It felt more like a picture book than a guide to independent reading, though; perhaps because I don't think of kids as so sentimental about good-byes. Maybe this is a relic of my own heartless sons.
  6. What Is Chasing Duck? (The Giggle Gang) by Jan Thomas. A chicken-little type story with the expected twist at the end but it should encourage readers with the large letters and predictable plot.
  7. Tooth Fairy’s Night (Step into Reading) by Candice Ransom. This seemed more like a picture book -- the words were simple but didn't seem designed to lure early readers somehow. They were neither simple or elegant.
  8. I Like the Farm by Shelley Rotner. The photos of both children and animals were great, but the words were rather dull. I guess it would allow for some sight word recognition, but honestly it works really well as a picture book but I don't see it as a good encouragement to read.

Fiction Picture Books (done)

My book club has started a summer tradition of sitting down with all these picture books and rating them to see how we stack up against the Cybils judges. This year everyone appreciated the wide range of stories in the finalist list, and we enjoyed them all. There was a sense that the Book of Mistakes was aimed at adults, but we liked that as it meant we could entice a few spouses into reading along.






  1. Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper. This one shot me right in the feels. It's a lovely concept, with the two minimally drawn cats nevertheless showing a full range of feline behaviors and emotions, and the very distinctive black and white making for good contrast. Then the final twist, which I should have expected but did not, was powerful. I also loved the single shot we got of the human family.
  2. Baabwaa and Wooliam by David Elliott, illustrated by ‎ Melissa Sweet. I didn't realize until we met him that Wooliam is an avid reader, so already I loved this book. The mix of fantasy and realism was perfect -- the sheep read and knit, but live in a meadow bounded by a stone wall. And the friendship with the wolf had all sorts of kinks and awkwardness, but was still a friendship.
  3. After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat. Gentle pictures show Humpty dealing with a fear of heights after his crack-up, and triumphing. The final scenes are beautiful, with all the feathers. (Read Oct 2017)
  4. Escargot by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Sydney Hanson. The confidence of the snail grabbed me from the first pages -- she knew she was great, and brave, and willing to try new things. Even being afraid of things didn't shake that confidence, or knowing she'll never top the list of favorite animals. I liked how it engaged the reader, but I worry that I would not be able to muster up the appropriate French accent.
  5. Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown. The brash voice of the boy claiming the creepy underwear and then frantically trying to rid himself of them carries this book. I worry that the transgressive nature of a book about underwear would entertain listening kids much longer than reading me.
  6. Flowers for Sarajevo by John McCutcheon, illustrated by Kristy Caldwell. The pictures and text delicately tell this story of war, death, and grief. An afterward separates the history from the literary license; I found the made-up story of the boy who takes over his drafted father's flower stand very moving, since we never learn the fate of his dad. 
  7. The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken. A great philosophical picture book, but I think it works better as a gift for a graduate than for a beloved read by a preschooler. 

Board Books (done)



  1. Circle, Triangle, Elephant: A Book of Shapes and Surprises by Kenji Oikawa and Mayuko Takeuc. This would have been perfect for me, especially if reading to both kids at once. The simple shapes for the baby, and the surprises for the toddler would keep both entertained. And I liked the colors and the combinations enough for the rereading every board book gets.
  2. Peek-a Moo! by Nina Laden. It is easy to imagine sharing this book with a baby -- the short, patterned words, the bright pictures, the fun of peeking through the pages all make for an energetic read.
  3. Changing Faces: Meet Happy Bear by Nathan Thoms, illustrated by Carles Ballesteros. Clearly I'm a sucker for moving parts -- I loved how the movement happened just by turning the pages, so you see the bear's changing expressions. The mouse's antics also worked well. It had just the right amount of plot for a baby book -- one page leads to another, but it's not a complicated tale.
  4. One Happy Tiger by Catherine Rayner. The illustrations of the tiger were luminous, from it's lonely One page to its increasing happiness as it interacts with the growing numbers. It would be a lovely gift for new parents and one that the baby would also appreciate.
  5. Bears Are Big by Douglas Florian,  illustrated by Barbara Bakos. Fun pictures, interesting things to explore on each page, and a very gentle rhyme scheme that you might not even notice make for a good board book.
  6. When Your Lion Needs a Bath by Susanna Leonard Hill, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman. Fun and playful, with the right kind of gags to entertain. A bit sophisticated for baby hands, but maybe good for clumsy toddlers and preschoolers who don't do well with paper books but want to read to themselves.
  7. Hair (Leslie Patricelli board books) by Leslie Patricelli. This is an art style that doesn't really work for me, and again it was rather plotty for a baby -- it might make a better picture book.

53/104 (ish), 5/15 categories

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