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2013 Notable Children's Books (Grade 3-5)

View all Recommendations by Age > Recommendations for Age 9-12 book lists; This list was last updated on 8/9/2013
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Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children's books. According to the Notables Criteria, "notable" is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children's books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children's interests in exemplary ways. This list is for Middle Readers – Grades 3-5, ages 8-10.

For more book recommendations, please check out New York Times® Best Sellers, Children's Book Recommendations or the complete list of Featured Book Lists and Award Winners

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Zombie Makers
Are zombies real? Scientists know this for sure: dead people do not come back to live and start walking around, looking for trouble. But there are things that can take over the bodies and brains of innocent creatures, turning them into senseless slaves. Meet nature's zombie makers--including a fly-enslaving fungus, a suicide worm, and a cockroach-taming wasp--and their victims.
release date: Jan 01, 2012
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Wonder
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can't get past Auggie's extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie's point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community's struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

"Wonder is the best kids' book of the year," said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can't blend in when you were born to stand out.

Join the conversation: #thewonderofwonder
release date: Nov 01, 2012
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Unspoken
A young girl's courage is tested in this haunting, wordless story.

When a farm girl discovers a runaway slave
hiding in the barn, she is at once
startled and frightened.

But the stranger's fearful eyes
weigh upon her conscience,
and she must make a difficult choice.
Will she have the courage to help him?

Unspoken gifts of humanity unite the girl
and the runaway as they each face a journey:
one following the North Star,
the other following her heart.

Henry Cole's unusual and original rendering
of the Underground Railroad
speaks directly to our deepest sense
of compassion.
release date: Nov 06, 2012
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Twelve Kinds of Ice

“This is a joyful, spirited gem of a book, as bracing and glorious as a perfect stretch of ice.” –Newbery Honor author Joyce Sidman

With the first ice—a skim on a sheep pail so thin it breaks when touched—one family's winter begins in earnest. Next comes ice like panes of glass. And eventually, skating ice! Take a literary skate over field ice and streambed, through sleeping orchards and beyond. The first ice, the second ice, the third ice . . . perfect ice . . . the last ice . . . Twelve kinds of ice are carved into twenty nostalgic vignettes, illustrated in elegantly scratched detail by the award-winning Barbara McClintock.

release date: Mar 01, 2012
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Titanic
Critically acclaimed nonfiction author Deborah Hopkinson pieces together the story of the TITANIC and that fateful April night, drawing on the voices of survivors and archival photographs.

Scheduled to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the TITANIC, a topic that continues to haunt and thrill readers to this day, this book by critically acclaimed author Deborah Hopkinson weaves together the voices and stories of real TITANIC survivors and witnesses to the disaster -- from the stewardess Violet Jessop to Captain Arthur Rostron of the CARPATHIA, who came to the rescue of the sinking ship. Packed with heartstopping action, devastating drama, fascinating historical details, loads of archival photographs on almost every page, and quotes from primary sources, this gripping story, which follows the TITANIC and its passengers from the ship's celebrated launch at Belfast to her cataclysmic icy end, is sure to thrill and move readers.
release date: Jan 01, 2012
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Three Times Lucky
Newbery honor winner, New York Times bestseller, Edgar Award Finalist, and E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor book.

A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime

Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.
release date: Feb 01, 2012
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A Black Hole Is Not a Hole
Get ready to S-T-R-E-T-C-H your mind!

What is a black hole? Where do they come from? How were they discovered? Can we visit one? Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano takes readers on a ride through the galaxies (ours, and others), answering these questions and many more about the phenomenon known as a black hole.

In lively and often humorous text, the book starts off with a thorough explanation of gravity and the role it plays in the formation of black holes. Paintings by Michael Carroll, coupled with real telescopic images, help readers visualize the facts and ideas presented in the text, such as how light bends, and what a supernova looks like.

A BLACK HOLE IS NOT A HOLE is an excellent introduction to an extremely complex scientific concept. Back matter includes a timeline which sums up important findings discussed throughout, while the glossary and index provide a quick point of reference for readers. Children and adults alike will learn a ton of spacey facts in this far-out book that's sure to excite even the youngest of astrophiles.
release date: Jan 01, 2012
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Bomb

In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.

Bomb is a 2012 National Book Awards finalist for Young People's Literature.
Bomb is a 2012 Washington Post Best Kids Books of the Year title.

Bomb is a 2013 Newbery Honor book.

release date: Apr 03, 2012
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Brothers at Bat

The Acerra family had sixteen children, including twelve ball-playing boys. It was the
1930s, and many families had lots of kids. But only one had enough to field a baseball
team . . . with three on the bench! The Acerras were the longest-playing all-brother
team in baseball history. They loved the game, but more important, they cared for
and supported each other and stayed together as a team. Nothing life threw their way
could stop them.


Full of action, drama, and excitement, this never-before-told true story is vividly
brought to life by Audrey Vernick's expert storytelling and Steven Salerno's stunning
vintage-style art.

release date: Apr 01, 2012
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Chuck Close
This fascinating, interactive autobiography presents Chuck Close's story, his art, and a discussion of the many processes he uses in the studio. The question-and-answer format is based on real kids' inquiries about Close's life and work, and his answers to them. Close, who is wheelchair-bound and paints with a brush strapped to his arm, discusses the severe dyslexia and face blindness he has struggled with since childhood, as well as a collapsed spinal artery that left him nearly paralyzed at the age of 48.
An engaging feature of the book is a mix-and-match Chuck Close self-portrait section. This hands-on component encourages the reader to create new and interesting combinations of Close's techniques and images. The book also includes an illustrated chronology of Close's life, a list of museums where his work can be seen, and an index.

Praise for Chuck Close: Face Book
STARRED REVIEW
"Art lovers of all ages will revel in this vivid, wonderfully affecting book, which is almost as ingenious and memorable as Close himself."
–Kirkus Reviews, starred review

STARRED REVIEW
"Close describes his work with candor and insight. The high quality printing and lush colors of the reproductions make it easy for readers to share that excitement. A nifty mix-and-match section lets readers compare the methods used in 14 of the artist's self-portraits."
–Publishers Weekly, starred review

STARRED REVIEW
“Excellent-quality reproductions of his paintings appear throughout. A readable and engaging look at a fascinating artist and his methods of working.”
–School Library Journal, starred review

"Chuck Close's art and life story are the ideal way to introduce art and artists to children."
–Horn Book

"A winner. Chuck Close's honest, personal memoir about his life and work makes an ideal book for kids who find school challenging, who are creative or who see the world a bit differently from their peers. In other words, this one's for most everyone."
–Shelf Awareness

Awards:
WINNER - 2012 Boston Globe Horn Book Nonfiction Award
New York Public Library's Children's Books 2012: 100 Books for Reading and Sharing list
Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2012 list: Children's Nonfiction
Capitol Choices 2013 - Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens
Orbis Pictus Recommended Book 2013
Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices 2013 list - The Arts
2013 ALA/ALSC Notable Book
 
release date: Oct 02, 2012
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Each Kindness
WINNER OF A CORETTA SCOTT KING HONOR AND THE JANE ADDAMS PEACE AWARD!

Each kindness makes the world a little better

This unforgettable book is written and illustrated by the award-winning team that created The Other Side and the Caldecott Honor winner Coming On Home Soon. With its powerful anti-bullying message and striking art, it will resonate with readers long after they've put it down.

Chloe and her friends won't play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe's teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she'd shown a little kindness toward Maya.
release date: Sep 13, 2012
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Electric Ben
Electric Ben is now a 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Book Award Winner, a Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book, a Horn Fanfare Book, and a  Robert F. Sibert Honor book!

“a true standout…bright, witty, informative and cleverly organized as the man himself.” – The New York Times

A true Renaissance man, Benjamin Franklin was the first American celebrity. In pictures and text, master artist Robert Byrd documents Franklin's numerous and diverse accomplishments, from framing the Constitution to creating bifocals. The witty, wise, and endlessly curious Franklin is the perfect subject for Byrd's lively style and vibrant art. The pages pulse with facts, quotes, and captions, while the inventive design and intricately detailed illustrations make a striking tribute to the brilliant American.
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George Bellows: Painter with a Punch!
No punches are pulled in this fascinating biography that covers the life and work of the prolific artist George Bellows. Having spent most of his adult life in New York City, Bellows left behind an extraordinary body of work that captures life in this dynamic city: bustling street scenes, ringside views of boxing matches, and boys diving and swimming in the East River. Art reproductions and photographs from his youth round out the book.

Praise for George Bellows

STARRED REVIEW
"Upbeat prose, photographs, and reproductions of George Bellows's paintings provide an insightful homage to the urban artist and athlete. Burleigh places readers right in the moment."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The book's excellent reproductions of Bellows' work will excite young readers and budding artists. A fine portrait of an artist not on everyone's radar but whose work can be readily understood and appreciated by youngsters.”
—Kirkus Reviews

"Veteran biographer Burleigh breathes a great deal of vitality into Bellows' short but significant life and career. Accompanied by Bellows' striking and powerful works, this is an artist bio that, like its subject, packs a punch."
—Booklist

"Burleigh tells Bellows's story with immediacy and with a firm grasp of his audience, striking the right balance of broad stroke and detail. Burleigh's admiration of his subject comes through loud and strong and infectiously. And there are handsome reproductions of Bellows's work...This impressive book captures the connection between the man and the world he observed during his short life. A new generation of young urban observers will be grateful."
—New York Times

"This is a beautifully illustrated biography of painter George Bellows. Bellows found his inspiration in the working class, including the gritty night life of the city... Burleigh adds to the interest of the story through direct quotes that are well-documented."
—Library Media Connection

"Burleigh is an enthusiastic and adept tour guide through Bellows's New York milieu. Crisp reproductions coordinate closely with the text, so readers will easily connect..."
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Award
Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices 2013 list - The Arts
2013 ALA/ALSC Notable Book
 

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Helen's Big World
This picturebook biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world's most influential luminaries. With her signature style of prose laced with stirring quotes, Doreen Rappaport brings to life Helen Keller's poignant narrative. Acclaimed illustrator Matt Tavares beautifully captures the dynamism and verve of Helen Keller's life and legacy, making Helen's Big World an unforgettable portrait of a woman whose vision for innovation and progress changed America-and the world-forever.
release date: Sep 18, 2012
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Island

Charles Darwin first visited the Galápagos Islands almost 200 years ago, only to discover a land filled with plants and animals that could not be found anywhere else on earth. How did they come to inhabit the island? How long will they remain?

Thoroughly researched and filled with intricate and beautiful paintings, this extraordinary book by Award-winning author and artist Jason Chin is an epic saga of the life of an island―born of fire, rising to greatness, its decline, and finally the emergence of life on new islands.

Island is one of Kirkus Reviews' Best Children's Books of 2012

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Liar

Micah is a liar. That's the one thing she won't lie about. Over the years, she's duped her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents. But when her boyfriend Zach dies under brutal circumstances, Micah sets out to tell the truth. At first the truth comes easily-because it is a lie. Other truths are so unbelievable, so outside the realm of normal, they must be a lie. And the honest truth is buried so deep in Micah's mind even she doesn't know if it's real.

The ultimate unreliable narrator takes readers on a thrill ride in this highly acclaimed novel. Prepare to grasp for truth until the very last page.

release date: Jan 10, 2012
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May B.
I've known it since last night:
It's been too long to expect them to return.
Something's happened.


"If May is a brave, stubborn fighter, the short, free-verse lines are one-two punches in this Laura Ingalls Wilder-inspired ode to the human spirit," raved Kirkus Reviews in a starred review.

May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose's fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.
release date: Jun 18, 2012
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The Mighty Mars Rovers

On June 10, 2003, a little rover named Spirit blasted off on a rocket headed for Mars. On July 7, 2003, a twin rover named Opportunity soared through the solar system with the same mission: to find out if Mars ever had water that could have supported life.A thrilling addition to the acclaimed Scientists in the Field series, The Mighty Mars Rovers tells the greatest space robot adventure of all time through the eyes—and heart—of Steven Squyres, professor of astronomy at Cornell University and lead scientist on the mission.

This suspenseful page-turner captures the hair-raising human emotions felt during the adventures with two tough rovers.

release date: Jul 17, 2012
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Moonbird

B95 can feel it: a stirring in his bones and feathers. It's time. Today is the day he will once again cast himself into the air, spiral upward into the clouds, and bank into the wind.

He wears a black band on his lower right leg and an orange flag on his upper left, bearing the laser inscription B95. Scientists call him the Moonbird because, in the course of his astoundingly long lifetime, this gritty, four-ounce marathoner has flown the distance to the moon―and halfway back!

B95 is a robin-sized shorebird, a red knot of the subspecies rufa. Each February he joins a flock that lifts off from Tierra del Fuego, headed for breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic, nine thousand miles away. Late in the summer, he begins the return journey.

B95 can fly for days without eating or sleeping, but eventually he must descend to refuel and rest. However, recent changes at ancient refueling stations along his migratory circuit―changes caused mostly by human activity―have reduced the food available and made it harder for the birds to reach. And so, since 1995, when B95 was first captured and banded, the worldwide rufa population has collapsed by nearly 80 percent. Most perish somewhere along the great hemispheric circuit, but the Moonbird wings on. He has been seen as recently as November 2011, which makes him nearly twenty years old. Shaking their heads, scientists ask themselves: How can this one bird make it year after year when so many others fall?

National Book Award–winning author Phillip Hoose takes us around the hemisphere with the world's most celebrated shorebird, showing the obstacles rufa red knots face, introducing a worldwide team of scientists and conservationists trying to save them, and offering insights about what we can do to help shorebirds before it's too late. With inspiring prose, thorough research, and stirring images, Hoose explores the tragedy of extinction through the triumph of a single bird. Moonbird is one The Washington Post's Best Kids Books of 2012.

release date: Jan 17, 2012
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The One and Only Ivan

Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal and a #1 New York Times bestseller, this stirring and unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendships. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated novel is told from the point-of-view of Ivan himself.

Having spent 27 years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.

The One and Only Ivan was hailed as a best book of the year by Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Amazon, demonstrating it is a true classic in the making. In the tradition of timeless stories like Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan's unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope. An author's note depicts the differences between the fictional story and true events.

Supports the Common Core State Standards

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See You at Harry's
Starting middle school brings all the usual challenges — until the unthinkable happens, and Fern and her family must find a way to heal.

Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she's not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn't know he's gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there's Charlie: three years old, a "surprise" baby, the center of everyone's world. He's devoted to Fern, but he's annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn't for Ran, Fern's calm and positive best friend, there'd be nowhere to turn. Ran's mantra, "All will be well," is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it's true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.
release date: Aug 28, 2012
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Splendors and Glooms
WINNER OF A 2013 NEWBERY HONOR!

Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her sorcery to a Victorian gothic thriller — an enthralling, darkly comic tale that would do Dickens proud.


The master puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini, is so expert at manipulating his stringed puppets that they appear alive. Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, is spellbound by Grisini's act and invites him to entertain at her birthday party. Seeing his chance to make a fortune, Grisini accepts and makes a splendidly gaudy entrance with caravan, puppets, and his two orphaned assistants.
Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are dazzled by the Wintermute home. Clara seems to have everything they lack — adoring parents, warmth, and plenty to eat. In fact, Clara's life is shadowed by grief, guilt, and secrets. When Clara vanishes that night, suspicion of kidnapping falls upon the puppeteer and, by association, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall.
As they seek to puzzle out Clara's whereabouts, Lizzie and Parse uncover Grisini's criminal past and wake up to his evil intentions. Fleeing London, they find themselves caught in a trap set by Grisini's ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance to shed before it's too late.
Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz's Victorian gothic is a rich banquet of dark comedy, scorching magic, and the brilliant and bewitching storytelling that is her trademark.
release date: Oct 02, 2012
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Starry River of the Sky
The moon is missing from the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to notice! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can't help but notice the village's peculiar inhabitants and their problems-where has the innkeeper's son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know if his pet is a toad or a rabbit?

But one day, a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.

Newbery Honor author Grace Lin brings readers another enthralling fantasy featuring her marvelous full-color illustrations. Starry River of the Sky is filled with Chinese folklore, fascinating characters, and exciting new adventures.
release date: Apr 03, 2012
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The Beetle Book

Beetles squeak and beetles glow. Beetles stink, beetles sprint, beetles walk on water. With legs, antennae, horns, beautiful shells, knobs, and other oddities—what's not to like about beetles? The beetle world is vast: one out of every four living things on earth is a beetle. There are over 350,000 different species named so far and scientists suspect there may be as many as a million. From the goliath beetle that weighs one fourth of a pound to the nine inch long titan beetle, award-winning author-illustrator Steve Jenkins presents a fascinating array of these intriguing insects and the many amazing adaptations they have made to survive.

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