Featured Reviews

Keeping Out Winter’s Chill: Malbish Arumim/ Who Clothes the Naked

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

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We are on the seventh blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

 “Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

Who clothes the naked.”

It is definitely winter in Washington, DC. The weather people are explaining that something called a Polar Vortex has moved into the region causing temperatures in the single digits with a wind chill that is below zero.  This California Girl has never been so cold. I am, therefore, layering on as many clothes as I can.

Yet I see people on the streets – old and young, working and homeless – who are not wearing nearly enough to keep out this kind of cold. The newspaper is filled with stories of overfilled shelters, underfunded elderly who cannot afford more heat, and homeless huddled on the streets around heating grates, alongside the stories of year end executive bonuses, corporate earnings and the so-called end of the recession or beginning of another one, depending on what you read. The Polar Vortex and Mother Nature care little about any of that. It’s winter, the snow is falling and the temperature is dropping, setting new records for cold! Since each of us contains a piece of God’s light inside of us (that is my belief, anyway,) buying some extra blankets, perhaps participating in a winter coat drive, and distributing the items to whoever needs them most in our communities is God’s way of “clothing the naked.” Just a thought.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B. 

 

LadyinBoxThe Lady in the Box. By Anne McGovern. Illustrated By Marni Backer. ©2004. Turtle Books. Ages 5-9.  During the snowy, winter holiday season, a brother and sister secretly try to help a woman they see sleeping in a box outside of their local deli. The deli owner wants the woman to move away from the warm front of his store. However, when their mother finds out what they are doing and the woman’s plight, she gets involved and changes everything.

Lily and the Paper Man. Written and illustrated by Rebecca Upjohn. ©2007. Second Story Press. Ages 6-10.  Lily is frightened when she sees a ragged, grumpy man sellingLilyPaperMan papers on the street one day. She insists that her mother take her home from school on the bus to avoid him.  When winter comes around,  Lily notices the man has holes in his shoes and coat, no socks and a thin shirt and pants. She realizes she cannot ignore him any longer and must do something to help.

RagCoat

The Rag Coat. Written and Illustrated By Lauren Mills. ©1991. Little Brown Books for Young Readers. Ages 5-9.  A young Appalachian girl must have a coat in order to attend school in the cold Appalachian Mountains. When the Quilting Mothers group creates a coat of clothing scraps, her classmates laugh at her, until she tells them the stories that accompany each piece of cloth.

ShelterCar

A Shelter in Our Car. by Monica Gunning. Illustrated by Elaine Pedlar. ©2004. Children’s Book Press. Ages 6-10. When 8-year-old Zettie’s father dies, she and her mother leave Jamaica and go to America in search of better opportunities. Harassed by police, bullied by her classmates and frightened by all that is happening around her, Zettie maintains her strength with the constant love and support of her mother. When eventually the tide turns, these two strong females are sure to leave a lasting impression on you and your family.

 

©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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The 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Awards

The Association of Jewish Libraries announced the winners of the 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Awards this morning. This is a wonderful collection of the best Jewish children’s books published last year. While I have not read every single book on this list, I have read most of them, and I encourage you to locate these treasures in your local bookstore or library to bring home to your family. If you want to learn more about the authors and illustrators of these books, follow the Sydney Taylor Award Blog Tour that begins on February 16. Now for that announcement:

 

AJLlogo   SydneyGold

  2014 Sydney Taylor Book Awards Announced by AJL

 Laurel Snyder and Catia Chien, author and illustrator of The Longest Night:  A Passover Story, Patricia Polacco author and illustrator of The Blessing Cup, and Neal Bascomb, author of The Nazi Hunters:  How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi, are the 2014 winners of the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

Younger Readers Award

LongNight

Snyderand Chien will receive the 2014 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Younger Readers category for  The Longest Night:  A Passover Story, published by Schwartz & Wade, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. Written in gentle verse, the tumultuous days leading up to the Jews flight from Egypt are described from the perspective of an unnamed slave girl in this beautifully illustrated story. It provides a unique introduction to the Passover holiday for young readers in an honest, but age-appropriate way. Committee member Charna Gross notes: “We all know about our history as slaves in Egypt, the ten plagues, the Exodus, and the splitting of the Red Sea. But in Snyder’s retelling, accompanied by Chien’sdream-like illustrations, we are somehow transported to the rusty red banks of the Nile, witnessing each plague. This book is a marvel.”

Older Readers Award

BlessingCupThe award in the Older Readers category will be presented to Patricia Polacco for The Blessing Cupa Paula Wiseman Book,  published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. In this prequel to The Keeping Quilt, Polacco shares the story of another treasured family heirloom. The miraculous journey of the remaining teacup from a china tea set, deliberately left behind when her Jewish ancestors were forced to leave Czarist Russia, from the shtetl to America will strike an emotional chord with readers. “I was moved to tears reading this book. The gorgeous illustrations and heartfelt story remind readers of the importance of sharing from generation to generation our own family histories and the incredible sacrifices made by our ancestors to start new lives in America,” said committee chair, Aimee Lurie. In 1988, The Keeping Quilt was the Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Younger Readers.
Teen Readers Award

NaziHuntNeal Bascomb will receive the 2014 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Teen Readers category for The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic. A stunning account of the spy mission to capture Adolf Eichmann by an elite team of Israeli spies is dramatically brought to life by Neal Bascomb.   According to committee member Barbara Krasner, “It is obvious that he spent decades conducting meticulous research on several continents to produce this winning and chilling narrative. Bascomb has set a new nonfiction gold standard for young readers.”

Honor BooksSydneySilver

Six Sydney Taylor Honor Books were named for 2014:

Honor Books for Younger Readers

Stones for Grandpa by Renee Londoner with illustrations by Martha Avillés. (Kar-Ben Publishing, a Division of Lerner Publications)

Rifka Takes a Bow by Betty Rosenberg Perlov with illustrations by Cosei Kawa. (Kar-Ben Publishing, a Division of Lerner Publications)

Honor Books for Older Readers

The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible…on Schindler’s List by Leon Leyson with Marilyn J. Harran and Elisabeth B. Leyson (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)

Dear Canada: Pieces of the Past: The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1948 by Carol Matas (Scholastic Canada)

Honor Books for Teen Readers

Dancing in the Dark by Robyn Bavati (Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide)

The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax with illustrations by Caryl Strzelecki and translated by Laura Watkinson (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers).

 

Notable Books

In addition to the medal-winners, the Award Committee designated thirteen Notable Books of Jewish Content for 2014.

Notable Books for Younger Readers

Benny’s Mitzvah Notes by Marc Lumer (Hachai Publishing)

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909  by Michelle Markel with illustrations by Melissa Sweet (Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street by Ann Redisch Stampler with illustrations by Francesca Carabelli (Kar-Ben Publishing, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.)

Hanukkah in Alaska by Barbara Brown with illustrations by Stacey Schuett (Henry Holt and Company, LLC)

The Passover Lamb by Linda Elovitz Marshall with illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.)

Our Special New Baby by Chava Cohen with illustrations by Rivkie Braverman (Feldheim Publishers)

 

Notable Books for Older Readers

The Barefoot Book of Jewish Tales by Shoshana Boyd Gelfand with illustrations by Amanda Hall story CD narrated by Debra Messing (Barefoot Books Inc)

B.U.G (Big Ugly Guy) by Jane Yolem and Adam Stemple (Dutton’s Children Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA Inc.)

Odette’s Secrets by Maryann Macdonald (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Touched by Fire by Irene N. Watts (Tundra Books)

When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home by Gail Langer Karwoski with illustrations by Julia Marshall (The History Press)

 

Notable Books for Teens

Helga’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Account of Life in a Concentration Camp by Helga Weisstranslated by Neil Bermel Introduction by Francine Prose (W.W. Norton & Company)

Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust by Leanne Lieberman (Orca Book Publishers)

More information about the Sydney Taylor Book Award can be found at www.SydneyTaylorBookAward.org.

Please join me in congratulating these extraordinary authors and illustrators on their achievement and thanking the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee for the time and effort they put in to reaching this remarkable list of outstanding titles.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

 ©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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The Four Corners of Our Feet: Hameichin Mitzadei Gaver/ Who Strengthens Our Steps

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.
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We are on the sixth blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

 

“Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

Who strengthens our steps.”

 

For a number of reasons, I recently began practicing Yoga (again!) I want to see if keeping my body a bit more flexible will assist in alleviating some of the discomfort I have been experiencing in my back and neck. While doing the practice, I have discovered that rather than focusing on my spine, arms or legs, I seem to be concentrating on what my feet are doing. The teacher I use encourages me to “stand on the four corners of” my feet. Interestingly, when I do that, the rest of my body seems to fall into place.

While I certainly understand what it means to “be grounded” and have discovered many ways to get myself to that feeling, the Yoga experience is slightly different. Rather than “grounding” myself to keep my head connected to my body, Yoga enables me to “ground” myself in order to keep all the parts of my body connected, healthy and working together. The experience is extraordinary and strengthening.

Prayer, “grounding,” Yoga or some other focused meditation on our feet, is a powerful way to connect with our life’s path. It appears that in “strengthening our steps,” The Holy One of Being points us in the right direction for whatever journey we may be taking today.

Happy Reading!

 

Kathy B.

 dancingWingsDancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. ©2000. Philomel. Ages 6-10.  What do you do when your too-big feet, your too-long legs and your big mouth get in the way of your dream of becoming a star ballerina? Sassy does everything she can to realize her dream when the Dance Festival Director comes to town to audition students, but may have gone too far with the orange leotard. Based on the author’s true life experiences.

 

FootBook

The Foot Book Written and Illustrated By Dr. Seuss. ©1968. Random House. Ages 3-7.  Who knows more about feet and what they can do than Dr. Seuss? “Oh, how many feet you meet!”

 

 HarrisFeetHarris Finds His Feet Written and Illustrated By Catherine Rayner. ©2008. Good Books. Ages 5-8.  Harris wants to know why he has such big feet. So he asks his Grandpa who leads him on a wondrous journey of discovery and ultimately independence.

 

The Queen’s Feet by Sarah Ellis. Illustrated by Dušan Petričić. ©2006. Red Deer Press. Ages 5-8. Queen Daisy is a wonderful ruler, except that her feet have a mind of their own. Whether tap dancing or walking in the fish pond, wearing boots that thumped through the palace halls or sandals to show off her toenail polish, her feet did and wore whatever they QueensFeetwanted. All that was fine, until her feet kicked a visiting king in the shins – well, he was a bully – but that was rude! Then the wizards and wise people of the country had to get involved.

 

©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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The Power of Water: Roka Haaretz al Hamayim/Who Spreads Out the Earth Over the Waters

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

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We are on the fifth blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

 “Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

Who spreads the earth over the waters.”

I cannot help but think about the power of water when reciting this blessing. The image that comes to mind is of rushing waters being held back by stretches of land. Since approximately 70% of the earth’s surface is water, it seems like a losing battle. Certainly the recent tragedy in the Philippines along with Hurricane Sandy, Japan’s Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and many other water catastrophes prove the point.

Global warming, climate change, environmental degradation and more are all contributing to a rise in planetary water issues. Whether too much or not enough, the power of water can be felt all over the world.  Yet, we are the only creatures who can do anything to change the current course of environmental destruction.  While every day we thank God for the daily miracle that is the ground beneath our feet, we must also pray for the wisdom to make the necessary behavioral modifications that will insure that ground remains available to us and future generations.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

These SeasThese Seas Count by Alison Formento. Illustrated by Sarah Snow. ©2013. Albert Whitman & Company. Ages 6-10.  This charming book is so much more than a child’s counting book. An introduction to the ecology of the ocean and what happens when any body of water is damaged by pollution, this is a child’s first introduction to helping keep the earth clean and healthy.

KentaWave Kenta and the Big Wave Written and Illustrated By Ruth Ohi. ©2013. Annick Press. Ages 5-8.  An amazing story, based on real life accounts, of a soccer ball that is swept away during Japan’s Tsumani yet finds its way across the ocean to another country then back to its owner.

TsunamiYoungTsunami by Kimiko Kajikawa. Illustrated by Ed Young. ©2009. Philomel. Ages 5-9.  How much would you be willing to lose to save the lives of others? In this remarkable story, a rich, old man realizes he must give up most of his wealth in order to alert his village of an oncoming tsunami.

endurArk

Tsunami Written and illustrated  by Joydeb and Moyna Chitrakar. ©2012. Tara Books. Ages 10-18. This remarkable book is at once the story of the Tsunami that swept ThailaTsunamiTarand in 2004 and a graphically illustrated scroll depicting that event. Called a “Patua,” this is a form of performance art that is used in India to tell both traditional folktales and current news to villagers throughout the  area.  This team also created The Enduring Ark, the story of Noah’s Ark, told in this same “Patua” scroll style.

 GoingBlueGoing Blue: A Teen Guide to SAVING Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands by Cathryn Berger Kaye & Phillipe Cousteau. ©2010. Free Spirit Publishing. Ages 12-18 years. This book is a “Call to Action” for our teens to move from the extraordinary work they have done saving the earth by “Going Green,” to now saving the earth’s water supplies by “Going Blue.” Loaded with information, reference material and social action project, this is an excellent resource for teens, their families and teachers.

 

©2013 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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A Thanksgivukkah Book List

Books used in this review are from my personal library, were provided as review copies by the publisher or come from my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

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Although I am not fond of this Hanukkah + Thanksgiving = “Thansgivukkah” idea, the fact is it has infiltrated the Jewish world like a virus. T-shirts, Turkey Menorahs, special holiday recipes and crafts abound! So, while my family and I will be celebrating the holidays as separately as we can, I am succumbing to the desire to provide some additional information for those that want it. Hence this list of books compiled at the behest of Heidi Estrin, friend, Librarian extraordinaire, and President of the Association of Jewish Libraries, who has an outstanding list on Facebook.

I have not, as yet, found a “Thanksgivukkah” title – nor will we need one for another 80,000 years – so we will have to satisfy ourselves with what we have. Below, please find a list of the books I have recommended for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah over the past few years:

Thanksgiving

adamevesunsetAdam & Eve’s First Sunset: God’s New Day. Written by Sandy Sasso Eisendberg. Illustrated by Joani Keller Rothenberg. Jewish Lights Publishing, ©2003. Ages 6-10. On their first day in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve notice that the sun is moving down in the sky. Try as they might, nothing they can do – neither praise nor shouting – will stop the sun from setting and disappearing. Even though God teaches them to create fire, they spend the night cold, afraid and restless. When the sun comes up the next morning, they realize that day and night are part of God’s creation, for which they are very thankful.

All of Me!

All of Me! A Book of Thanks. Written and illustrated by Molly Bang. Scholastic, Inc., ©2009. Ages 3-7. This is the perfect book to introduce young children to thanking God for the miracle of the human body and all its functions. Using charming, bright illustrations and simple text, it celebrates the head to toe, inside and outside marvel that is each and every one of us.

onefeastmouseOne is a Feast for Mouse: A Thanksgiving Tale. Written by Judy Cox. Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler. Holiday House, ©2008. Ages 4-8. After Thanksgiving dinner, when everyone is resting after the feast, Mouse sneaks out to find a little something. He spies a pea, a perfect dinner for a little mouse, but then he sees a cranberry, an olive, a carrot, mashed potatoes…sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomach and can lead us into big trouble!

splattySplat Says Thank You! Written and illustrated by Rob Scotton. HarperCollins Publishers, ©2012. Ages 3-8. Splat the Cat’s friend, Seymour the Mouse, is very sick with spots all over his body. To make Seymour smile, Splat creates a Friendship Book filled with pictures and memories of all the times Seymour has helped Splat. It is Splat’s way of saying “Thank You” to Seymour for being “my smallest friend and my biggest.”

tablerichsit

The Table Where Rich People Sit By Byrd Baylor. Illustrated by Peter Parnall. Aladdin Paperbacks, © 1994. Ages 4-8. A young girl wants to prove to her parents that the family is poor, until they show her that money may not be everything that makes a family rich.

TYsarah

 Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson. Illustrated by Matt Faulkner. © 2002, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Ages 5-10. “Pick up your pen. Change the world.” That is what Sarah Hale did, and because she did, we celebrate Thanksgiving every year.  It took this strong, dynamic woman over 38 years to get an American president to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. This is the remarkable story of how she did it.

towncountrymouseTown Mouse, Country Mouse By Jan Brett. Illustrated by Jan Brett. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, © 1994. Ages 4-8. The classic fable with the moral: Better poor and peaceful than rich and fearful.

 

 Hanukkah

chanukahlightChanukah Lights by Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Robert Sabuda. © 2011, Candlewick Press. Ages 6-Adult. Winner of the 2012 Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Book Awards (the Jewish equivalent of the Caldecott Honor), this marvel of pop-up engineering takes the reader on a 2000 year tour through Jewish history. From the Temple in Jerusalem where Hanukkah began, across deserts, over oceans, into shtetls and onto kibbutz farm land, each two page spread is an enriching and engaging exploration of how the Hanukkah lights have always been a beacon of hope for the Jewish people.

borisstellaBoris and Stella and the Perfect Gift written and illustrated by Dara Goldman. © 2013 Sleeping Bear Press. Ages 5-9. Boris and Stella love each other very much. So at Christmas time, Boris wants to give Stella something beautiful for her Christmas tree. At Hanukkah, Stella wants to give Boris the most exquisite driedel for his collection. When the time comes to exchange gifts, however, they realize how little gifts matter and how much they really do love each other. A lovely interfaith rendition of O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi.”

Harvest of LightHarvest of Light by Alison Ofanansky. Photographs by Eliyahu Alpern. © 2008 Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 4-9.  Imagine gathering the olives that will make the oil to be used to light your Hanukkah menorah. In this wonderful picture book, we once again join the Israeli family as they take us step-by-step through the process of harvesting the olives from the trees, sorting them, cleaning them and taking them to the press to be made into olive oil for their food and fuel.

HershelandhanukkahgoblinsHershel and the Hanukkah Goblins By Eric Kimmel. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Holiday House,  ©1985. Ages 5-9. If I was stranded on a desert island, this is the one book I would want to have with me. I read this book every Hanukkah, to children and adults alike, as the story of Hershel outwitting the King of the Goblins and winning back Hanukkah for a poor town is just that good.

hanukkahbearHanukkah Bear by Eric Kimmel. Illustrated by Wohnoutka. Holiday House, ©2013. Ages 5-9. In this shortened, re-illustrated version of Kimmel’s Chanukah Guest, we still find the near-sighted, hard-of-hearing Bubbe mistaking a bear for her rabbi and cooking up her world famous latkes, lighting the menorah and playing driedel with him. All the charm and hilarity of the story, fortunately, was left intact.

dinoschanukahHow Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? By Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Mark Teague. Scholastic, Inc., ©2012. Ages 3-8.  The How Do Dinosaurs…series is among my favorites, as they provide parents and children with a variety of laughable situations to review proper behavior. Yolen and Teague’s newest book once again uses their rowdy dinosaurs to demonstrate the appropriate form-this time of Chanukah conduct.

mytwoholidaysMy Two Holidays: A Hanukkah and Christmas Story By Danielle Novack. Illustrated by Phyllis Harris. Scholastic, Inc., ©2010. Ages 3-8. As Sam listens to his classmates, he learns that they all celebrate just one holiday – Christmas or Hanukkah—while he and his family celebrate two – Christmas AND Hanukkah. He is embarrassed to tell this to his friends, until he talks to his mother. She explains that their celebrations are “one of the things that makes their family special.”

sadiemenorah

Sadie’s Almost Marvelous Menorah by Jamie Korngold. Illustrated by Julie Fortenberry. © 2013 Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 3-8. What happens when you spend days making a Marvelous Hanukkah Menorah, but smash it when you run to show it to your mom? Well, if you are Sadie, you come up with a wonderful new tradition for your family! A beautifully illustrated, charmingly told story of turning heartbreak into delight.

Snowsnowdaymouse Day for MouseBy Judy Cox. Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler. Holiday House, ©2012. Ages 3-8. Mouse is back (One is a Feast for Mouse) and excited that snow is falling. A snow day has been declared, so there is no school. Mom is baking cookies, and Mouse is picking up the crumbs when Mom gets out the broom and sweeps him out the door with Cat! Fortunately, three kind-hearted birds protect Mouse from Cat and help him enjoy the time outside. Mouse repays their kindness with some generosity of his own.

 

 ©2013 Kathy Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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