You need To Chill! / I Believe in Me

You Need to Chill!
Juno Dawson and Laura Hughes

The narrator of this upbeat rhyming picture book has an older brother, Bill; but her friends haven’t seen him for a while and want to know what has happened: where is he? They put forward all manner of possibilities that could account for his absence but from our narrator come denials that all end “And, hun you need to chill.”

However these friends are persistent, caring and determined, till finally comes the revelation, “… The truth is that my brother Bill … is now my sister Lily.’ Yes it may have been something of a shock initially but despite her new name and looks, much remains the same: she’s still as kind, funny and clever as ever; her family all love her.

Both Juno Dawson’s words and Laura Hughes’ pictures are full of warmth and a gentle humour: with its themes of identity, kinship and acceptance this inclusive story beautifully conveys its message in a manner that allows young children to take what they need and ask questions if they want further explanations. Fiction books such as this one are a very good way of opening discussion with primary children in PSHE sessions: such discussions help children learn that differences make the world a much more interesting place.

I Believe In Me
Emma Dodd
Templar Books

In conversation as the two swim together through the swampy landscape, a little crocodile speaks of the self belief the Mother crocodile has instilled in her offspring. Knowing one can do anything if only you try; the importance of never giving up if something goes wrong, as well as telling yourself that those dark days are always followed by brighter ones if you keep reaching for the sky, are key for little humans as well as little crocodiles. That way keeps the entire world open for you to forge your path through life, optimistic and confident in yourself. So says this inspiring little book through Emma’s simple rhyming text and bold digital illustrations, some with gold foil, that perfectly capture the little croc’s sentiments. 

This Tree Is Just For Me! / The Longest Storm

This Tree Is Just For Me!
Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

It’s impossible for Jack to find a quiet place in which to settle down with his brand new book in the garden so he decides to search for a tree of his very own. Having discovered the perfect one and made the titular declaration, up the boy climbs and begins to read. Before long though the branches start to shake heralding the arrival of tiger wanting a chat. Jack politely explains and sends the big cat on its way.
However said tiger is only the first of a series of visitors to the tree: an alligator, a snake, a couple of monkeys, a sloth and others follow in quick succession until one wonders how Jack’s chosen tree can possibly stand all that weight.

Enough is enough decides the boy now shouting the title sentence and discombobulating the visitors, all of which hastily descend. Peace at last.
Jack finishes his book

but then a realisation dawns …

I love this story that celebrates the joy of reading, be it solo or with others. Far-fetched as it is, Lucy’s rhyming text is a terrific read aloud that really works and Laura’s scenes of that idyllic reading location and its visitors – human and otherwise – are hugely expressive and highly amusing.

The Longest Storm
Dan Yaccarino

‘A storm came to our town. It was unlike any storm we’d ever seen. No one knew how long it would last. We would have to stay inside maybe for a long while.’ So begins this story wherein three children, a Dad and a dog find themselves stuck inside with not enough to do and too much time to fill. Inevitably things start to deteriorate: frustration , boredom and anger become the norm and eventually Dad loses his temper completely.

Everyone goes their own way until one night comes a huge flash of lightning that shakes the house. This causes them to come back together. Apologies ensue and come the morning something has changed. The storm still rages outside but little by little things within improve and eventually the storm abates, the sun appears

and the task of rebuilding begins.

They’ve all undergone an emotional upheaval like no other and one suspects that Yaccarino’s story is a metaphor of the pandemic lockdowns we’ve all endured in the past couple of years. It will definitely resonate with families and offers a useful starting point to open discussions either at home or in the classroom as we start to emerge from our restricted lifestyles once more.

The Forgettery

The Forgettery
Rachel Ip and Laura Hughes
Egmont Books

Memory loss and dementia are ever increasing and although adults are well aware of this challenging topic, it’s not easy to open up a discussion with young children about why a much loved grandparent for instance, is unable to remember things. Sharing this beautiful book is a wonderful place to start: it never once mentions the word dementia during the story of Amelia and her Granny and their adventure together.

From the outset we’re told that Granny is forgetful, sometimes being unable to recall where she’s put the marmalade or where she keeps her socks but sometimes forgetting important things like special moments. Amelia is a daydreamer and explorer and this means that she too is apt to be a bit forgetful.
One day while exploring in the forest together they stumble upon a strange place called The Forgettery and decide to investigate.

They receive a warm welcome and Amelia explains that they’ve forgotten their way home. The kindly Memory Keeper invites them aboard a hot air balloon and off they go

eventually arriving at a door labelled with Granny’s name. Inside it’s enormous on account of all the memories it’s storing: ‘Moments of delight, lost and forgotten, fluttering in the room like butterflies.’ Sensory experiences including the smell of fresh bread, the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot and the giddy joy of cartwheeling. Granny chooses her very favourites from among them all

and then they move on to Amelia’s Forgettery. This is a small room and while Amelia is delighting in its contents, they receive a message reminding them it time to head home to dinner.

Back indoors Amelia decides to make an illustrated book of all the memories Granny had collected at her Forgettery and henceforward Amelia would take a photo of each fun thing they did together, to add to the book as a special reminder; a book they could always share.

Granny then adds a final item to their list of special things but it’s one neither of them will need to be reminded of …

Both new memories and all the lost, old ones are stored in The Forgettery so the book can equally be shared as an unusual fantasy adventure showing the special relationship between Granny and Amelia. This is highlighted both in Rachel Ip’s warm-hearted telling and Laura Hughes’ gently humorous, equally warm illustrations reflected in her choice of colour palette and the wonderful details in each of the scenes.

We’re Going on a Treasure Hunt

We’re Going on a Treasure Hunt
Martha Mumford and Laura Hughes
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Martha and Laura’s four intrepid bunny hunters are ready for another expedition and now they’ve donned piratical gear ready to search for treasure. So it’s YO! HO! HO! all aboard and off they go to a desert island looking for gold coins.

As they sail they encounter some swooshing, swishing dolphins before landing on a sandy shore.

Then off they go again, carefully avoiding getting their toes nipped;

but they’ll need our help or they might miss some of what they seek, right beneath their feet.

The search continues, first at a rock pool, then beneath the coconut palms –

we know what might be hanging above their heads ready to strike – and across a rope bridge to another beach. There a somewhat scary encounter awaits.

So ‘Quick, quick, quick’, it’s time to head for their boat and sail back home.

Seemingly, once on dry land again, there’s one final thing to find: what could that be, I wonder.

With Martha’s rhythmic, rhyming, onomatopoeic, repeat pattern narrative, this is an ideal read-aloud to enjoy with pre-schoolers who will doubtlessly relish joining in as you share it, pausing on alternate spreads for individuals to lift the flaps and see what’s hidden beneath. Of course, they’ll need all their 10 fingers ready to keep a count of the coins too.

Equally with those 3Rs of reading – rhythm, rhyme and repetition – built into the text, this is an ideal book for children in the early stage of becoming readers to try for themselves.

Either way, bursting with summery sun and with plenty of flaps to lift, Laura Hughes’ lively scenes of the search provide plenty of gentle visual humour and opportunities to spot the wealth of flora and fauna on every spread.

Everybunny Dream! / Hop Little Bunnies / This is Owl / Sleep, My Bunny

Everybunny Dream!
Ellie Sandall
Hodder Children’s Books

Ellie Sandall’s latest Everybunny tale is essentially a bedtime story.

Through a gentle rhyming narrative and a sequence of captivating scenes, some frolicsome, others more peaceful, we share in the bedtime ritual of the little bunnies as they respond to their mother’s instructions,

until they’re tucked up cosily under the covers.

Who should appear suddenly though but another creature with a long orange bushy tail, also clad in night attire.

Before long there’s a host of baby fox cubs sitting with the little bunnies – who have now all hopped out of bed – avidly listening to a good night tale

and then it really is time to snuggle down altogether for some shut-eye and perhaps some pleasant dreams.

A lovely way to send your little ones off into the land of nod at the end of a busy day.

Hop Little Bunnies
Martha Mumford and Laura Hughes
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Based on nursery favourite Sleeping Bunnies, Martha Mumford has written a jaunty text that includes not only the bunnies of the original song but also fluffy lambs, tiny chicks, kittens and ducklings

all of which sleep until noon and wake up and make lots of noise.

They then go on to play for the rest of the day before a bedtime song sends them all off to sleep once more.

With plenty of flaps to investigate and sounds to make, Laura Hughes charming rural illustrations add to the springtime bounce of Martha’s words.

This cheery charmer is likely to become a much requested book for young listeners be that at home or in an early years setting.

After an initial sharing I’d suggest an action packed story session with sleeping, hopping, leaping and swimming, not forgetting baa-ing, cheeping, mewing and quacking.

Another book that invites interaction is:

This is Owl
Libby Walden and Jacqui Lee
Caterpillar Books
The sun is shining, Owl is fast asleep and doesn’t want to wake up but the book has to start so the reader’s help is needed to rouse our feathered friend.

Tummy tickling is only partially successful so the sun needs to be extinguished and replaced by a moon.

Hurrah Owl now has both eyes open but Beetle further along the branch is causing a distraction.

A considerable amount of page flapping is required to help Owl reach Beetle but then they both disappear. Oops! Where can Owl be?

With the help of several more birds Owl is eventually located and it seems one has become two for alongside is Other Owl.

Strangely the pair of them are doing a little uncharacteristic nest building so a bit of twig collecting from reader’s won’t come amiss.

Sometime later, once that threatening raincloud has gone, Owl has something in the nest to show off to readers.

By the time the sun starts to come up once again, two owls have become three and it’s time to bid them all farewell.

Feathery fun with a tad of scientific learning included, Libby Walden’s gently humorous, guiding words, in tandem with Jacqui Lee’s eye-catching, funny illustrations will certainly make for an active animal shared book experience.

Sleep, My Bunny
Rosemary Wells
Walker Books

Here’s a lovely way to wind down with your little one(s) at the end of the day.

Rosemary Wells’ gently flowing text reads like a lullaby as it talks of the sounds of evening: the simultaneous song of owls and crickets; the night wind that has ‘taken the moon for a ride’, the first soft summer rain.

Alongside we see, in Van Gogh-like impressionist style, a sunlit tree outside and then as the sun goes down, a series of gradually darkening skies shown through the window, foregrounded by scenes of a little bunny going through his night-time routine with his mother and father.

On each spread the textual border mirrors the sky seen outside.

There’s obvious love and tenderness in this bunny family so adorably depicted in this lovely bedtime book.

The Birthday Invitation / Wishker

The Birthday Invitation
Lucy Rowland and Laura Hughes.
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
That the author of this book is a speech therapist is evident in the abundance of verbs in her enormously engaging story.
We meet Ellen on the eve of her birthday excitedly writing and posting off invitations to her party. On her way though, she drops one: it’s picked up by a wizard while out collecting herbs, and into a bottle he pops it.

Some while later though, it finds its way into the hands of a pirate captain out at sea where it is then seized by his parrot which flies off and drops it into the hands of a princess and thereafter, it passes to several other unsuspecting characters before ending up in the pocket of its originator.
The day of the party dawns and there’s considerable hustle and bustle as Emma makes the final preparations for her birthday party and then comes a loud knock on her door …
Has there been a mistake or could it be that the wizard had worked some rather extraordinary magic? Certainly not the former, and maybe a sprinkling of sorcery went into the making of that wonderful celebratory cake …

There certainly is a kind of magic fizzle to Laura Hughes’ captivating illustrations: every scene sparkles with vivacity and her attention to detail further adds to the enjoyment of her spreads.
Just right for pre-birthday sharing with those around the age of the birthday girl herein, or for a foundation stage story session at any time.

Heather Pindar and Sarah Jennings
Maverick Arts Publishing
Be careful what you wish for is the moral of Heather Pindar’s deliciously crazy cautionary tale.
Meet Mirabel who it seems never gets what she asks for be it a sleepover with her friends or a pet monkey; “It’s not fair! Everyone always says NO” she complains as she sits outside in her garden. Her comments are heard by a cat that introduces itself as Wishker, claims to posses magical powers and offers her three wishing whiskers.
Mirabel uses her first wish on ice-cream for every meal and her second for having her friends to stay – forever. The third wish involves a phone call to the circus and results in the arrival of clowns, fire-eaters, acrobats and a whole host of animals. The result? Total pandemonium in one small house: things are well nigh impossible.

Another wish is uttered and ‘Whoosh’. Normality reigns once more. But that’s not quite the end of the tale – or the whiskery wishing: Mirabel has a brother and there just happens to be a whisker going begging …
Sarah Jennings bright, action-packed scenes are full of amusing details and endearing characters human and animal.

I’ve signed the charter  

A Farm Visit, An Egg Hunt Activity Book & Masha and her Sisters


Look and Say What You See in the Farm
Sebastien Braun
Nosy Crow
Published in partnership with the National Trust, this book with its thick pages presents us with thirteen farm scenes going right through the year from early spring when there’s an abundance of lambs in the fields, little chicks have been born and there are calves needing their share of milk …


Back outside at the pond, ducklings and goslings are learning to swim and tadpoles wiggle and waggle their tails. In summer, there is an abundance of insects, wild animals and wild flowers; their presence enriches the farm and some weeks later, it is time for the collecting of yummy vegetables .


Autumn brings the wheat harvest, pumpkins aplenty and in the orchard, the apples are ripe and ready for picking, so too the pears.. Mmm!
Winter sees the animals snuggling in the warm barn with the door firmly shut against the cold.
Every spread has a strip along the bottom asking readers, ‘What can you see … ? with nine items to search for in the large scene above. Perfect for developing visual literacy, for encouraging storying; and, it’s lots of fun.

We’re going on an Egg Hunt Activity Book
illustrated by Laura Hughes
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The bunnies from last year’s We’re Going on an Egg Hunt picture book return inviting youngsters to participate in a variety of activities including matching shadows to images, egg decorating, spot the difference, a word search and much more. The centre spread has beautiful stickers with which to adorn the pages as instructed – or otherwise if you’re divergent. I suspect some children won’t want to cut out the triangular shapes to make the bunting, especially as there’s a game of hide and seek with the bunnies and a follow the path game on the reverse sides; if so, I’d suggest copying the spread or drawing your own triangles to decorate. These are just some of the games in this attractive book, made all the more delightful by Laura Hughes’ cute bunnies. Just right for Easter.


Masha and Her Sisters
Suzy Ultman
Chronicle Books
This is a retro delight: a maryoshka doll-shaped board book that, once the cover is lifted, opens downwards to reveal, one by one, five dolls, the first being the smallest. Flip that page down and a slightly larger sister is revealed and so on. First we meet Natasha, the storyteller, then nature lover, Galya; Olya is the chef, Larisa, the performer and finally, Masha who is the collector. The body of each is decorated – front and back – with objects related to their special interest. Thus for instance, Galya has fauna, trees and a tent;


Olya the chef has herbs, mixing bowls and kitchen tools. Innovative, charming and near enough egg-shaped to make an Easter treat for a small child.

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Wanted The Chocolate Monster


Wanted The Chocolate Monster
Pip Jones and Laura Hughes
Faber & Faber
Hide all your yummy confections, there’s a ‘mighty, sticky thief’ aprowl in the neighbourhood. How do we know? A public announcement has just been aired on the opening page of this book. Moreover, this creature, aptly named The Chunk, is a silent beast with a bulbous nose, eight feet tall and a master of disguise. Hmm!


Nothing with a tiny hint of chocolate is safe, not your pudding, your flan, that mousse, eclairs or cakes will escape his clutches and he has, reputedly, a special penchant for pricey truffles (he can have those any day so far as I’m concerned); and the cheeky beast will then have the audacity to plant the wrappers in your mum’s bag.
Worse than that; he’ll snatch your favourite cookie and plaster your face so you get the blame for over consumption …


It just isn’t fair but does he care? Oh dear no; he’ll just make a silent dash for another home to raid. Surely there couldn’t be anything worse; or did I just hear he was heading for a wedding party where there happens to be a certain kind of fountain ?
Will he ever be caught? What do you think?


Not only will I be hiding my chocolate; but after sharing this delectable rhyming treat with young listeners, I’m going to be hiding my copy of that too, for fear one of the eager story consumers decides to emulate The Chunk and snatch the book.
Mind you, Laura Hughes’ deliciously mock scary, sometimes brilliantly funny (as in the rollers-wearing scene)  portraits of same beastie might deter them doing that; but one never knows. All I can say is, I hope he gets terrible toothache soon and has to have lots of fillings.

There’s a Pig Up My Nose!


There’s a Pig Up My Nose!
John Dougherty and Laura Hughes
Egmont Publishing
Can you imagine anything less likely than having a pig up your nose? Probably not, but that’s, seemingly at least, the problem troubling young Natalie when she wakes one morning, bounds down to breakfast and emits an OINK! from her nostrils. The doctor confirms it is indeed so …


a note requesting she’s let off games is penned by her parents and duly delivered to a very sceptical Mrs Daffodil, her teacher.
Morning lessons proceed rather badly with a lot of oinking disturbing her classmates; playtime hide-and-seek is a disaster and story-time’s totally ruined.


After lunch (sans ham rolls of course), Mrs Daffodil sets the class a spot of problem solving: ‘inventing a way of getting a pig out of Natalie’s nose’, is the task and it’s one received with enthusiasm by her fellow pupils, some of whom, it has to be said, appear to have a slightly sadistic bent …


Mark and Joseph’s solution works a treat though, and a new pet is duly added to the gerbil enclosure.
That however, is not quite the end of things where nasal passages and noises are concerned, but hey! Who wants to be a story-spoiler? Let’s just say, the finale will certainly set your nostrils twitching.
Totally, delightfully bonkers but Dougherty’s tale certainly held my audience and the finale received snorts of approval, a round of applause, and a ‘read it again’ request. Laura Hughes’ illustrations are full of fun and I’ve developed a special soft spot for those smiley twins – the problem solvers.


Don’t forget 14th February

Goodnight Tiger/Little Hoot

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Goodnight Tiger
Timothy Knapman and Laura Hughes
Little Tiger Press
It’s the middle of the night and Emily is still wide awake; but what is the cause of the BELLOWING, STOMPING, TRUMPETING and GROWLING that’s stopping her from sleeping? It’s not animals out in the street escaped from the zoo, nor anything under the bed, or in amongst her clothes and toys – she’s checked those possibilities; my goodness, that commotion is actually emanating from the animals on her wallpaper. They too, so they tell Emily, are unable to sleep. So she climbs into the wallpaper and thus begins a lesson – or rather several –on getting ready for bed, as the young miss takes them through a routine of bathing themselves, having a goodnight hot chocolate drink …

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snuggling up with a cuddly bear and a lullaby rendition. But even after all this, there’s only one tired being and it certainly isn’t any of the animals. Did I just say routine though? What actually happened was tiger caused a rumpus at the water hole; the drink was truly disgusting, the bear bolted and the lullaby became a raucous chorus …

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Hold on though, what’s that Emily is clutching?

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Could this be the answer to the animals’ insomnia and finally, her own …
Well, yes and no: it certainly works for some …

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With a satisfying final twist in the tale, this book is enormous fun to share at bedtime (though maybe not if there happens to be jungly paper on your child’s bedroom walls) or indeed at any time. Emily is a delight as are the creatures whose nocturnal world she temporarily enters. I can see this one becoming a much requested, just before bedtime favourite.

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Little Hoot
Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
Chronicle Books
Little Hoot is generally a happy little fellow. He enjoys school, loves playing with his friends and will even do the practice routines his Mama Owl asks him to. But there is one thing he absolutely hates and that is staying up late. “All my other friends get to bed so much earlier than me!” he complains. Yes, he actually said that and what’s more, decides that when he grows up he’ll let his offspring go to bed as early as they want. He’s definitely not a night bird, this one despite papa Owl’s “Rules of the roost.” But off he duly goes for one hour more play …

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and it seems to be an especially long time when it comes to the last ten minutes …

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Having done his owly duty at last, he whizzes off to bed without even waiting for a bedtime story. Now that is not so good, Little Hoot.
This enchanting story will appeal to adults as much as to the young children who will delight in the irony of Little Hoot not wanting to stay up late. The tiny day birds I shared it with also loved the bed jumping and fort building in particular. My favourite scene however was that wonderful pondering practice …


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Bunnies & Eggs

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Warning! This Book May Contain Rabbits!
Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press
We first met the main characters of this book in Tim Warnes’ wonderful Dangerous! Now Mole (with his obsession for labelling things) and best pal and fellow labeller, Lumpy-Bumpy Thing, are back in a new story and still busy with those labels it seems.

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One day in the course of their ‘work’ Mole notices an unusual phenomenon – a snow bunny. Rather than be labelled, said bunny bounds away with the L-BT in hot pursuit. He duly returns some time later looking like this …


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But when he ignores the warning label on the titfer he unleashes rather more magic than he’d bargained for. Certainly he might have been in ‘Bunny heaven’ but Mole’s attempts to number the buns. so they could enjoy a game of Bunny Bingo were thwarted at every turn and still those bunnies just kept on coming – “97, 98, 99, 100!” And what’s more there was no getting rid of them. The bunnies burrowed everywhere and what was worse, started leaving their calling cards all over the place. That was before they, or rather, one of their number, 54 to be precise, spied Mole’s vegetable patch, in particular this …

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A tussle ensues with Mole emerging victorious and that leads to a mass stampede of the bunny kind

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and the eventual re-capture of the bunnies, albeit with a whole lot of carrot coercion followed by some nifty replacing of the troublesome topper, a spot of hasty labelling and …

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Oh no! Here we go again …
Like the label on one of the bunnies in the story, this book is likely to prove ‘irresistible’ to young listeners who will, if my experience is anything to go by, demand immediate re-readings of this bouncing tale of friendship, misadventure, labels (of course) and the dangers of not paying heed to some of them; and then of course, there are the bunnies … Hilarity abounds.

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We’re Going on an Egg Hunt
Laura Hughes
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Unashamedly based on the traditional “We’re going on a bear/lion hunt’, Laura Hughes has created a picture book Easter egg hunt involving a family of rabbits. In their search for the ten eggs hidden in various locations in and around the farmyard they encounter some tricky things to deal with. There’s the field full of noisy lambs, an enclosure of cheeping chicks and then comes that field with the beehives.

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The search therein proves pretty fruitful and there’s a prickly pal to meet; but oh no! The bunnies have disturbed the bees and there’s nothing for it but ‘to go through them’ and keep on going down to the river and …

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Now they’ve found a whopper of an egg but …

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Time to make a dash for it, bunnies.
With all those lift-the-flap surprises to enjoy, ten eggs to discover and keep count of, a somewhat alarming encounter of the hairy kind and a whole host of small details for added interest, this will surely be a winner over the Easter season; and the enjoyment will last a lot longer than one of the objects of that search.

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