Sunday, July 8, 2018

Best Reads of Q2 2018

As an elementary library teacher, lots of people ask me for book recommendations. I figured I'd collect the best of what I read each season and share my comments in one post. Including grown-up reads. If you'd like to see all of my books (including my 1-star reviews), you can follow me on Goodreads.

Picture Books

Some PetsSome Pets by Angela Diterlizzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

LOVE. And I don't even like pets! Idea for K lesson - kids can draw a pet and choose an action word to go with it.

Black Bird Yellow SunBlack Bird Yellow Sun by Steve Light
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For younger kids than my PreK. Is the bird going to eat the worm???

It Came in the MailIt Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For all of us who love to get mail!

Bus! Stop!Bus! Stop! by James Yang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fun! Could have the kids draw their own idea bus afterwards.

Don't Blink!Don't Blink! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Super cute.

Would You Rather...Would You Rather... by John Burningham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I made a lesson out of it.

A House That Once WasA House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh Ms. Fogliano has such a command of language.

Hello LighthouseHello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Perfect SquarePerfect Square by Michael Hall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Early Readers

Snail and Worm Again (Snail & Worm, #2)Snail and Worm Again by Tina Kugler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVED THIS SO MUCH. My very favorite of the 6 Geisels this year.

Middle Grade Novels

SunnySunny by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A self-contained gem. My favorite of the series so far, I think.

p. 99: "Diary, I watned to tell her that was impossible, but she was so nice and she already had a broken arm, and I'd already almost died, so I felt like maybe we should let some of the small things slide."

The Science of Breakable ThingsThe Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

REALLY good. And I want to buy the "Whose Pants?" game for my schools.

p. 102: "Maybe sometimes the strongest thing of all is knowing that one day you'll be all right again, and waiting and waiting until you can come out into the sun."

p. 292: "As it turns out, you can't always protect breakable things. Hearts and eggs will break, and everything changes, but you keep going anyway."

You Go FirstYou Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So glad I'm not a middle schooler any more.

Slow slips.
"You are a finch."
"There's this saying by Robert Frost. It goes, 'In three words I can sum up everything I know about life: it goes on."

Ban This BookBan This Book by Alan Gratz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved the spirit of the kids sneaking books. A librarian's dream.

At first I was kind of annoyed at all of the old books being mentioned at the beginning (stuff from when I was little, which the kids just don't read anymore), but Gratz' comment at the end that all the banned books in this title have actually been banned in real life satisfied that quibble. (P.S. They DO still read Mixed-Up Files in class, hooray!)

Loved the imagining of library "scientists."

Loved the kids threatening each other "Wait Till Helen Comes." (Mary Downing Hahn is still very popular.)

Wonder if Gratz is friends with Dav Pilkey? There are no notes to that end.

Loved the Mysterious Benedict Society shout-out.

Loved the made-up camouflage titles.

Loved the kids' final solution to the problem. #resist


The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights ActivistThe Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Why did I never learn about the kids getting themselves thrown in jail???? Timely in the wake of the Parkland kids' activism.

Sergeant Reckless: The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a HeroSergeant Reckless: The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero by Patricia McCormick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

She ate poker chips and a ceremonial blanket? Ugh. My stomach hurts. Lively writing and a truly interesting topic.

Rodent RascalsRodent Rascals by Roxie Munro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Easily digestible information, and I love that the rodents are painted at actual size.

Fairy Spell: How Two Girls Convinced the World That Fairies Are RealFairy Spell: How Two Girls Convinced the World That Fairies Are Real by Marc Tyler Nobleman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fake news! Will probably use next year ... just not sure which grade.

For Grownups

The Keeper of Lost ThingsThe Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delightful (and sometimes sorrowful) storytelling, but I could have done without the supernatural elements. Question: Who actually wrote the interstitial stories about the objects?

The Diver's Clothes Lie EmptyThe Diver's Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So many unique plot revelations. Highly entertaining. Although I prefer closure at the end of stories. I want to read more by Vida. P.S. The narrator's voice was perfect.

The Last AnniversaryThe Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm going to miss the characters after being with them in the car and at the gym and falling asleep for a couple of weeks. One of Moriarty's better books. Recommended to any friends looking for a summer read.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

RI Mock Newbery Reads - Voting Meeting Edition

We're down to the wire! As I type this, I have 25 hours to finish the final two books I haven't completed yet. But I aim to have them added before voting begins!

UPDATE with 2 hours left: FINISHED! Although I kind of wish I hadn't bothered with the last one, because it's definitely not getting my vote.

RefugeeRefugee by Alan Gratz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Just ... wow. So intense I had to take a break after each installment of the three main characters' lives. Journalistic writing leaves you breathless and stressed out. This is getting my Mock Newbery vote.

p. 51: "Mahmoud jumped when it fell, but Waleed stood still, like this kind of thing happened every day. With a jolt of surprise, Mahmoud realized this kid of thing DID happen every day. Just not to them. Until now.

Her Right FootHer Right Foot by Dave Eggers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Delightful. I want Eggers to write more nonfiction for kids.

The Someday BirdsThe Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet, funny, charming, and left a tear in my eye. My one quibble is the (view spoiler) ... a little too neat. But I liked just about everything else, including p. 118 shoutout to HONEYCRISP apples, information about the Sarajevo seige, and the constant visual cues. Can see handing to my kids who liked "Absolutely Almost" and "Death By Toilet Paper."

 See You in the CosmosSee You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved the way the book was set up and loved Alex. Didn't love the last 100 or so pages, which stretched my suspension of disbelief - Steve and Zed were way too good to be true. But all in all, entertaining and sweet. Will recommend to Mock Newbery committee.

p. 167 "Even after the sun was gone the clouds above were still bright red, and the horizon was gold and the water was purple and they should have sent a poet."

p. 202 "Oh you mean they're like the ancestor of all the mammals which looked something like a shrew but it's still a really important step in our evolution, so maybe VHS was like the shrew of watching shows in your house."

The War I Finally Won (The War That Saved My Life, #2)The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pretty satisfying sequel.

p. 29: "The only way out of this is straight through."

p. 56: "Dead pilots. Dead Mam. Dead colonel. Dead Stephen's family. I counted them off on my fingers. Ten people. They took up every finger I had."

p. 93: "I needed a doll a long time ago. It's too late for me to have one now."

p. 136: "You always have to choose what you believe."

p. 212: "What's right and what's permitted are sometimes different things."

p. 385: "You can know things all you like, and someday you might believe them."

The Stars Beneath Our FeetThe Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm glad that my life has not been touched by gang violence.

Patina (Track, #2)Patina by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This didn't stick with me like other books I've read recently; in fact, I read the first 50 pages, came back to it a few days later, and had to start over because I couldn't remember a thing. Now what's sticking with me is them having to eat turkey wings every night. Ew. Can't Momly learn how to make grilled cheese or pasta? That might have been more upsetting than Ma's legs being gone. Although I did like how Maddy imagined them off doing exciting things.

Beyond the Bright SeaBeyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book made me learn some new geography. And it was very nicely written. But settings without bus stops or CVS make me nervous. And this was so slow to get started. Would have liked more about the day-to-day on Penikese Island.

Clayton Byrd Goes UndergroundClayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ms. Byrd needs to takd 17 chill pills. How does she not see that denying Clayton more time with his dad makes no sense when she is so full of rage at HER dad not having been around? UGH.

Starts slow and ends with something that needs more explanation, but I did like that so much action happened on the subway. The timing seemed off, though ... I thought it was midmorning when it was actually afternoon.

CycloneCyclone by Doreen Cronin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

How did I manage to read two books in a row where young people had strokes? Now I'm terrified there's a blood clot in my brain.

Orphan IslandOrphan Island by Laurel Snyder
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

One of those books whose ratings in my head steadily decrease until the end. As a reader, I think I deserve certain answers. Unless this is setting up a series, or at least a sequel/prequel, then I am quite put out.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

RI Mock Newbery 2018 - September Reads

My piles and piles of summer reading are paying off ... by the time the list came out, I had already read 14/20 books on the initial list (and abandoned 1). Favorites closest to the top. I have a few more to go, so I'll be adding as I finish them. NOTE: Moved a couple to November since we didn't discuss them in September.

ShortShort by Holly Goldberg Sloan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So funny. I dog-eared practically half the pages because so many sentences made me laugh. So sweet. I did not expect to cry at the end. Buy now for any short or neurotic or theater-inclined middle-grade kids in your life.

Pro tip: p. 16: "... it's good to feel cozy with what you are wearing when you're going into a situation that is new and scary. The last thing you want to do when you are nervous is wear wool."

Train I RideTrain I Ride by Paul Mosier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Editors, take note: You CAN publish a solid middle-grade novel full of complex characters and situations that is LESS THAN 200 PAGES. I laughed, I cried. Held back a star for a couple of scenes that stretched the definition of "realistic" fiction.

p. 32: "Everything here looks crazy, like it was drawn by Dr. Seuss. The plants and rocks, especially in the desert, look like they're from beneath the sea. They look like they were drawn to be silly."

p. 90: "My timeline stretches behind me, a chart of other people's mistakes and bad choices and sadness that put me in this seat on this train on this night."

p. 95: "I've never heard or seen the word but I'm sure I've felt it. The whole thing is like something I've always felt but could never understand."

p. 145: "Even before she died, I was always a motherless child"

Me and Marvin GardensMe and Marvin Gardens by A.S. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good depiction of adolescent angst - family issues, changing relationships, secrets, your place in the world (and how to help save it) ... BUT WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN WITH MARVIN'S POOP???? It made me anxious!

p. 11 - "So, the ocean started here, at Devlin Creek. That's how I saw it."

p. 64 - "[Dad] told me more than once that boys should be fearless, daring, and brave. I was being more fearless, dafing, and brave than ever since Marvin Gardens showed up, but since I couldn't tell anyone about Marvin, no one could know how brave I really was."

p. 111 - "... I took a side. It was the right side, but everyone on every side thinks they're on the right side once they take a side. No matter if you're wrong, it's hard not to be loyal to the side you picked."

p. 140 - "People are really weird. They just think you should be like them, pretty much. Dad thought I should be like him. Tommy thought I should be like him. I just wanted to be me."

Forever, or a Long, Long TimeForever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So many feelings! We are right in Flora's head. And heart.

Also one of my feelings is rage at the system.

Amina's VoiceAmina's Voice by Hena Khan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gentle novel about a middle-school girl wracked with anxiety over friendships and culture/religion.

p. 70 - "And like the Oregon Trail, I wouldn't have to pioneer the uncharted territory of Soojin finding Emily 'not so bad.'"

Hello, UniverseHello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nicely contained plot. I could have done without Ruby in the well, though. Was Virgil hallucinating?

p. 70: "Meanness always shows on people's faces. Sometimes you have to look hard for it. Sometimes it's just a part of a person's features."

p. 83: "If you didn't have bad things, you wouldn't have good things. They would all just be things. Did you ever think about that?"

The End of the WildThe End of the Wild by Nicole Helget
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Don't read this if you're looking for a lighthearted story. I did like that it was an "issue" novel that wasn't overly preachy. But man, Fern's house made me feel cold and hungry.

Beyond the Bright SeaBeyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book made me learn some new geography. And it was very nicely written. But settings without bus stops or CVS make me nervous. And this was so slow to get started. Would have liked more about the day-to-day on Penikese Island.

Scar IslandScar Island by Dan Gemeinhart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Much less painful to read than "Lord of the Flies."

Family Game Night and Other CatastrophesFamily Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lots of characters making lots of bad decisions. I never get when people lock up their secrets and let them take over their lives ... I tell everyone everything. Anyways, I'm glad they're off to counseling.

Clayton Byrd Goes UndergroundClayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ms. Byrd needs to take 17 chill pills. How does she not see that denying Clayton more time with his dad makes no sense when she is so full of rage at HER dad not having been around? UGH.

Starts slow and ends with something that needs more explanation, but I did like that so much action happened on the subway. The timing seemed off, though ... I thought it was midmorning when it was actually afternoon.

The Warden's DaughterThe Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This went from a 4 for liveliness and characterization to a 3 for remembering at a pivotal moment, "Oh, yeah, it's a Jerry Spinelli book, so naturally something tragic would happen," to a 2 for Eloda's (SPOILER) diary. Yes, Cammie needed you, but you needed some lessons in how to be there for a damaged, angry girl. And then to just (SPOILER) take off with no goodbye?s Jesus Christ, her other two mother figures did the same thing, and now you're just adding to the trauma. I guess people weren't as tuned in to basic psychology back in the 50s? Fail.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

I MAY be a Little Behind - Ideas/Notes from ALA/AASL Pubs

The stack of magazines and journals under my desk is ridiculous. I'm working backwards in time with the goal of having everything read by the end of the school year. Today: May 2016.

I like "the National Academy of Sciences' metaphor of the internet as a swimming pool: It offers plenty of opportunities for recreation and learning, but it can be dangerous, too." As Deborah Caldwell-Stone from ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom says, "You can teach them how to swim, or you can put up a fence. What happens when they climb that fence and open the gate?"

Denise Agosto of Drexel University thinks we're using too many scare tactics when educating kids about online privacy. I'm going to look into the San Jose (CA) Public Library Virtual Privacy Lab.

Yet another goal: Some kind of event for parents during Choose Privacy Week. I wonder how they would take my suggestion to stop posting so many pictures of their kids when they're on vacation? "Hey, robbers, we're not home!" Do they realize that they're creating a digital footprint over which the kids have no say? Sometimes beginning in the womb?

Our students all have Gmail accounts, and for the first time, they're accessible via Aspen. Maybe I'll start some kind of "pro tip" communication for them. And ask my principals to include more info from me in their parent emails. About all kinds of things, not just privacy.


Idea #4,589: Post "Weed of the Week" somewhere, in the spirit of (tagline: "Hoarding is not collection development"). I regret not taking pictures of some of the gems I've gotten rid of so far.

Interactive Readalouds

From an article by Priscille Dando in Knowlege Quest:

"Joan Frye Williams' analogy frames libraries as no longer being grocery stores stocked with ingredients but kitchens where ingredients are combined to create something new."

I like the idea of working with classroom teachers to choose readalouds that can be delivered during library time.

"Readers never ask a question that they already know the answer to. As the reader, ask interpretive questions rather than factual."

Questioning as a Literacy

From an article by Sara Kelley-Mudie and Jeanie Phillips in Knowledge Quest:

"Understanding a question is different from answering a question; it means being able to form an idea of what an answer might look like and what type of information is being sought."

Write arounds

Question Formulation Technique from the Right Question Institute

Sample prompts: "How would it be different if ..."; "What is the purpose of ..."

Criteria for prioritizing questions

  • Which questions will best help us solve the problem?
  • Which questions will make interesting research questions?
  • Which questions can we answer through direct observation?
  • Which questions can we develop an experiment to answer?

Data Literacy

From an article by Kristin Fontichiaro and Jo Angela Oehrli in Knowledge Quest:

"Students often believe that numbers are objective, though data in the real world is rarely so. In fact, visualized data - even from authoritative sources - can sometimes be anything but." Categories include:

  • Statistical literacy: "Discerning correlation from causation; recognizing the difference in the meaning of mean, median, and mode; understanding what margin of error signifies in polling data; recognizing potential biases in collected data (e.g., where did they gather it from?)"
  • Data visualization: "Having skills to create and comprehend mapped data, graphs, pie charts, and emerging forms of visualizations"
  • Data in argument: Infographics need to make a point, not just be a random collection of facts
  • Big Data and citizen science: How much personal data is too much?
  • Personal data management: "While students might like seeing relevant ads or music recommendations that match their favorite, few know it is because of the breadcrumb trail they leave behind. ... "today's online content creators and social networks are engaged in a balancing act between maximizing advertising revenues and delivering quality content."
  • Ethical data use: Realizing that data can be "framed, edited, manipulated, or otherwise modified" to sway or confuse click to link to PDF version

Gaming as Meaningful Education

I've had board games available in my libraries for years. As the ALA infographic notes, "In game play, players work towards mastery and rarely experience failure as an obstacle to trying again and again. There is something in play that gives players permission to take risks considered outlandish or impossible in 'real life.' There is something in play that activates the tenacity and persistence required for effective learning."

Other key points:

  • "Many board games encourage players to detect patterns, plan ahead, predict the outcome of alternative moves, use deductive logic, and learn from experience."

  • "Research shows there is a link between playing certain types of board games and scoring well on math tests."

  • Games are a more powerful learning tool when we teach kids that problem-solving ability is like a muscle: It can be strengthened with practice and learning."

Source Illiteracy
This article by Nora G. Murphy in Knowledge Quest reminded me of when I worked for Johnson & Wales University, and The Daily Show wanted to do an interview with one of our deans re: the new "Sip and Spit" law in Colorado that allowed underage students to do wine tastings. "It's a national news show!" some people exclaimed. But my friend/colleague Stacie and I could only imagine the questions a comic fronting as a serious reporter would ask. We turned down the interview.

Kids need to have "the ability to interpret from context, to know what to ask, to read the clues, and to use the understanding brought from knowing about other sources." That understanding is hard to teach, because "source literacy is usually gained through experience and not instruction."

I like Murphy's suggestion of having kids create source banks, similar to Pinterest pages with boards for different types.

Creating a Literacy Plan for Your School

Realize that it "takes years of intentional effort" and don't "try to tackle every grade at once."

  1. Be the leader - Gather a group of stakeholders and start with SOMETHING with the knowledge that it will undergo a ton of changes
  2. Know what you can and can't control - Focus on what you can do without relying on anyone else
  3. Make the goals visible and generate excitement - Get decent posters made; present at meetings with teachers, parents, and administrators
  4. Determine where the skills will fit - Build a big-picture view by meeting with every teacher, even just for 20 minutes, to create a comprehensive document re: what is already in place and where the holes are
  5. Plan, plan, plan - Map out ways for student understanding to grow and build over the year through all subjects/classes
  6. Assess, rinse, repeat - Share accomplishments and make adjustments as necessary

Sunday, October 9, 2016

RI Mock Newbery 2017 - November Reads

Love Jen J's spreadsheet! Because of it, I'd already read most of the books on the list before the list was even out. I'll be adding to the post as I make my way through the list: favorites at the top.

MaydayMayday by Karen Harrington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic. Loved it. So much humor for such heavy topics. And the holding planes in his hands? I laughed. I cried. True story.

p. 223 - "When you want something in your own life, it looks like everybody at every table in a restaurant has it. I'm not just talking about eyebrows."

The Girl Who Drank the MoonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautifully written, albeit overlong, and I'm not sure how I feel about the ending. However, the writing definitely deserves to be considered "distinguished."

Counting ThymeCounting Thyme by Melanie Conklin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fantastic portrayal of a girl struggling to make her way in a new setting while her family is preoccupied with her brother's cancer. And the shout-out to No Fits, Nilson! was great.

Thank you to Conklin for giving me my new favorite knock-knock joke:

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Europe who?
You're a poo, too!

GhostGhost by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reynolds is able to capture his narrators' personalities within a page or two.

p. 27: I felt like I had seen this in every single sports movie I had ever watched. All of them. "Ma'am, your son has potential." If this went like the movies, I was either going to score the game-winning touchdown (which is impossible in track) or ... die."

p. 155: ... you can't run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be.

Ollie's OdysseyOllie's Odyssey by William Joyce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Epic. Will be recommending to my 2nd grade teachers who do class readalouds.

The Best ManThe Best Man by Richard Peck
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On the fence on this one. Loved the dry style and some of the ridiculous - yet realistic - things that people said. However, the plot was choppy, and I'm very confused on the timeline of uncle Paul and Mr. McLeod's relationship.

p. 137:
"This isn't the body I wanted to take to middle school. Look at it. I need another year. I'm pre--what?"
"Prepubescent?" Mom offered.
"Probably. You'll have to homeschool me."

The Seventh WishThe Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First off, I liked that Catherine named her flour baby MEREDITH. I also enjoyed the family word game, which is similar to Apples to Apples. And Charlie's thoughts about Abby's drug use and relapse were spot-on (I also have an addicted sister and have thought a lot of the same things). I very much appreciated when Leah said, "There's nothing you can do when someone you love is an addict. So you just ... you keep living. And do other stuff." (p. 212). Because I needed therapy to get to that understanding.

But I took away a star for the magic fish. The fantasy and the harsh reality just didn't mesh for me. Poor, poor Robert.

Nine, Ten: A September 11 StoryNine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The kids' stories were fine, but the actual 9/11 events were kind of vague. If the reader doesn't already know what happened, they will be confused. Also I'm not sure I buy that all four families would have made the trek to NYC in 2002.

p. 79. "'...what matters is what's in here.' She tapped her heart and then her head. 'And here. And how you treat people. Yourself included, dear one.'"

GhostsGhosts by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Realistic sister relationship, but the ghosts were just odd.

When the Sea Turned to SilverWhen the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So I gave "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" 5 stars, and "Starry River of the Sky" 4. But this one ... this took me forever to get through. At one point I literally fell asleep. It was like homework. But people I respect on the RI Mock Newbery committee raved about it, so I saw it through until the end. But I wish I hadn't bothered and had spent more weekend hours binge-watching "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" instead.

The stories being told seemed like just interruptions until about page 140, when I started to see connections. However, by the time we get to the Sea King, and Yishan's stunt with the string, I didn't care anymore about how anything was going to go together. And the tortoise chapters were distracting. And the big reveal on p. 345 made me roll my eyes.

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