Friday, April 28, 2017

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 28th April 2017 - "Ella Queen of Jazz" by Helen Hancocks (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

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This week's second book of the week is SO cool and hip, the fabulous story of a legendary singer - here's "Ella, Queen of Jazz" by Helen Hancocks...
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 28th April 2017 - "Bird Girl" by Maudie Smith and Lucy Fleming (Orchard Books)

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This weeks chapter book of the week fulfils a hugely important role - that of a book that Charlotte can see herself in...
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 28th April 2017 - "Books, Books, Books!" by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom (Otter-Barry Books)

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Imagine a whole library tucked inside a single book. You don't need to be a Time-Lord with some Tardis trickery for this one, just a pair of hugely talented book folk!
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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Having the 'Bad Guy' Talk - What on earth do you do when your daughter loves Draco more than Harry? A ReadItTorial

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*Swoon* says Charlotte. "ARRGHH!" says me
And so it came to pass that we had to have the "Bad Guy" talk. Charlotte is a self-confessed Draco Malfoy groupie. There's just something about that floppy blond hair, that snarl, and those superb clothes that attracts her to this horrid character in the "Harry Potter" books.

I wanted to try and dig deeper into this. As a father, the very last thing you wanted to hear was that your daughter loved bad guys in books, and in movies too (yes, it's not just Draco, she also loves Kylo Ren - which, given a particular spoiler for Star Wars Episode 7, doesn't bode well for dear old dad later down the line).

The problem is that writers quite obviously love writing the bad guy / girl characters. It shines through from just about every page of "The Half Blood Prince" that J.K Rowling spent a lot more time dealing with Draco's thirst for vengeance and 'justice' as he saw it than she did dealing with Harry's slow but sure path to a final confrontation with Lord Voldemort.

Personally I've always enjoyed writing for characters such as these too, there's just something so addictive about living vicariously through the actions of a character creation who, for want of a better way of describing it, threw the moral code of ethics away with the bath water.

We had a fairly serious discussion about what boys like Draco, or men like Kylo Ren would treat you like - in the unlikely event that you became their chosen life partner. With a more serious side to a fairly jocular and non-serious conversation about fantasy characters, the one thing I really do feel I wanted to get across to her was that evil characters are fine and dandy in books or movies, but when you bring one home, you've got to be utterly realistic about what to expect.

In full dad mode, you know the mode dads get into where they feel it's their job - not their beloved daughters or son's job - to somehow try and give the best advice, perhaps even influence or (hate this) control who their kids see or befriend, you can really only handle things one way ultimately.

In the case of Draco, I pulled all the sections of the books we've read so far in the Harry Potter series where Draco was a complete and utter little sh*t, a spoilt brat, and eventually a malevolent and evil puppet to Lord Voldemort's machinations.

But of course Charlotte was even prepared for this. Even though we haven't read "The Deathly Hallows" yet (I'm still not sure if she's quite ready for that, it's pretty dark and possibly verges into YA territory more than the previous books in the series do) she had seen bits of the final scene in the movie which...


...shows Draco as an entirely reformed character, best buddies with Harry, seeing his kids off on the Hogwarts Express. (She hasn't read "The Cursed Child" yet, to see how Draco's offspring reverts to type a little bit). So she countered my observations about Draco basically not being boyfriend material by stating that he changed for the better.

It's at this point that I bow to the infinite wisdom of my wife who may be a lot more effective than me at pulling Charlotte to one side when the time comes to have a more serious talk about boyfriend material (hopefully in the dim and distant future when her middle grade crush on Malfoy has petered away to nothing). Though again, with mummy's obsession with Johnny from Dirty Dancing, in the words of the old old song, "There may be trouble ahead".
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - April 2017

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Time for more chapter book gorgeousness, and we're kicking off this month with a fantastic tale from Lorraine Gregory, clad in a particularly superb cover by Tom Mead.

"Mold and the Poison Plot" features a character whose nose is almost as big as their heart.

Mold is considered a bit of a freak (which seems rather cruel if you ask us!) His nose is as big as his body is puny and his mother abandoned him in a bin when he was a mere baby.

Who else but the old healer, Aggy, would have taken him in and raised him as her own? But when Aggy is accused of poisoning the King, Mold sets out to clear her name. 
In a thrilling race against time to save Aggy from the hangman's noose, Mold faces hideous, deadly monsters like the Yurg and the Purple Narlo Frog. 

He finds true friendship in the most unusual - and smelly - of places and must pit his wits and his clever nose against the evil witch Hexaba.

This is an exciting fantasy story with an array of wonderful characters, including the inimitable Mold, told in a fresh and distinctive voice by a promising new writer.

Absolutely chock full of stinky atmosphere and striking a lovely balance between belly-laugh-inducing humour and superb tension, Lorraine is definitely a talent to watch out for in the future. 

"Mold and the Poison Plot" is out on 6th May, Published by Oxford Children's Books / OUP. 

It's just our luck to arrive late for the party with this next book but it's a great followup to a brilliantly amusing coming of age tale...

The "Zack Delacruz" series continues with "Just my Luck" by Jeff Anderson, and once again Zack feels like his world is plotting against him!

There's a new girl at school called Abhi - and Zack has a massive crush on her. 

But things get off to a rough start when he accidentally knocks her to the ground during a game of dodgeball. And whenever he tries to make amends, she just ignores him. Nothing works, not his friends advice or his 'lucky' cologne.

In fact, he just seems more and more cursed! Then, at the Fall Fiesta-val, Zack finally learns the real reason behind Abhis cold shoulder but not before total chaos erupts. 

With a runaway train, exploding confetti-filled eggs and Abhis terrifying older brother, will Zack ever get a chance to talk to his crush? 

In the end, Zack learns what it means to believe, to listen and to be a good friend. This dynamite sequel is the second in the 'Zack Delacruz' series so watch out for "Me and my Big Mouth" too!

"Zack Delacruz: Just my Luck" by Jeff Anderson is out now, published by Sterling Books. 

Some gorgeous new covers up next, as Michael Morpurgo's back catalogue gets a stunning new look...

"Kensuke's Kingdom" tells the story of a boy lost at sea in a terrible boating accident.

After making landfall on a mysterious island, Michael is sure that he's doomed to starve to death. But when he wakes up and finds a dish of fish, fresh fruit and fresh water next to him, Michael realises that he's not alone...

Sweepingly majestic, this tale is just the sort of book I would have loved as a child (and still do), wrapped up in notions of how fantastic it would have been to have been part of The Swiss Family Robinson, or even Robinson Crusoe.

As we follow the story of Michael's plight, it's a glorious celebration of what it feels like to survive on a desert island - and what the true meaning of friendship is when you have no common tongue.

"Kensuke's Kingdom" by Michael Morpurgo, with fabulous new cover art by David Dean, is out now in Paperback, published by Egmont. 

Along with several others of Michael's fantastic stories for children, we also looked at "Why the Whales Came"...

Gracie and her friend Daniel have always been warned to stay away from the mysterious "Birdman" and his side of the island. 

But then they find a message in the sand and discover the Birdman is not who they thought. 

They build up a lovely friendship with him, but when the children get stranded on Samson Island they don’t know whether to believe the birdman’s story that the island is cursed.

Set against the historical backdrop of the First World War, in the tradition of "Friend or Foe" and "Private Peaceful", Michael Morpurgo brings the emotional reality of conflict to life in a way that is accessible to younger readers in a story that's chock full of atmosphere and tension. 

"Why the Whales Came" by Michael Morpurgo, again with a fantastic new cover from David Dean is also out now published by Egmont. 

Now for the latest addition in a book series that continually blows us away with its devious inventiveness and superb tension.

"Cream Buns and Crime" by Robin Stevens is the perfect accompaniment to her fabulous "Murder Most Unladylike" series. Pit your wits against the Detective Society as Robin wraps up a delicious compendium of stories, secrets and puzzles in the most glorious purple cover.

Fans of the series will already know the stories of Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, now famous for the murder cases they have solved and their uncanny ability to cut through a criminal caper.

But there are many other mysteries in the pages of Hazel's casebook, from the macabre Case of the Deepdean Vampire, to the baffling Case of the Blue Violet, and their very first case of all: the Case of Lavinia's Missing Tie.

Packed with brilliant mini-mysteries, including two brand-new and never seen before stories, and peppered with Daisy and Hazel's own tips, tricks and facts, Charlotte took to this one as soon as it arrived, and is steadily working her way through the fabulous back catalogue of "Murder Most Unladylike" books (aided by lashings of ginger beer and the odd chocolate dipped cream horn or two, of course!)

"Cream Buns and Crime - A Murder Most Unladylike Collection" is out now, published by Puffin Books. 

From one exquisite storymeister to another. Who on earth can possibly resist this lady's fine work?

In "Rent a Bridesmaid" by Jaqueline Wilson (with a fab cover and illustrations by Nick Sharratt) we meet Tilly, who is - to be fair - a bit of a daydreamer.

When Tilly's best friend Matty is asked to be a bridesmaid, Tilly goes into a daydreamy whirl of imagining herself in the most incredible bridesmaid dress, tip-toeing down the aisle behind the beautiful bride. 

The one wedding she’d really love to attend is her own mum and dad’s - but it seems like that's never going to happen. So Tilly decides to make her own dream come true, and puts a notice in the local shop, advertising her services as a bridesmaid. And to her amazement, she gets a reply!

Jaqueline's books are always brilliant, she has a knack for writing down-to-earth stories with real heart and emotion and "Rent a Bridesmaid" is no exception, deftly observational and fabulously written tackling the subjects of family and friendship in a real hug of a book. 

"Rent a Bridesmaid" by Jaqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt is out now, published by Puffin. 

Time for something a little more magical, mysterious and dark...

"The Young Magicians and the Thieves Almanac" is the first in a fantastic new mystery series by Nick Mohammed. 

The story opens on a London street, as Alex, Zack, Jonny and Sophie are drawn together to solve a mystery.

Alex doesn't say much, and once jumped when handed a satsuma, but, wow, is he amazing with a deck of cards.

Zack is undoubtedly one of the best pickpockets in the country (but always puts things back - or so he says).

Sophie once convinced her Brown Owl that all the other Brownies were jellyfish thanks to her nifty hypnosis skills. Brown Owl is still convinced she's still the pack leader to a bunch of squishy ocean going life forms. 

Then there's Jonny - who is quite possibly the tallest boy in the universe. Jonny mixes science and magic with spectacular consequences (by which, we mean he usually ends up blowing things up).

Join these young magicians as they step inside the world-famous conjuring club - the Magic Circle - in an adventure that may or may not involve the search for a secret book, a set of impossible crimes and a flock of very confused pigeons.

Charlotte has lapped this one up with glee, and can't wait to see more. 

"The Young Magicians and the Thieves Almanac (Young Magicians Book 1)" by Nick Mohammed is out now, published by Puffin. 

Just in time for easter, we had to feature at least one book that had a distinctly choccy whiff about it...

The "Daisy" series from Kes Gray and Nick Sharratt has made a successful transition from children's picture books to early chapter readers, and we're catching up with the series as Daisy indulges in one of her favourite pastimes. 

In "Daisy and the Trouble with Chocolate" our young hero is absolutely beside herself with excitement. 

She's been picked to look after the class hamsters, Pickle and Pops, over the Easter holidays - AND her mum's taking her to Chocolate Land! BONUS!

Trouble is, the two things probably shouldn't mix...particularly when Daisy comes up with a great idea to make her day trip even more special. Oops!

Full of chocolatey goodness, and more laughs than you can cope with on a full stomach, "Daisy and the Trouble with Chocolate" by Kes Gray and Nick Sharratt is out now, published by Red Fox. 

Ooh, after all that choc, we need a lie down. Pass us the next book, please...?

It's the triumphant return of Wilf.

In "Wilf the Mighty Worrier Rescues the Dinosaurs you'll once again meet Wilf. He worries about everything. He is a Mighty Worrier indeed.

And now Wilf's evil next-door-neighbour Alan is determined to rule the world ... from the very beginning of time!

But on the way to prehistoric Earth in Alan's time machine, Wilf is desperate for a wee, so they stop off in the 16th Century. There they meet Henry VIII - a very shouty man, who hitches a ride.

Now Alan AND Henry want to be King of the World. Can Wilf stop them with the help of his new dinosaur friends?

Join Wilf as he travels back in time to walk with dinosaurs and save the world from Alan ... again!

It's a great romp through time, and Charlotte loved the fact that Henry VIII is still a bit of a nasty piece of work, even in this!

Look out for more Wilf adventures: Wilf Saves the World, Wilf Battles a Pirate, Wilf is King of the Jungle, Wilf and the Alien Invasion.

"Wilf the Mighty Worrier Rescues the Dinosaurs" by Georgia Pritchett and Jamie Littler is out now, published by Quercus Children's Books. 

Cor, what's next chief?

More sublime stuff from Holly Webb in "The Girl of Glass".

Mariana lives with her family on the Venetian island of Murano - famed for its artists who create masterpieces from glass. But when Mariana's little sister, Eliza, dies their father decides to use his glassmaking skill - and a dash of magic - to create a girl of glass in Eliza's image.

The remarkable glass doll, who sings, dances and talks, draws attention wherever she goes, and soon Mariana is famous for having a magical glass sister. But as the glass girl takes on more and more of Eliza's personality, Mariana begins to suspect that there is more than just magic at play. Could the girl of glass be her sister's ghost made real?

The Magical Venice books all share the same beautiful setting, but can be read as standalone stories. 

The series includes: The Water Horse, The Mermaid's Sister, The Maskmasker's Daughter (which is Charlotte's particular favourite) and The Girl of Glass.

"The Girl of Glass" by Holly Webb, with a fabulous cover by Sarah Gibb, is out now, published by Orchard Books. 

Next, "Oh no, more Pirates!" NOOOOO!"

That's what Charlotte INITIALLY said about "Pirate Blunderbeard - Worst Pirate Ever" by Amy Sparkes and Ben Cort. Before disappearing for a couple of hours to devour the whole thing.

The story of a slightly inept young pirate and his quest to somehow please his mum by becoming "Pirate of the Year". Blunderbeard really isn't up to the task at hand - or is he?

All he has to do is fight an enormous Kraken, (ARGH), beat his oh-so-brilliant brother at something (please please please) and find the legendary treasure that no one has ever found EVER in the history of EVER (easy peasy, then).

Something tells us Pirate Blunderbeard is going to need a lot of luck (and probably quite a lot of help from his hapless bird chum Boris).

Full of great salty gags and puns, and suitable for young readers just starting out on their chapter book journeys, "Pirate Blunderbeard" by Amy Sparkes with brill illustrations from Ben (Underpants) Cort is out in June, published by HarperCollins Children's Books. 

Slightly vaguely piratical - well smuggler-ish, our next book sees the welcome return of a character Charlotte has loved to bits...

"Poppy Pym and the Smuggler's Secret" by Laura Wood once again sees Poppy unlocking a mystery to be solved.

This time she's spending summer with her friends at Smuggler's Cove, and things look idyllic for a short while. Holiday plans might even take her mind off the mystery of her past.

But Poppy is about to make some amazing discoveries – and solve more than one mystery in the process.

With brilliantly realised characters, this book is bang on trend for youngsters who are really getting their teeth into mysteries and detective stories that feel like they feature ordinary everyday kids.

Reminiscent of the best of Enid Blyton with plenty of thrills and jaw dropping moments of excitement woven in, Poppy Pym is set to become a seriously popular hero. She's certainly won Charlotte over, she greeted the arrival of this book with a whoop of glee.

"Poppy Pym and the Smuggler's Secret" by Laura Wood is out on 5th May, published by Scholastic. 

Now for some epic YA fantasy, and we really do mean epic...

Glen L Hall's "The Fall - Book One of the Last Druid Trilogy" prepares you for some epic world building, once again kicking off in a place that loans itself so well to fantasy books (and just happens to be our home burgh).

Undergraduate Sam Wood finds his dream life in Oxford interrupted when he encounters a menacing Shadow.

Soon he is on the run, pursued by unknown forces and searching for answers.

He escapes to the borderlands of Northumberland, where beings from other worlds are creeping into this one, and learns he is embroiled in a quest to prevent the murder of the last Druid, heir of a mysterious order which has protected this world and others for millennia.

Along the way, the boundaries between good and evil, light and dark, and even the loyalties of those sent to protect him are called into question.

What awaits him at the Dead Water only he can face. A place where the Druids laid down their lives to protect the darkest of all their secrets.

This is a behemoth of a first novel, feeling at once like the works of Robin Hobb, epic in scale and excitement. 

"The Fall" by Glen L. Hall is out now, published by Gosforth Publishing. 

...and skipping lightly from dark fantasy to crunchily violent uber-stylish YA dystopic stuff, this is truly something else too...!

"Rig" by Jon Wallace follows on from his groundbreaking and hugely controversial two previous books in the series, "Barricade" and "Steeple".

The story of a weaponized AI named Kentisbec continues as he must fight against almost overwhelming odds to find his creator - the very person who brought humanity to the brink of extinction.

Determined to complete his quest before the world is swallowed up by violence and chaos as a new world order emerges, Kentisbec is no longer invulnerable but can still stack up a killcount far higher than your average human.

This is one heck of a thrill ride, with flavours of uber-violent dystopic sci fi a la William Gibson, suffused with amazing characters and an epic conclusion that felt like a huge whump in the gut, but hugely hugely satisfying.

"Rig" by Jon Wallace is published by Gollancz and is out now. 

We've just about got time for one more from Gollancz before we call it - this time from a real sci fi and fantasy pioneer...

"The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. Le Guin is a real return to form for a legendary fantasy author, whose "Earthsea" chronicles were such a huge huge part of my teen years (and quite a bit into adulthood too!)

Ursula tackles diverse subjects such as artificial intelligence and emotional responses as the story of planetary exploration unfolds.

Genly Ai is an ethnologist observing the people of the planet Gethen, a world perpetually in winter. 

The people there are androgynous, normally neuter, but they can become male ot female at the peak of their sexual cycle. The people seem unsophisticated and confusing to Genly but he is drawn into the complex politics of the planet and, during a long, tortuous journey across the ice with a politician who has fallen from favour and has been outcast, he loses his professional detachment and reaches a painful understanding of the true nature of Gethenians and, in a moving and memorable sequence, even finds love. 

Ursula's storytelling is tight, soaring and emotionally involving as ever and this is one for fans of deep sci fi and complex worldbuilding. Dig in to "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. Le Guin, out now from Gollancz. 

That's about all we have time for in April but you bet we'll be back in May with more fantastic middle grade and YA chapter books to tempt you with. 
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I Love My Grandad / I Love My Granny by Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd (Orchard Books)

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A fabulous little cuddle-up title or two, just to show Grandad and Grandma how special they are? Yes indeed, that's a FABULOUS idea!
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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pierre the Maze Detective - The Sticker Book by Hiro Kamigaki and IC4 Design (Laurence King Publishing).

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We've been impressed by the original Maze book, we've been wowed by the colouring book - now it's time to revisit the fantastic "Pierre the Maze Detective" in sticker book form...
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The 2017 Barnes Children's Literature Festival arrives on May 13th and 14th! Join one of the biggest children's literature festivals in London!

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It's springtime, and there's no better way to celebrate the sunny weather than by coming along to a truly mammoth children's literature festival.

The Barnes Children's Literature Festival is coming up on Saturday the 13th and Sunday the 14th May 2017 and you can now book tickets for the events through the festival's web site.

London’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival will be returning to south west London for the third year, and tickets are in demand, with some sessions already sold out! 

Bigger and better than ever, the programme includes more than sixty events for children of all ages, including author talks, workshops, story time and craft sessions, music, film and much more.

There is an exciting mix of bestselling authors and illustrators, up and coming new writers, and household names. Highlights include the former Children's Laureates Michael Rosen and Anthony Browne, star author-artist Nick Sharratt and Horrid Henry creator Francesca Simon. 

Photo (C) Becky Jeffries 2017
They'll be joined by a few famous faces including comedians David Baddiel and Adrian Edmondson, popular television presenters Clare Balding and Lucy Worsley, and radio personality Christian O’Connell. Other authors and illustrators on the programme include blog faves Ed Vere, MG Leonard, Michelle Robinson, Lisa Stickley, Sophy Henn and Book Trust Illustrator in Residence, Sarah MacIntyre. WOW!

Photo (C) Liesel Brockl 2017

Special events this year include illustrator, Axel Scheffler appearing alongside Barnes Resident and Mog creator, Judith Kerr in an event called When Zog met Mog – not to be missed! 

Another exclusive is an interview with Little Princess creator and top illustrator, Tony Ross. You can also experience the interactive Harry Potter show, a new production of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes set to live music, and an exclusive screening of the short animation based on Jon Klassen’s award-winning I Want My Hat Back.
Tickets are on sale now at: where the full programme can be found.
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Happy Sad Feeling Glad by Yasmeen Ismail (Laurence King Publishing)

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This is another beaut of a title from the "Draw and Discover" range by Yasmeen Ismail...time to explore our feelings...!It goes against everything we've always been taught about books but the fabulous Draw and Discover range from Laurence King / Yasmeen Ismail invite you to draw all over this fabulous book.

"Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad" is a wonderful doodle-along title helping children explore their feelings and emotions alongside a whole gang of endearing characters.

Sometimes Cat is sad. Sometimes puppy is happy, but you can help each friend in need with your awesome drawing skills and colouring prowess.

How? Well take a look at a couple of sample page spreads and you'll understand what we mean...

Oh dear, poor cat is gloomy. Can you help by drawing Cat a lovely colourful brolly?
Yasmeen's fantastically simple line art style gives you some pointers with each page spread, inviting you to finish off the image by drawing perhaps a fantastic umbrella for a very sad cat or even...

How about a lovely bunch of flowers for Donkey's birthday?
...some glorious flowers for Donkey's birthday treat!

Drawing and painting, colouring and doodling are always fun to do - better still when mum or dad can sit alongside and help out (which is often how things happen at home, I just can't resist 'assisting' Charlotte though I'm pretty sure she'd rather I didn't!)

Can you draw lots of bubbles and some slooshy water for a bathtime treat?
A thoroughly great idea and beautifully presented too.

"Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad" by Yasmeen Ismail is out now, published by Laurence King (kindly supplied for review).
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Monday, April 24, 2017

Three fantastic new titles from a fab new publisher this April. Welcome New Frontier Publishing!

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New Frontier Publishing are putting their stamp on 2017 with a fantastic first year of brilliant, original and innovative children's titles arriving this year.
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