Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1940-1949

[1940 to 1949 book list]

The 1940s were clearly a tumultuous time in the world. Here are some highlights and trivia from about.com:

1940–Bugs Bunny character debuts
1941–First Captain America comic published, M&Ms created
1942–Anne Frank’s family goes into hiding
1944–D-Day
1945–Germans surrender, microwave oven invented
1946–UNICEF founded
1947–Dead Sea Scrolls found, Polaroid cameras invented
1949–Nineteen Eighty-Four published

Newbery winners for the decade are a better mix of male and female authors than before:

1940–Daniel Boone, by James Daugherty
1941–Call It Courage, by Armstrong Sperry
1942–The Matchlock Gun, by Walter Edmonds
1943–Adam of the Road, by Elizabeth Janet Gray
1944–Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes
1945–Rabbit Hill, by Robert Lawson
1946–Strawberry Girl, by Lois Lenski
1947–Miss Hickory, by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
1948–The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pene du Bois
1949–King of the World, by Marguerite Henry

Caldecott Medals awarded during the decade include the following:

1940–Abraham Lincoln, by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire (with Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans, a perhaps better-known runner-up)
1941–They Were Strong and Good, by Robert Lawson
1942–Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
1943–The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton
1944–Many Moons, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, by James Thurber
1945–Prayer for a Child, illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones, by Rachel Field
1946–The Rooster Crows, by Maud & Miska Petersham
1947–The Little Island, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, by Golden MacDonald (Margaret Wise Brown)
1948–White Snow, Bright Snow, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, by Alvin Tresselt
1949–The Big Snow, by Berta & Elmer Hader

Betsy-TacyBetsy-Tacy, by Maud Hart Lovelace (1940): I had never read this book when I first heard of it in library school, but several classmates listed it as one of their all-time favorite childhood books. Then a good friend mentioned it as something that reminded her of our girls, so I grabbed a copy of it for GirlChild…and she has since read it twice! This first book in the (apparently very long) series starts when the two girls are not yet five years old and are just meeting for the first time. (Within the first chapter, a bit of antiquated terminology will throw an older reader for a loop, but my eight-year-old didn’t even register that her hat had a very peculiar name. That said, when you find it, DON’T GOOGLE IT.) The books takes place in Minnesota during the time period when little girls still wore winter underwear and petticoats under their dresses and people moved into houses with the aid of a dray (a low cart without sides used to haul heavy things) instead of a moving van. Betsy is friendly and eager and inventive, and Tacy (short for Anna Anastacia) is reserved but just as imaginative. (Neither one seems to be aware that a milk cow or a hen is always a she.) Betsy has an older sister, and Tacy is one of eleven children. There are small issues (first day of school, etc.) that the girls handle together, but the death of Tacy’s baby sister is a serious one that is dealt with gently. Mostly the author just describes the stories the girls tell and the different ways they play together (like going calling dressed in their mother’s old clothes and leaving cards where they’ve visited–I seriously want to bring back leaving calling cards!). The very last chapter introduces a new character, Tib (short for Thelma), a girl who is introduced to Betsy and Tacy because of one of the calling cards they leave at a home they pass on their way to school. (The shout-out to Milwaukee was a fun part, too, since that’s where we are, and GirlChild’s friend moved here from Minnesota.) I’d recommend this first book as a read-aloud for a young listener (kindergarten-ish) or independent reading for an older reader like GirlChild, but you might need to be prepared to explain some of the less-than-modern elements of the story to help them fully understand.

Make Way for Ducklings, Make Way for Ducklingsby Robert McCloskey (1941): This Caldecott-winning picture book tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard’s search for a place to raise their ducklings. Mrs. Mallard dismisses each idea as being too dangerous (foxes or turtles might be there!) until they arrive in Boston and find a little island in a pond in the Public Garden, and they almost decide to stay there until they discover the number of children on wheeled toys rushing by on the banks. They fly all over town looking for another place to nest, and they finally settle on an island in the Charles River since it seems peaceful but is close enough to the Public Garden to benefit from the peanuts people give them! When Mr. Mallard goes on to explore further down the river shortly after the ducklings hatch, Mrs. Mallard teaches the children all kinds of ducky things before they set off to meet Mr. Mallard at the Public Garden. Michael the policeman stops traffic for the little train of ducks, then he calls downtown to get support to stop traffic along the rest of their route as well. (Here’s where the book gets its name!) When they arrive at the Public Garden again, the ducklings love the island, so they decide to remain in the garden pond, eating peanuts and sleeping on the island.

The Hundred DressesThe Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin (1944): This Newbery Honor book is familiar to many of my era, and GirlChild really enjoyed it, too. (I reminded her of another book we’ve read with a similar theme, Jacqueline Woodson‘s Each Kindness.) In the book, a Polish immigrant girl is constantly taunted by a pretty, popular, and well-to-do girl named Peggy because she has dared to claim that she–Wanda Petronski, who lives in Boggins Heights and wears the same faded dress to school every day–has one hundred dresses lined up in her closet. Maggie, Peggy’s friend, is unsettled by the mockery because she worries that she may become a target, too, since she is also poor, but she says nothing. The day when the teacher announces that Wanda has won the drawing contest for her one hundred beautiful dress designs, she also receives and reads a note from Wanda’s father explaining her recent and now permanent absence in the light of the mockery over her name and speech. The girls, especially Maggie and Peggy, are riddled with guilt and write a letter to try to patch things up. Wanda replies back that they may all keep the drawings she made, and Peggy and Maggie realize the ones she designates for them were actually drawn with their faces before all this happened. Maggie realizes in the end that she will never really be able to make things right except to never allow that kind of cruel behavior to happen to another child again; she vows to always speak up.

The Carrot Seed,The Carrot Seed story by Ruth Krauss, pictures by Crockett Johnson (1945): This is by far the simplest book of the bunch. While I’m not entirely sure that this particular title is well-known, the illustrator certainly is! (His Harold and the Purple Crayon will show up in next month’s post.) I loved the story, too, actually, and BoyChild listened carefully, remarking on how “mean” everyone was to tell the little boy that his seed wouldn’t grow. (We had a bit of a connection to make, actually, since we just planted carrot seeds in our garden and are waiting for them to grow!) Each page has a single sentence and illustration as the little boy waits, pulls weeds, and waters the seed. Finally, “a carrot came up”–a vast understatement since the carrot top that springs forth is taller than the boy–“just as the little boy had known it would”–and he carts off a gigantic carrot. BoyChild was somewhat shocked and very pleased by the sudden and very large carrot crop, and I think this would be an excellent read aloud to share with a classroom of young children who might be studying plants!

My Father's DragonMy Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett, illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett (1948): While I acquired this book somehow in an inherited classroom library, I was not aware of its background at all. I happened to see it on a list of first read-alouds for kindergarten children when I was looking for a book for a friend, and then I realized that it was also a Newbery Honor book, so I decided to give it a try! After reading through its simple silliness, I do think I’ll read it to BoyChild to see what he thinks. It tells the story of a boy (referred to as “my father” in the book, thus the title) who is kind to an alley cat who then tells him about another creature who is in need of rescue: a baby dragon on Wild Island. The boy sets off to help the dragon. He tricks or distracts several different animals on the island so that he can access the dragon and set him free, and they fly away together. There are several opportunities for a little fun prediction and a little light suspense, so I agree with the age-level and read aloud suggestion for this one, but I’m pretty sure GirlChild would enjoy reading it as well!

Blueberries for Sal, Blueberries for Salby Robert McCloskey (1948): This book is the Caldecott Honor picture book that tells the story of a little girl who goes blueberry picking (eating?) with her mother and not the horrifying story about the child who is stung by bees while picking berries and dies of an allergic reaction like I first thought (and therefore avoided the book). It follows a human mother and her child, Little Sal, as they go berry picking, but it also follows a bear mother and her child, Little Bear, as they forage for berries, too. BoyChild and I each kind of expected a more frightened response when each child started following the wrong mother, but worry about the missing child seems to be the only fear shown; the human mother and child even continue picking berries on their way home after they’re reunited!

A few other iconic books that were published in this decade but that were too long for me to reread and review this time are The Black Stallion (1941), My Friend Flicka (1941), and Misty of Chicoteague (1947). Books about horses for more advanced juvenile readers were apparently pretty popular in the ’40s! Misty of Chincoteague (and all the Marguerite Henry books, actually) was my favorite, and my mom read all the Black Stallion books aloud to us at some point, too. What Do We Do All Day’s comparable review list doesn’t have any overlap, but it does mention a couple books that I chose to review since I’ve chosen to focus on lasting favorites while that blog tries to share hidden gems!

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TrexTuesdays: Library Edition

So, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when a friend posted this lovely video. Just thought I’d share a dinosaur’s experiences in the library with you! (This is last week’s TrexTuesday post; I just figured out how to get the video linked up today, though!)

 

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1930-1939

When the 1930s started, my grandmother was around the age GirlChild is now–and she’ll be turning 93 next month. It amazes me that some of the books she might have read as an elementary school student are books my little girl is reading now!

[1930 to 1939 book list]

While that helps put this decade in perspective for me, here is a selection of world events from about.com to help other readers orient themselves in time!

1930–Pluto is discovered

1932–Amelia Earhart is first female to complete solo flight across the Atlantic

1933–Prohibition ends in the U.S.

1934–Cheeseburger created

1935–Monopoly released by Parker Brothers; first paperback books published (Penguin books)

1936–Gone with the Wind published

1938–Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs released by Disney; Superman appears in comics

1939–World War II begins

 

All the Newbery Medals awarded during this decade were to women compared to all the medals in the 1920s going to men; I don’t know if there’s a reason for this, but it caught my eye! Of the ten winners, I’m familiar with five of the titles; my mom read Caddie Woodlawn and Roller Skates to us when I was young, and she owns Invincible Louisa (although I don’t remember ever reading it myself).

1930–Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field

1931–The Cat Who Went to Heaven, by Elizabeth Coatsworth

1932–Waterless Mountain, by Laura Adams Armer

1933–Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, by Elizabeth Lewis

1934–Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women, by Cornelia Meigs

1935–Dobry, by Monica Shannon

1936–Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink

1937–Roller Skates, by Ruth Sawyer

1938–The White Stag, by Kate Seredy

1939–Thimble Summer, by Elizabeth Enright

[UPDATE: I didn’t realize that Caldecott Medals began to be awarded during this decade! The first winner, in 1938, was Animals of the Bible: A Picture Book, illustrated by Dorothy Lathrop, and the 1939 winner was Mei Li, by Thomas Handforth.]

And now to our list!

The Cat Who Went to HeavenThe Cat Who Went to Heaven, by Elizabeth Coatsworth (1930): This book, the story of a cat who inspired a destitute Japanese artist and brought him good fortune in the form of a commission to paint the death of Buddha, was the 1931 Newbery Medal winner. It alternates between third-person prose describing events from the artist’s perspective and brief songs of the elderly housekeeper who first brought the short-tailed cat into their home. The unnamed artist first resists the appearance of the cat since he calls cats a devil and is upset because the housekeeper spent their little money on the cat instead of food, but he seems besotted by her as soon as he sees her. The housekeeper names the cat Good Fortune, and that is what she seems to bring them. The cat appears to pray to their image of Buddha, causing the artist to consider his recent lack of prayer due to his hardships and sadness. After the priest arrives to commission the painting, more and more good things come to the artist. He ponders the Buddha in order to do the painting justice, and he comes to a deeper understanding of the object of his faith and remembers also that cats were the only animals not to receive Buddha’s blessing because they were too proud. The cat’s attention to his painting as he adds animals significant to the story of Buddha so moves him that he disregards his fear that his painting will be rejected and includes a cat in the scene. Good Fortune, so happy to see the cat included, dies suddenly. The priest who receives the painting the next day is in awe of it until he sees the cat pictured and puts it aside for burning, but the artist feels as though he has done the right thing anyway. During the night, the image of the cat moves from the end of the parade of animals to a position under the now-outstretched hand of Buddha (as if in blessing), so the significance of the title refers to this cat who supernaturally (through the painting) received Buddha’s blessing and went to heaven.

Angus and the Cat, by Marjorie Flack (1931): Angus and the CatOne of several books based on the author’s own Scottish terrier dog, Angus and the Cat tells the story of how Angus–old enough and wise enough to deal with many of the things his little world throws at him–finds himself at a loss when a cat suddenly appears in his home and invades his space. Whenever Angus approaches, sometimes innocently, sometimes to defend his territory, the cat lashes out or retreats to a place where Angus can’t reach. When the cat seems to disappear one day (BoyChild loved finding her hiding on the roof next to the gable window where Angus couldn’t see her!), Angus searches all over for her and realizes he is lonely without her. The cat returns at lunchtime, and Angus and the cat seem to come to an understanding and enjoy each other’s company. This book is particularly applicable to us right now because we’re fostering a dog who is doesn’t trust our dog because of a bad experience with a similar animal and medication issues. We’re hoping things end up like this book, where our Angus and the cat (the other dog) learn to get along together!

 

The Story of Babar: The Little ElephantHistoire de Babar (The Story of Babar), by Jean de Brunhoff (1931): Babar is, perhaps, the best-known elephant on the planet. This first story, based on a story the author’s wife made up for their children, tells how Babar came to wear clothing and be the king of the elephants. The English version, translated (I think, but maybe retold in English instead) by A.A. Milne, was published in 1933.

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Dr. Daddy as Babar and GirlChild as Princess Flora.

GirlChild has always loved elephants, and the year she was four, she wanted to be both an elephant and a princess for Halloween, so I turned the whole family into the Babars and decorated our trunk (for trunk-or-treat) with copies of all the Babar books I could find. Dr. Daddy (he’s a vet) made the biggest splash as King Babar himself!

 


 

Little House in the Big WoodsLittle House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1932): The first of the Little House books, this tells the fictionalized story of four-year-old Laura and her family before they pack up to leave the big woods of Wisconsin. Set in the second half of the 1800s, it tells of the day-to-day life of a family living off the land and by their wits. My family loved hearing these stories when I was a kid; we loved the pioneer unit my mom used to teach at school (dress-up in bonnets and pinafores! knead bread! make butter! write on slates!); we loved to build log cabins and smokehouses with our Lincoln Logs like Pa did with the real thing. GirlChild has read this one, too, and we’ve listened to (most of) The Long Winter during a trip during our own long Midwest winter. This book tells the kind of things kids want to know about life long ago, and it helps remind me what a blessing modern conveniences are when I start to romanticize the “old days”!

The Story About Ping, The Story About Pingby Marjorie Flack and Kurt Weise (1933): Inspired by her research into ducks for another Angus story, the author delved even deeper into the world of Peking ducks, and this story is the result. Ping is one of a number of ducks who live on a houseboat (with eyes–creepy, creepy–um, I mean wise–eyes) on the Yangtze River. Every day, the ducks leave the boat to forage, and every evening, they are called back to the boat. The last duck gets a swat from a switch (probably to encourage the ducks to always return quickly), and Ping decides one day–a day when he misses the call and would be the last duck–to spend the night outside rather than risk the spank. As Ping explores the river the next morning while he searches for his home, we get peeks into life on the river for a variety of groups, from the diving birds fishing for their master to the family whose child is out bobbing in the river with a barrel tied to him for a life jacket. The boy’s family wants to eat Ping, but he releases Ping secretly, and Ping finally catches sight of his home, just in time to hear the call and be the last duck back. He decides to risk the spank so he can be back home with his family again.

Mary PoppinsMary Poppins, by P.L. Travers (1934): I remember picking up this book in my elementary school library (it had to be pre-fifth-grade because I remember which library it was, and I changed schools in fifth grade) and being a little shocked that Mary Poppins seemed kind of harsh! My experience with the character was, predictably, limited to the Disney version of her, and she kind of scared me in the book! I remember the magic seeming pretty different, too, and I was pretty confused by an episode with bread wrapped in paper (which reflects the fact that I was unaware that the book was already over 50 years old). With renewed interest in the story due to the movie Saving Mr. Banks in 2013, perhaps it’s a good time to break out the original stories again (it’s a whole series!) before my kids get too spoiled by the Julie Andrews version! (Interestingly, the author herself died twenty years ago this weekend!)

And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Streetby Dr. Seuss (1937): Dr. Seuss’s first children’s book is the rhyming tale of a boy who is instructed by his father to observe what he sees while he travels to school and report what he has seen. The boy thinks that what he has seen is too boring, so he embellishes and embellishes until the man driving a horse and cart becomes a brass band on a trailer being pulled by an elephant and two giraffes being escorted by motorcycle police and watched by the city officials and on and on and on…until he gets home, so excited to tell what he has seen that he can’t even speak, and he finally just reports what he actually saw: a plain horse and cart on Mulberry Street.

Mr. Popper's PenguinsMr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater (1938): I recently read this one to my kids, too. It was one of the books introduced to me, along with Anne of Green Gables, by my second grade teacher who realized I needed more than what her grade-level classroom library had to offer. A Newbery Honor recipient in 1939, Mr. Popper is a painter who dreams of world travel. He loves to read about far-off places, and he greatly admires Admiral Drake and writes him a letter about the “funny penguins” at the South Pole. After telling him, via radio broadcast from the expedition, that he should expect a reply to his letter, Admiral Drake sends him a penguin by air express. They soon add another, a gift from an aquarium as they both try to help the ailing penguins recover, and those two soon start a family. Soon the Poppers have ten baby penguins to add to their collection. The house has been transformed into a funhouse for penguins; they train them to do a little show, and they are offered a good sum to travel with their performing penguins. Eventually, the penguins are sent with Admiral Drake on an expedition to establish a penguin population at the North Pole, and Mr. Popper gets to live his dream by joining them on their trip. While it might be a little difficult for young readers to understand all the cultural differences between this book’s setting and modern times, there really is nothing extra needed to imagine how fun and funny it might be to have penguins as pets, even for just a little while!

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovelstory and pictures by Virginia Lee Burton (1939): Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, are becoming obsolete as new gas and electric steam shovels are developed. They try to prove themselves one more time by offering to dig the cellar for the new town hall in Popperville in just a day. Having an audience always makes them work harder, and a crowd soon gathers to watch their work and see if they really can do all that digging in just one day. Just at sunset, they finish their work to the applause of the townspeople who are all standing around watching. After all that hard, fast work, a little boy (who has been watching all day) notices that Mike and Mary Anne have forgotten to leave a way out. Then the little boy suggests that they simply stay where they are: let Mary Anne be the furnace for the new town hall, and Mike Mulligan can be the janitor. They all agree, and Mike and Mary Anne stay relevant by reinventing themselves and being useful.

Here’s the related list from What We Do All Day: remember that this blogger focuses on lesser-known works, so there’s little overlap this time because of how many well-known works were written during this decade!

 

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1920-1929

(I need you to pretend this was published on Thursday; our power was out for 17 straight hours when I would usually be getting the post ready to publish, and I got set back too far to get it up in time!)

[1920 to 1929 book list]

Here’s our about.com-based summary of events of the decade to find our place in history:

1920–women in the United States earn the right to vote

1921–Bessie Coleman becomes the first African-American female pilot (list of children’s books about Bessie Coleman–they look pretty neat!)

1922–King Tut’s tomb discovered (here’s a brand new article about some recent (potentially) exciting developments regarding the tomb!)

1923–Time magazine founded

1925–Balto the sled dog’s historic run (list of children’s books about Balto, including the Magic Tree House one)

1927–Babe Ruth sets the home run record

1928–penicillin discovered

1929–the stock market crash sets off the Great Depression

 

The John Newbery Medal was first awarded in 1922. Here’s a list of this decade’s winners (some of which have made it into the post)!

1922–The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon

1923–The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

1924–The Dark Frigate by Charles Hawes

1925–Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger

1926–Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman

1927–Smoky, the Cowhorse by Will James

1928–Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji

1929–The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly

The Voyages of Doctor DolittleThe Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, by Hugh Lofting (1922): The book has next to nothing to do with the Eddie Murphy movie version (which I actually liked, too!), and it has a lot of the absurdity of many of the fantasy works of that time. (Building a believable alternative world that was to be taken seriously, like many epic fantasies since that time, was clearly not the object.) Doctor Dolittle himself is a kind of impractical man, a human doctor by trade, who gets into the care of animals by the suggestion of the Cat’s-meat-Man and the animal-language tutelage of his parrot, Polynesia. The Voyages story takes place later in the series, and it is told in first person from the point of view of Tommy Stubbins, the 10-year-old son of a local cobbler, who apprentices himself to Dr. Dolittle in order to join him on his adventures. After helping Luke the Hermit beat a murder accusation in court by translating for his dog, the only other witness, Doctor Dolittle and Tommy set out on what is to be a random naturalist trip, and Tommy just so happens to select a moving island, Spidermonkey Island, as their destination, a destination which is also the last-known location of another respected naturalist, Long Arrow (who is referred to as a Red Indian, what I assume to be the British term of the era to distinguish between natives of India and Native Americans (the latter of which Long Arrow is, from South America)). Apart from this kind of distasteful or out-of-date terminology, there appears to be a general appreciation of the contributions and cultures of different humans as Doctor Dolittle seems to have a mind that appreciates the value of all people and animals. Still, I can understand why modern versions take the general idea of the book (a man who can talk to animals) and goes ahead with a completely different plot. Upper elementary and middle school readers could enjoy this episode in the Doctor Dolittle saga with the right presentation, but I encourage you to read through your edition and the story you pick to make sure that either you are okay with the early 19th century portrayal of different races (or if yours is edited and updated, which is possible) or your child is mature enough to separate the wheat from the chaff in an otherwise fun story. This story was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1923.

Bambi: A Life in the Woods, by Felix Salten (1923): Bambi: A Life in the WoodsThis book kind of horrified me, actually. I mean, I think my mom read it to us when we were young, but I remember nothing of the completely frantic, hopeless feeling I get from it reading as an adult! The little tagline above the title on my copy–“The classic tale of a young deer and his animal friends”–does not even begin to actually describe the fullness of the contents. It starts out much like you’d expect it to (and I can only vaguely remember the Disney version, so I won’t reference it in comparison): young Bambi is born, and his mother leads and teaches him about the forest and about danger. He meets a few animal friends (mostly adult animals who, for some reason, he is somewhat disdainful of, and with whom he never has a close, mutual relationship), and he meets Faline and her twin brother, Gobo. So far, so good: a book for young children. From the moment He (a group of hunters, actually) surrounds the animals as winter takes its toll on them, things get pretty dark and despairing pretty fast. Bambi’s mother, of course, dies. Faline’s twin is assumed to have died, but he comes back in the spring, confident, healthy, and wearing a collar; he ends up being killed because he thinks He is no danger to them and takes no precautions. It starts feeling like a very fatalistic allegory. The characters display both what appears to be a very realistic anthropomorphism (the descriptions of the squirrel, especially, feel like what a squirrel would really be like if it could talk) and distinctly human emotions and philosophical questions (like Bambi’s disdain for the animals beneath him, his misunderstanding with the old stag, and the kind of morbid revelation (over the dead body of a human poacher, apparently) that He wasn’t really the all-powerful being in their world as they had assumed, that there was Another over them all). The shift from youthful cautionary tale to full-on life-and-death-and-despair comes pretty quickly, and the vocabulary actually seems to accelerate in complexity (propitiate, anyone?) as the book gets darker. While older readers would possibly be turned off by the childishness of the first few chapters, young readers might be easily confused and traumatized by the middle to end of the book. I did really like one chapter, though, and it wasn’t even about Bambi; it was chapter eight, a conversation between two leaves as autumn and its unpredictability have taken many of their companions, and they ponder and comfort one another in their uncertainty as winter comes and one of them is carried away suddenly in midsentence. The author was an Austrian Jew living in the aftermath of World War I (and beyond, after this book’s publication, with all that entailed), so I suppose he had every right to be despondent; I’m just not entirely sure how this came to be considered a classical work for children!

Winnie-the-PoohWinnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne, with decorations by Ernest H. Shepard (1926): I thought I wouldn’t like this book because I’m not much fond of the animated Pooh (perhaps it’s just his voice…I know I can’t be the only one!), but I was kind of wrong! It’s a little like a Toys Go Out or Raggedy Ann Stories for the 1920s, and I actually found the exposition, the part where the author sets up how the Pooh stories get started, pretty funny. As much as it was always torture sitting through one of the videos (and we had to ban Pooh’s Grand Adventure because Owl’s warnings were too scary for GirlChild), I think I would enjoy reading this aloud to my kids! (I recognized several of the stories from animated versions, though, and the written ones were much more clever, in my opinion.) Pooh is perennially popular, and even my children have quilts with images based on the original decorations, copies of a few videos (given to us, though, not purchased), and a stuffed Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger. There are Pooh toys, books, or accessories in almost every daycare or nursery setting I’ve visited, and I can’t help but think of one of my best friends from middle school to college who had all manner of Eeyore paraphernalia in her dorm room! (He even showed up in my Bookworm Gardens post!) If you’ve not read the original, give it a try with your early elementary listeners, or hand a copy to your Toys Go Out loving reader for independent reading!

The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure, by Franklin W. Dixon (1927): The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure (book 1)This copy of the book may not be completely faithful to the original text, but there is enough of the ’20s left (including their style of dress, speech, and blunt characterizations) to be a little unwieldy for modern readers. That said, my brother and sister read all of these books, one by one, from our local library growing up in the 1980s, so there’s enough there to continue to intrigue new readers. (I never got into them; Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew were more up my alley.) From what I can tell, there continue to be additions to the series and other media portrayals enough to keep people interested! While I think it would probably take a high schooler to have enough understanding of the era to really put the story in context, the maturity of the story line is suitable for younger readers, and high school readers might find the stories too basic and predictable. That said, however, I felt a distinct lack of ability to get into the mystery because I didn’t feel like there was enough information (or enough comprehension on my side, perhaps!) for me to begin guessing at the solution, and my personal preference is to be guided through believable steps without any deux ex machina from private investigator fathers who provide key clues derived from off-screen (so to speak) encounters. I imagine that the Hardy Boys (ages 17 and 18 in this book) get more independent as the series progresses, however, so the mysteries may not continue to be as choppy and dependent on fortuitous intervention from their dad for the plot to thicken, and they may improve as the series develops. Or you might like them as they are!

The Trumpeter of KrakowThe Trumpeter of Krakow, by Eric P. Kelly, with decorations by Janina Domanska (1928): I’m actually kind of surprised that I hadn’t read this book yet because the title, with its reference to a trumpeter like myself, would have been a draw (and I know I have heard of it!), and I’ve always appreciated historical fiction. This is a little different than a lot of historical fiction I’ve read, and perhaps part of that is because the setting is a little different than most: Krakow, Poland, in 1462. The other part is the vast amount of historical information the author interrupts the story to provide (probably because his readers even in the 1920s weren’t particularly familiar with the setting). While that could be distracting, it was actually pretty helpful in my overall understanding of what was going on in the story! I feel like I could recommend this for upper elementary readers and above; it’s not too difficult to understand for younger readers because of the frequent historical reminders (including where the world was in terms of understanding alchemy and whatnot), but it’s not overly simplistic either, and it could definitely be used as a part of a European or Asian history class. The main character (who is actually not the official trumpeter!) is a fifteen-year-old Ukrainian boy with Polish roots who is coming to Krakow with his parents after a suspicious fire that destroys their home and farmlands. While the reader might originally think they are just refugees, eventually it is discovered that the boy’s father is hiding something valuable that his family has sworn to protect and to return to the king of Poland when its location is no longer able to be kept secret. Joseph, the boy, discovers this along with the reader, but we are privy to other information throughout the story that he still is not. The boy and his father both demonstrate the bravery, honor, and dependability that the villains in the book lack, and the story wraps up neatly with a simple “ever after” summary to follow the main story’s resolution. This story won the last Newbery Medal of the decade.

Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field (1929): Hitty, Her First Hundred YearsI blogged about Hitty in my Dolls and Toyland post, so here’s the link instead of a re-review! She won the Newbery in 1930, too.

Besides these titles, check out the related list on What We Do All Day, where I discovered that the original publication of The Box-Car Children was in 1924, and the version we know today was edited and rewritten for publication in the 1940s! Here’s a link to the Project Gutenburg copy of the original.

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1910-1919

Many of the authors that were publishing in the 1900-1909 range continued to publish through the next decade. A whole lot of series adventure books were published, from the Bobbsey Twins to the Boy Scouts and Outdoors Girls. (Tom Swift books, a science fiction/inventor series, were first published in this decade as well, but the only knowledge I have of that character is of the Tom Swift puns, Tom Swifties!)

[1910 to 1919 book list]

Here’s our “when-in-the-world” reference from about.com to understand what was going on in real life while these books were being published!

1910–Boy Scouts established in the U.S. (which might explain all the Boy Scouts books published!)

1911–the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire occurs (I can’t remember where I learned about this tragedy–a social studies text?–but here’s a graphic novel an upper elementary to middle school reader might benefit from reading!)

1912–the Titanic sinks (and Oreos are first introduced!)

1913–Henry Ford invents the moving assembly line

1914–World War I begins

1915–the first transcontinental phone call is made

1916–Jeanette Rankin is the first woman in the U.S. Congress (and Piggly Wiggly opens as the first self-service grocery store in the U.S.)

1917–the U.S. enters WWI

1918–Daylight Saving Time introduced

1919–end of World War I with the Treaty of Versailles

That’s a lot of heavy stuff going on, so it’s really no wonder that there were so many adventure and inventor series being written! The stories that I best remember, though, being a timid child growing up in small-town USA, are the stories of hope and perseverance, childish goodness and wisdom, and “safe” adventures in fantasy! Here’s a list of some of the stories from this era that were most memorable to me and have stood the test of time!

Peter and WendyPeter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie (1911): While Peter Pan as a character is pretty pervasive in modern culture (peanut butter, Geico commercials, and the many iterations in movies and on stage, just to name a few examples), the actual book from which the character arises is perhaps not as well known (nor, perhaps, that he first appeared in a book for adults and that this book where he is featured is actually an expansion on a long-running play written by the author and is not the original source material). The different versions of Peter don’t all agree on his personality or characteristics (even among Barrie’s works there are some discrepancies), but he is generally portrayed as young, brave, and carefree. Tinker Bell, likewise, has different characteristics among versions, but she is almost always shown to be both fiercely jealous and loyal (although I’m pretty sure the jealousy aspect is either toned down or missing in the Disney Fairies version of her where she isn’t with Peter Pan). Much of the book has a decidedly silly tone to it, despite dealing with such serious ideas as lost babies and murderous pirates. The Darlings have a somewhat ridiculous discussion about their finances while Mrs Darling holds the newborn Wendy, but they finally decide that they will keep their baby and hope for the best cost-wise. They hire a Newfoundland dog as their nanny because they can’t afford a human version but still want to keep up appearances, and the dog bathes the children and walks them to school, but she also lies on the floor in the nanny waiting area and is chained outside when Mr Darling (in a sullen temper and with the guilty understanding that he is being unreasonable) is offended by her supposed disrespect. (She also has dialog, but it’s hard to tell if the author intends for her to be actually speaking or if it is assumed that what she “says” is what she would be thinking or conveying with her demeanor.) Peter’s heavy-handed and obviously manipulative flattery convince the otherwise responsible Wendy to trust and follow him. All in all, I can’t help but think of the avowed absurdity of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland being passed off as absolutely reasonable in this book. My mother read this aloud to us when we were young, and I remember being heartily confused by the nanny/dog bit, but it certainly helped to have a reader who could explain the archaic or confusing parts to us! For independent reading, I’d suggest at least upper elementary age, and there are a vast number of YA books inspired by the story and characters if your reader falls for Peter, too!

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911): The Secret GardenThis character begins her story as both similar to and wildly different from Burnett’s other classic female character, Sara Crewe. Where Sara, the only child of a doting British officer in India, is sweet-tempered and wise and generous, Mary, the only child of self-centered British parents living in India, is angry and selfish and demanding. Both are orphaned at a young age, and both end up living with a wealthy guardian (after Sara’s stretch at Miss Minchin’s, of course). Both sincerely befriend children who are their social inferiors (Betsy for Sara and Dickon (as well as the servants) for Mary). Where Sara uplifts her fellow students through her goodness, imagination, and inclusiveness, Mary brings her hidden cousin Colin out of his misery with bluntness, stories, and shared secrecy. One theme of the story that seems obvious to me would finding life where there seems to be only death: Mary’s survival when her household is struck down by cholera, the garden being coaxed back to bloom from its abandoned state, and Colin and his father being drawn out of their pain and misery into a more abundant life. I loved this book as a child, and we loved the 1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie version (although I know it to be full of inaccuracies, it was what we had, and we loved it!). It is, like the others from this list, an enduring classic, and it would be a good read-aloud for elementary aged children and independent reading from upper elementary on.

PollyannaPollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter (1913): All that I really recall from reading this book a million-ish years ago (or, you know, maybe 25 or so) is that Pollyanna is cheerful (which may also have something to do with her lasting literary legacy and not my actual memories of the book) and some sort of accident near the end of the book. It actually came to my attention when my daughter mentioned that a friend from her class (a bit of a Pollyanna herself!) was reading it. While the exact plot of the book may not have gone down in history (the basics of the storyline are pretty familiar and common to many books from this era: an orphaned child or child in otherwise desperate straits is sent to live with with better off relatives (usually spinsters or a childless couple) or friends of the parents and brightens their lives considerably), the character of the main character has created a lasting impression, a shorthand way of saying that someone is almost foolishly optimistic (and can, therefore, be used as a bit of an insult). The characterization comes about because of how Pollyanna approaches life, as taught to her by her father, in that she always looks for the bright side of things (which she calls playing “The Glad Game”) and teaches others to do so as well. Pollyanna is so very guileless (she reminds me of GirlChild in this way!) that there are frequent misunderstandings between herself and the people from her mother’s hometown that have secrets they’ve been keeping and feelings they’ve been hiding. When she is gravely injured in an accident and can’t manage to summon up a reason to be glad, all the people in the town visit or send messages to her about how she has changed their lives so that she can have something to be glad about. This is actually a somewhat easier read than many juvenile books from the era, and although some of the inferences might be missed by a young modern reader, I think a middle to upper elementary child could manage the contents decently, even better if read with an adult.

Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914): Tarzan of the ApesI will freely admit that I have never actually read this book. Does that, however, mean it isn’t a book with staying power? Of course not! There are many readers who are not me, after all! Besides, the character of Tarzan has been immortalized in film, and I would imagine that most adults in the English-speaking world could at least identify some characteristics of Tarzan (if not reproduce his yell). Not having a good acquaintance with the book character, I have little to no idea how far the Disney version strays from the original (although, from the fight with Kerchak that I happened to open the book to, I would guess the answer is “pretty darn far”). Still, the man who was raised by apes from infancy, discovered and brought to civilization by Professor Porter and his daughter, and has adventures, marries Jane Porter (although, apparently, not in this book), and has more adventures–his legend lives on. Judging from the bits of the book that I browsed and the hints gleaned from the introduction, I’d say it would be best for readers of at least middle school to high school age, and readers would need to be able to suspend disbelief on a semi-regular basis.

The Real Mother GooseThe Real Mother Goose, illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright (1916): To me, at least, the cover of this book is the iconic Mother Goose image; it is what I think of when I think of Mother Goose despite all the different available compilations and adaptations of the rhymes contained within. In the interest of full disclosure, I do not remember a lot of the rhymes (“Three Wise Men of Gotham,” really? and “Needles and Pins” about the risks of marriage??), but the image has stuck. Nursery rhymes can be pretty brutal😉 , but these weren’t composed during this time period, just illustrated. (I prefer Richard Scarry’s Best Mother Goose Ever in terms of contents, actually! Richard Scarry is kind of second only to Dr. Seuss in terms of my childhood reading memories, and Sandra Boynton joins them in my children’s collection of sure-to-be-classics!)

Raggedy Ann Stories, by Johnny Gruelle (1918): Raggedy Ann StoriesI don’t know that I ever read the stories themselves before, but I most definitely knew of Raggedy Ann and Andy! (My kids even have a metal jack-in-the-box that has Raggedy Ann in it!) The stories remind me very much of the Toys Go Out series by Emily Jenkins or the Toy Story movies. Raggedy Ann, despite being just a rag doll passed down to the little girl, Marcella, from her grandmother when she found the doll in her grandma’s attic, becomes the admired leader of the dolls in the nursery. She watches out for them and is the voice of wisdom and reason and love. There is a wealth of quotes in the stories that show what an upbeat and positive doll Raggedy Ann is, like: “So all the other dolls were happy, too, for happiness is very easy to catch when we love one another and are sweet all through.”

ArcolaFestival

A former Sunday school student with Raggedy Ann and Andy at the Raggedy Ann and Andy Festival in Arcola, IL.

It’s clear that the author also had some marketing in mind, however, when he wrote the story of the dollmaker taking Raggedy Ann in to use as a pattern for mass-production and having another doll say to Raggedy, “For wherever one of the new Raggedy Ann dolls goes there will go with it the love and happiness that you give to others.” The afterword, written by the author’s grandson, states that after the success of this first Raggedy Ann collection, the author wrote at least one new Raggedy Ann title per year until his death 20 years later. He also says, “His books contained nothing to cause fright, glorify mischief, excuse malice, or condone cruelty,” and that is probably why his characters for children endure today! While there used to be a museum and annual festival in the author’s hometown, they have recently suspended operations due to low turnout and volunteers.

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The blogger as an almost-3-year-old with a Raggedy Andy doll

I had a couple more books slated to be shared today, but I realized that they may have had a more limited audience than these other books have had, so they may have only been memorable to me (and other readers like me). Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs (1912) and Dear Enemy (1915) were books my mother read to us that were published during this decade. Understood Betsy (1916) I discovered on a similarly-inspired book list on the blog What We Do All Day, and I loved that book as a child as well! (You should definitely check there for more books-by-the-decade as the blogger there is trying to emphasize books that might have been forgotten! I promise that I’m avoiding looking at the corresponding lists before I compile my list so I’m not unfairly influenced and so I can compare what we’ve found.)

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NPR Book Concierge: Best Books of 2015

Here’s a little bonus post! A librarian friend of mine posted a link to this great resource, so I thought I’d share it here, too! It’s a searchable, filterable collection of what the NPR staff and critics have selected as the best books of the year. From children’s to adult titles, you’re sure to find something new to read!

Visit the #bookconcierge, NPR’s guide to 2015’s great reads. http://apps.npr.org/best-books-2015/

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1900-1909

I’m not sure what inspired this series of Themed Third Thursdays. It might have been having an old book recommended to me by a friend (and having my daughter read it and love it). It might have been picking up an old favorite on audiobook for my kids to experience for the first time. It might have been all those #TBT hashtags on old photos my friends post on Facebook. Whatever the initial reason, I’ve chosen to highlight a decade a month this year of old books that seem to have staying power–they remain, after the passage of years, classics that are read and reread by each new generation of readers.

[1900 to 1909 book list]

To give you a vague sense of when-in-the-world this was, here are some highlights of the decade from a list I found on about.com!

1901–first Nobel prizes awarded

1902–the teddy bear is created

1903–the first silent narrative movie, The Great Train Robbery, is produced

1904–the New York City subway opens

1905–Einstein proposes his Theory of Relativity

1906–the San Francisco earthquake (find a book about it here or here!)

1908–Ford introduces the Model-T

1909–plastic is invented

The Wonderful Wizard of OzThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum (1900): I can’t remember if I watched the movies first or if my mom read these books to us, but I know that this was GirlChild’s first exposure to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz! I picked a copy up at the library (I had read it in the past ten years for a library class, but I wanted a refresher), and I left it in my bag. After sleeping in late on a Saturday morning, I woke to find that GirlChild was all the way to the part where they discover that the Wizard is just a man! Not too long after that, however, she got scared by the continuing plot, and she decided to stop and wait for me to finish it with her. Like many books from this era, it doesn’t shy away from harsh reality (whether real reality or realistic fantasy reality), but, unlike many traditional European fairy tales (and this was intended as a new American fairy tale by the author!), it doesn’t depend on fear and dwell on the grim(m). Probably best for middle to upper elementary readers, there is a whole series for the child who latches on to this one!

Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling Just So Stories(1902): This collection of “pourquois” or origin stories was written and illustrated by the author of such other famous works at Captains Courageous and The Jungle Book. It contains eleven stories that explain how something came to be (such as the camel to have his hump, the elephant his trunk, and so on). While I don’t recall ever reading this book in its entirety, I am sure that several of the stories turned up in reading textbooks throughout my childhood (although none in particular stuck with me, the titles feel really familiar). A note that was written to go along with the 1978 edition of the book reminds us: “The language and references are those of Kipling; though they are no longer in vogue, they are of historical interest and literary note.” Basically, there are some really out-of-date terms and ideas in the book, particularly racial, but there is still value in the collection. Modern readers will, of course, cringe over some parts, and it’s definitely helpful to teach our children and students how to critically read a text to sort out what’s quality writing and content and what’s the result of the thinking of a different time and place. Still, I’d recommend caution in introducing these stories as-is to children with less mature critical thinking skills and discernment without also discussing what is now considered stereotypical or derogatory, and being selective about which stories to share until an appropriate level of maturity is reached might also be wise. (Also, this may be the earliest version of, “Don’t say I never gave you anything!” in print, found in the camel story.)

The Tale of Peter RabbitThe Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter (1902): BoyChild was kind of traumatized by this one! Admittedly, he’s been sick, so his tolerance for stress is low, but discovering that Peter’s father has been made into a pie and watching Peter’s panic as Mr. McGregor chases him through the garden are kind of high-intensity when the only exposure one has had to Peter Rabbit has been the off episode of the Nick Jr. show (in which, BoyChild informs me, Peter does not wear the same jacket, and his dad isn’t in a pie). Still, as far as enduring stories, Beatrix Potter’s works have survived a century and are still household names! Best as a read-aloud for preschool and early elementary, the basic premise is that naughty Peter Rabbit intentionally disobeys his mother and seeks out the one place she told him to avoid: Mr. McGregor’s garden. There he is chased by Mr. McGregor and ends up losing his shoes, his coat, and almost his life! When he finally escapes after several very close calls, he runs home and passes out in exhaustion while his well-behaved sisters enjoy a lovely dinner in peace.

The Call of the Wild, The Call of the Wildby Jack London (1903): While this is not a book whose contents stuck strongly with me (since I’m not overly attached to the survivalism genre), it is still a book that resonates strongly with many readers. It reminds me, in part, of Black Beauty in that it tells the story of an animal who passes from owner to owner, some good, some bad, some foolish, some reasonable. Buck, the hero of the story, is a mixed breed dog, half St. Bernard, half Scottish shepherd (Scotch collie) who begins life as a family pet. He is stolen, however, and sold, becoming a sled dog, mail dog, and a miner’s companion and protector. After his last owner is killed (and he kills the group of tribesmen who murdered him), he bests and then joins a wolf pack, and legend tells of a Ghost Dog who returns every year to a particular spot, the place where Buck lost his last and best owner, and who leads the pack in the night. Although a short book, this is definitely not for very young readers. The author spent nearly a year in the Yukon before writing this book, so the realism is intense and gritty, and the book and his others are likely best for upper elementary and older readers (unless, of course, your reader has a very strong stomach and isn’t prone to nightmares). London seems very much like a forerunner to more modern authors like Gary Paulsen.

A Little PrincessA Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905): Though technically written and published as a magazine serial story before the 1900s, it was still first published in its entirety during the right decade! In the year since I originally wrote about it as part of my Princess Possibilities post, GirlChild has read it herself and enjoyed it. She even handled the father’s death relatively well and warned BoyChild about it when we watched the movie (which could have been so much better if they had actually stuck with the book instead of completely warping part of the plot!). For a little refresher if you don’t want to wade through the original post, Sara Crewe is a rich and precocious young child who is sent by her English officer father to a boarding school in London because India isn’t considered a healthy environment for children. (I’m not sure what they made of all the Indian children who probably thrived while living there…) While she is at the school, her lively imagination and loving inclusiveness endear her to everyone but the most hard-hearted of the other occupants of the seminary. Her father, sadly, makes a bad business deal and, overcome with stress and illness, dies. His partner, who feels responsible for his involvement and death, actually ends up making money from the deal that originally went sour, but his health is also not good, so he takes a house in London while he searches for Captain Crewe’s only living heir, his daughter Sara. Through coincidence (and what is hinted to be a little Indian magic, I think), he eventually discovers her living next door, reduced to servitude after her father’s loss, and adopts her into his home (and takes the scullery maid, Becky, with her to be her companion). It is an amazing story of taking life as it comes, showing compassion and empathy to all you encounter, and holding your head high no matter your circumstances.

Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Green Gablesby L. M. Montgomery (1908): This is, by far, my favorite of all books. I even saddled GirlChild with a middle name in its honor! I was introduced to Anne of Green Gables in second grade when I told my teacher that I had already read all of the books on her classroom bookshelf. She brought in a little box of books to keep behind her desk for me, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Anne of Green Gables were among them! (They are the only two I remember, but it was a whole box just for me!) I don’t know if it was an abridged version or if I really actually read the whole thing as a second grader, but this is where my whole family first came into contact with this book and the series (the entirety of which my mother then proceeded to read aloud to the three of us kids). I longed to be like Anne; her openness, confidence, and imagination drew me in. I named two of our fish Silver Scales and Green Gillbert (punny misspelling intentional!) as inspired by her, and my third grade (and subsequent) writing notebooks were full of rip-offs and inspired-by stories. The Megan Follows miniseries captivated (and annoyed–plot changes, ugh!) us. Even as recently as this week, the Internet is abuzz with news that a new miniseries is in the works! That, my friends, is staying power. (Oh, a quick summary: Anne is a red-headed, 11-year-old, strong-willed orphan girl accidentally adopted by an elderly brother and sister (when they meant to adopt a boy to help with farm work). Shy Matthew takes to her first, admiring her shining spirit, and stoic Marilla even finds herself caring more for her than she believes any person should care for things of this Earth. She brings light and life to Green Gables and the whole town, perhaps the whole of Prince Edward Island, and it’s hard to imagine anyone not loving this feisty girl in all her vulnerable and vivacious wonder! (Not surprisingly, I see a lot of her in her partial namesake, GirlChild Anne!))

All of these works are over 100 years old. Newbery and Caldecott Awards had not yet started being awarded when they were written. World War I was yet to come. Even my grandparents had not yet been born! Yet they remain perennial favorites, beloved, passed on, and studied for the value they’ve contributed to life and literature–and continue to contribute!

 

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