Saturday, 12 September 2009
Country: Melbourne, Australia
Blog: Rhiannon Hart
Your favourite YA title: My all-time fave would have to be Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. Such a luscious, sexy, thrilling paranormal tale.
Favourite New Find: The Chaos Walking books by Patrick Ness. Abso-effing-lutely gripping.
Bookstore of choice: Readers Feast--it's the only bookstore in Melbs with space to breath AND isn't painted red or full of cut-price cookbooks. Great YA selection.
Author blog you are most likely to be found stalking: Amanda Ashby--she's the author of The Zombie Queen of Newbury High and has been so helpful and effusive about her road to publication--I'm a wannabe writer myself and she's given me such fantastic advice/commiseration/support, which I'm so grateful for! She's such a cool lady and has an awesome blog.
Book Blogging from Australia
Best thing about being from Melbourne:
... is the nightlife, the culture and the food!
What is the state of YA literature in your country?:
Weighted towards realism. Teens (and myself!) just love the speculative stuff but there isn't a lot being published by Australian writers at Australian publishing houses. But we do have a thriving writerly and readerly community and I'm grateful for that.
How accessible are international YA titles in your country?:
Very. We have fantastic libraries and fantastic bookshops--nothing to complain about there.
Authors that you would recommend?:
Home-grown stuff like John Marsden (especially the Tomorrow series) and Isobelle Carmody (the Obernewtyn Chronicles).
Most popular author in your country?:
Probably John Marsden.
Best thing about YA blogging:
The people! Everyone is so friendly and enthusiastic.
YA blogs that you would recommend from Australia?:
This one of course! And Terra on the Bookshelf, My Fluttering Heart, Hey! Teenager of the Year and The Magic Thingamajig.
Thanks Rhiannon....be sure to be back tomorrow to meet Silvia from Spain.
Friday, 11 September 2009
And so, for the next two weeks, here at Persnickety Snark I will be introducing you to a number of awesome international reviewers. Places so far flung as Netherlands, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Germany, Argentina, the Philippines, Australian and many many more.
Please welcome the first guest for the Celebration of International YA Bloggers....
Name: Marjolein (some people from the US I know wanted to know how to pronounce my name - it goes like this: Mar -yo- line)
Country: The Netherlands
Favourite New Find: Song of the Buffalo Boy by Sherry Garland, amazing book!
Bookstore of Choice: American Book Center
Author blog you are most likely to be found stalking: Meg Cabot
Book Blogging from The Netherlands
Best thing about being from The Netherlands?:
A person that is tolerant to all kinds of different people, no matter what culture or background!
What is the state of YA literature in your country?
It's getting more known here now many American YA novels are translated into Dutch.
How accessible are international YA titles?:
Very accessible, luckily!There is a large American Book Center with two stores, in Amsterdam and The Hague, and they can also be ordered easily from online bookstores.
Authors that you would recommend...:
Meg Cabot, Simone Elkeles, Aimee Friedman, Anna Godbersen, Maureen Johnson, Mitali Perkins. They where the first ya authors I've read and because of that they are always special and their books are just the best!
Most popular YA author in your country?:
Hmm have to think about that one, John Green is getting more known here at the moment, Maureen Johnson has many fans here, Meg Cabot is well known. By the Dutch authors is Francine Oomen pretty big now, she just launched a series called How do I survive myself? and every teen seems to read it! Oh, and Twilight is big here now too!
Best thing about YA blogging?:
You get to know a lot of books and authors, and I was very happy that I once got my first review copy, I didn't even know that existed! And I love to hear when an author is happy with my review. It is so much fun to talk with authors that are mostly in cities I only see in the movies. My life has changed because of book blogging. Certain things happened because of this that I didn't dare to dream about! And now I am even working on a ya manuscript myself!
YA blogs that you would recommend from your own country?:
I still haven't find another book blogger from the Netherlands, unfortunately! The only blog that comes to mind, but is broader dan ya, is the blog of the American Book Center.
Tomorrow: Rhiannon Hart from Melbourne, Australia
Review – This book has been calling my name for many months now and having finally got it in my hot little hands, I have inhaled it. It’s a darn good read but do I think it’s a great book? To be completely honest - yes....ish. On the tail of the fantastic The Hunger Games, Catching Fire has reintroduced many of the ideas that made its predecessor are roaring success. But it’s the reintroduction of the love triangle and the Quell (which I will remain vague on) are rewarding but slightly problematic.
Catching Fire has a much different pace to that of its predecessor. While all the events that occurred after the previous book are covered, we are constantly bouncing from Katniss’ recollections of many characters before we get back on track. It’s inconsistent and the pull isn’t as strong as it could be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still engaging but there is a lost of an undefinable quality in the continuing storyline.
The first half of the novel starts off as a political examination of what happens to a dictatorship when rebellion arises; it’s much more exciting than it sounds. The tension and stakes are continually raised as those in District 12 suffer until tighter control and closer inspection. It’s a natural and thrilling continuation of what was glimpsed in The Hunger Games. The second half of the novel returns to what is familiar and in that way it’s a step back. Though some of the situations are tweaked, the characters mostly new and the pace sped up...I found myself a little disinterested, I wanted back to the political machinations. Having read Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking series of late, I’ve had a quality template of how stakes can be raised within rehashing the past.
Collins is known for her cliff-hangers and unfortunately this novel had considerably less of them. Instead it’s much more of a psychological examination of how you survive a brutal experience and the choices you make afterward – sacrifice or survival? Or perhaps a little of both.
Peeta’s intelligence is highlighted well in this novel; he’s clearly much more cunning than Katniss previously gave him credit for. They are an interesting match that could have been explored more deeply than Katniss’ continual (and repetitive) dithering feelings for the poor kid. It’s here where Katniss’ effectiveness lost some of her shine with me. I cannot believe that this girl who is decisive and responsible would string two guys along like she has. Yes, Peeta and Katniss need to keep the premise going that they are in love but her interactions leave both guys in a state of limbo. I refuse to believe that she’s innocent in this – she can make a decision. The audience has been fortunate to witness the total of Katniss and Peeta’s interactions through recollections but we haven’t had that same opportunity with Gale and Katniss, nor do I want there to be. They both know she has somewhat feelings for another and it’s cruel what she puts them through, even if she is a puppet at the hands of the President. (Relationship specific SPOILER – highlight to read) At one point it seems considerably callous – Katniss wondering how she would have felt had Gale volunteered in his brother’s place, making friendly with another girl and not longer being “hers”. Once she thinks she’s soon-to-be dead, she kisses Peeta with abandon, while still on camera. Conflicted feelings aside, it made weakened her moral core for me and the effectiveness of her character. It’s understandable but she needs to make a freaking choice! Too much time of this novel felt like it was the boys handing her to one another as a baton, each having time with her and yet not really having her because she was too busy dithering. Sigh.
More characters are incorporated but most of their development is rather limited and can appear shallow. The opportunity to learn more of Haymitch’s history was exciting and probably could have been expanded. In the Quell, Collins has made more of an effort to provide people behind the many tributes up for the slaughter which I respect greatly. Mags made quite an impact, as did Finnick, but in my heart of hearts I want to know more of Gale, Haymitch, Effie and Cinna. Finnick was not as he seemed but I need considerable more exploration of this than his attachment to something at home.
Catching Fire was a fantastic read. It’s easy to be sucked back into the world of Panem and invest in these characters again. However the bar was set high with the first title and the second title didn’t seem to have a way to match it. Instead Collins opted for a most effective, split personality approach to the sequel. Ultimately a huge wave and some freaking monkeys don’t have anything on President Snow and his diabolical, puffy lipped, bloody breath scented nastiness. I say bring on book three with its political uprising, rebellion , District 13 and (I hope) the discovery of the true extent of the muttation experimentation. Fingers crossed the games are not re-entered as they’ve been adequately covered and that Katniss makes a choice between the men in her life.
Catching Fire is a great read with some reinvention of the wheel (or the games) but a thrilling bridge to what will surely be a rewarding trilogy.
Published: 9 September 2009
Format: Paperback, 4 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
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Thursday, 10 September 2009
As a little girl I would watch it over and over again, revelling in the musical numbers. I would laugh at the Scarecrow and his bumbling dance, itch to plait the Lion's hair and fall a little in love with the effeminate Tin Man. I also discovered Winged Monkeys as the definition of freaky coolness!
There is a point to this post and I am getting to it...I viewed Return to Oz with my class the other day. It was an interesting experience as none of them had seen it before and yet they were very familiar with the original tale. The first question after I whipped it out was whether there was going to be musical numbers. My "no" was greeted with simultaneous male sighs of relief (and yet they love the barn raising dancing scene in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers - go figure). Despite the dated special effects (if they can be called that) and a mumbled storyline, they were enjoying it....no matter what they say. Though they found it to be a complete shambles on the original and wondered why the 1930s SFX of the original were better than the 1980s sequel. I can't wait to read their film reviews!
Judy Garland was seventeen when Wizard of Oz was made in 1939, yet Dorothy Gale was meant to be much younger. Fairuza Balk (who I loved in the camp The Craft) was eleven when Return to Oz was filmed in 1985. Having seen both movies and the sci-fi recreation, Tin Man, I couldn't help but think what Wizard of Oz would be like if written as a YA novel.
Some ideas for Oz High (as I have chosen to badly name it):
· The Cowardly Lion would probably be struggling with his sexuality giving everyone else the appearance that he's a "ladies man".
· The Scarecrow would be a closet brainiac who pretends to be a dumbass...with some spatial awareness issues on the side.
· The Tin Man would be struggling with juvenile arthritis and the ability to "speak" to plants.
· Dorothy Gale would be a wide-eyed country girl starting a new school with a weird habit of wearing the same outfit day in, day out. She’d also break into song, befriend her fellow strange teens with no thought to her safety and talk to herself a lot. Either that or she’d be a glorified mean girl with a drug habit...
· The Wizard would be the principal with a penchant for wearing woman’s shoes
· The Wicked Witch of the West would be the maths teacher...nuff said.
What would Oz High look like to you?
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
One of the oldest stories told is that of the boy next door and the unrequited love that finally is well ... requited. Whether childhood best friends finally shaking their lack of awareness of one another from their foggy brains, or a walk on the wild side bringing an understanding of how valuable a reliable person is in one’s life - it’s a tale that hasn’t gotten old, though the characterisation tends to. Good guys don’t often have the overtly dramatic arc that bad boys get. Even when they try to “act out”, it’s not all that convincing. Their dialogue can be too self aware, too squeaky clean or just plain oblivious and in our cynical times, it’s a boy that doesn’t float most boats.
Good guys don’t usually have a snarky bone in their body – I cherish the snark. If you think of Sarah Dessen novels, Nate (Lock and Key) doesn’t seem to rate a mention in the top guys – though Wes (The Truth About Forever) and Owen (Just Listen) do. Yet they aren’t even that bad – Wes is just an artistic with a juvie record and Owen used to have an anger management issue but they are less obvious good guys. The same can be said for Harry Potter – he’s definitely a good guy, as is Ron – yet girls fall for Malfoy for a reason even I can understand...apparently tortured is sexy. (Wait...a memory of Richard Armitage in North and South reminded me that yeah, tortured is lovely.)
One of my first good boy loves was Gilbert Blythe from LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. He was a typical lad from Prince Edward Isles whose staid existence was enlivened by the addition of Anne Shirley. He was delightfully normal, battling with the pressures of wanting to succeed from a relative backwater. He’s means of getting a girl’s attention was to pull her braids and tease her about her red hair – I blame Gilbert for the theory that a boy likes you if he’s mean, though in this case it was true. Yet even when she smacked him over the head with a slate, he apologised and liked her even more. This very normal guy is made more interesting as he could recognise how fantastic Anne is, regardless of her melodrama.
Gilbert always did the right thing. He was chivalrous but bull headed. Impish but responsible. He shows his care and regard through noble acts like giving Anne the Green Gables School so she could stay near Marilla. There’s no litany of insults, flirting with floozies or acts of inebriation with this fellow. Educated, handsome and (my Achilles heel) tall, Gilbert refused to settle for friendship even when Anne was being an idiot – “your friendship can't satisfy me, Anne. I want your love -- and you tell me I can never have that". Gilbert’s not wasting his intelligence like many bad boys; he’s motivated and ambitious and actually ends up with an actual profession (medicine) - something I don’t see many bad boys doing. He’s steadfast in his ideals, has a good sense of humour and loves an impossible woman – kudos to this “good” boy.
It’s telling that I had to reach back through the cobwebbed shelves to find a good boy that I like as much as the overwhelming bad boys that get my pulse racing. If I think far enough back I am sure I could think of a few that I enjoyed (and were three dimensional) – Luke (Teen Idol, Meg Cabot), Jesse (The Mediators, Meg Cabot), Lucius (Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side), Adam (If I Stay, Gayle Forman), Tristan (Song of the Sparrow, Lisa Ann Sandell) and for a very short time, the ultimate cardboard good boys Logan (The Babysitters Club series, Ann M Martin) and Todd (Sweet Valley High series, Francine Pascal). Note that a few of them don’t possess a pulse through ghostification or vampirism – death as a relationship impediment seems quite effective in making good boys a more exciting romantic ideal as it makes them a challenge! In Adam’s case, his girlfriend is having an out of body experience but even he bucks the good boy conventions as outwardly his look and interests (a rock band) seem bad boyish but his actions are anything but.
A quick twitter poll proved that it is a lot more difficult for people to think of YA good guys (thankfully after six hours I got more responses):
• Clay Jensen (Thirteen Reasons Way – Jay Asher)
• Adam (The Secret Circle – LJ Smith)
• Ponyboy and Johnny (The Outsiders – SE Hinton)
• Jerry Renault (The Chocolate War-Robert Cormier)
• Carlisle (The Changeover)
• Simon (The Mortal Instruments series – Cassandra Clare)
• Seth (Georgina Kincaid series)
• David (Uglies series – Scott Westerfeld)
• Peeta (The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins)
• Po (Graceling - Kristin Cashmore)
• John After (Going Too Far – Jennifer Echols)
• Sam (Gone)
We should probably give the boy next door a little more credit. It’s hard being understated and calm. It’s hard not being the one that girls obsess over, even intelligent girls like Jo from Little Women ignore obvious catches like Laurie. However as an ardent member of Team Gale, I do understand why Peeta has his attractions. A good guy is all in how the author writes him – there are two dimensional guys (whether good or bad) in every literary genre. Too often nice comes across as boring and it’s always exciting to find a good guy that can get one’s hair in a tizzy – just check some of the above suggestions out. I haven’t done the best job in selling Good Guys, I don’t think they are a bore....I just wish I could find one myself.
Read my thoughts on Bad Boys here.
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
What is a ‘bad boy’?
The Urban Dictionary defines a bad boy as “...a young man who has many characteristics of a naughty boy: he's independent and wilful; he does what he wants when he wants; he doesn't follow trends, they follow him; he often looks scruffy, but hip; he's not looking for trouble, but there's a sense of danger about him. For these reasons and more, he's irresistible to women.” That’s George all over plus more. He’s the Rogue (aka the King of Thieves) of the Tortall Realm at the tender age of seventeen, he’s the breadwinner of his family and despite his untrustworthy trade, he is trustworthy with Alanna’s secret and ultimately heart. It’s telling that most bad boys have had to grow up before their time, either in caring for others or for themselves. Their hearts are normally barricaded by quips and insults and yet their cynicism and bitterness often make the romance the most worthwhile. The point is that they have hearts, their badness is often a label placed on them by a misunderstanding society rather than a state of being. Their capitulation to love is always tortured and toe curling greatness – the best kind of read imaginable.
George Oh George.
Of course bad boys are normally beautiful....as George is. He’s tall (6”4) – have you ever come across a vertically challenged bad boy? He’s dark with roguish eyes and an ungainly nose – the “too big nose for their face” seems to be a common bad boy factor too, I much prefer it to the one that could befit a Roman statue. He’s muscley and mischievous – basically he’s a delicious concoction! He’s dangerous though, his role in the slums of Tortall demands it. His survival demonstrates his excellence at it. He’s a keen spy, tough but fair in his punishments and charming as all heck. He was a great entree in a huge, lifelong bad boy feast of massive proportions.
A quick twitter poll about bad boys saw some great suggestions of perfect bad boys:
• LJ Smith’s Damon, Ash and Julian (The Vampire Diaries, Night World and The Forbidden Game)
• Melissa Marr’s Niall and Irial (Wicked Lovely series)
• Bec Fitzpatrick’s Patch (Hush Hush)
• Sarah Rees Brennan’s Nick (The Demon's Lexicon)
• Megan McCaffrey’s Marcus Flutie (Jessica Darling series)
• Sarah Dessen's Owen (Just Listen)
• Richelle Mead's Adrian (Vampire Academy series)
• Cory Doctorow's Marcus (Little Brother)
• SE Hinton's Dally (The Outsiders)
YA to TV.
My love of the bad boy has transitioned from YA literature into that of mainstream pop culture. Pacey Witter (Dawson’s Creek) was the archetype of bad boy perfection – naughty, cheeky, manly and one heck of a kisser – seriously check out the head cradle manoeuvre he had down. Later it was Ben Covington from Felicity, Logan Echols from Veronica Mars, Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights and though I loathe to admit to watching the show, Mark “McSteamy” Sloane from Grey’s Anatomy. Even when they are bad, they are good. Even when they’re acting like jerks, they make you laugh. Even when they are arguing with you, they usually have a point in there somewhere amidst the crudity.
Bad boys are ultimately much more developed than any boy-next-door and thus much more compelling, fascinating and watchable. If you still doubt me, think about your initial reaction to Judd Nelson’s character, John Bender, in The Breakfast Club and you’ll know I have a point!
The Danger Factor.
A bad boy is capable of beating the crap out of someone – usually in the defence of the heroine’s honour or his own. Though he’d realise that she was capable of fighting her own battles and only step in when truly necessary – the bad boy is the feminist’s best boy. He likes that she swears like a sailor, hates pink and could kick him in the balls. He doesn’t romanticise her but sees the heroine as she truly is, even calling her on her crap a lot of the time. The best kind of bad boy is the one that challenges the heroine’s perspective. Many think it’s the heroine that changes the bad boy but often it is just the reverse, she might make him more honest but he makes her more open to possibilities.
And in the end, isn’t that what YA literature is all about – being open to possibilities?
And with this secret comes danger and adventure.If Celeste is to save her family and friends, she must learn to harness her rare and powerful gift as a ghost-hunter. . .
Review - Wang has constructed a great story of grief, culture, family history and ghost hunting in this middle grade novel.
Celeste has travelled to China to spend some time with her grandmother after the death of her mother. Celeste is the product of two cultures; her Chinese and French ancestry and her Australian upbringing. Her inital time in China is a culture shock as she adjusts to her grandmother's home, the distance from her father and brother and an unpleasant child that her grandmother has taken in.
What appears to be a simplistic novel seemlessly weaves a family mystery, anger, grief and a family profession that defies expectation. Celeste's grandmother is a ghost catcher through an art that has been passed down through her family. Young readers will love the swords, hand signs and talismans that are the tools of the trade, especially as the key ghost issue of the novel is tied to many of our characters. It's simply written allowing the characters to speak for themselves and for the reader to absorb the issues naturally. The spookiness of the ghost catching methods will also capture the imaginations are they are beautiful, thrilling and scary.
A Ghost in the Suitcase is a great story of the strength of family and the importance of family legacy.
Published: 2 February 2009
Format: Paperback, 192 pages
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Monday, 7 September 2009
On a fact finding mission, they discover that they want to fight guerrilla style to oppose this invasion. They show tremendous inventiveness and resourcefulness in all that they accomplish both on the attack and in creating a home base. It’s thrilling stuff.
Marsden has built the tension and danger of the situation with expertise. The characters are mostly well drawn, though the sheer number of them mean that it's not as detailed as one might like. Ellie, Homer and Lee are amongst those that are the most well rounded, their growth naturally occurring as they make many tough decisions and experience certain events. The language is deceivingly simple, assisting in the concept that these are everyday kids pulling off extraordinary acts.
The story is quite gritty as the many events that take place throughout the invasion and subsequent ransacking bring forth many realistic incidents. They have to fight with any means necessary and it isn't always pretty. School kids forced into thinking and acting like soldiers, Marsden depicts this startling transition beautifully. What would you do to survive? How would you deal with the repercussions of your actions?
Tomorrow, When the War Began is the first title in the Tomorrow Series. It leads the reader on a ride of thrills, chills and spills that will draw you in and possibly spit you out. A truly great Australian read (and the term 3 text in my English class).
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
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Sunday, 6 September 2009
1. Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
4. Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
Here are the bloggers who I think scribble in a superior manner :P
1. Jenny from Wondrous Reads
2. Liz from My Favourite Books
3. Khy from Frenetic Reader
4. McKenzie from The Book Owl
5. Rhiannon Hart
McKenzie from The Book Owl also gave me my second award this month: The Lemonade Award, a feel good award that shows great attitude or gratitude. Thanks McKenzie!
I am to nominate 10 blogs but I thought I would nominate 5 authors/bloggers that exemplify grace -
1. Michelle Zink - queen of gratitude
2. Alexa Young - amazing strength
3. Simmone Howell - she said my new look was "classy" :P
4. Kami Garcia & Margie Stohl - they introduced me to Red Hots, Grits and Southern hospitality!
It's been a very slow fortnight but I am not minding at all. I have been carving a swath through some Inky titles which I won't post until after the shortlist is annnounced. I have also had the flu a second time (in under 4 weeks) and I have been sulking a great deal. So to summarise, I didn't get anything last week and this week I received one book from someone I admire greatly, Shiver.
I have already read and reviewed Shiver and you can check that out here.
You might also notice that the site is looking much different as I attempt the streamlined look. I am not sure at the moment. The 'links to the post' alignment is particularly annoying me but I have no idea how to change it - any ideas?
Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.
Review -Shiver is an intoxicating read. It falls over you like a warm blanket; you absorb the warmth, the scents and the delicious feeling of being all wrapped up. Stiefvater's novel is a real page turner due in large part to an unique spin on werewolf lore and an amazing connection between two teens. The alternating perspectives of Grace and Sam are terribly effective in demonstrating their fixation with one another; there's a deep attraction but it goes well beyond the physical, it's almost elemental.
While the romance will grab most readers, it was the language and science that grabbed me. On some levels Shiver is repetitive but you don't notice due the the beautiful flow that has been established. It's somewhat lyrical and very sensual. Sensual in that Stiefvater has deftly brought the character's and reader's senses into the story with her inclusion of odours, sights and touch. The science of the werewolves is intriguing and well thought out, the detour from magic is much appreciated, as it her ability to make the ideas easy to follow.
The characters are mostly well formed. Sam is a character that is inordinately more rounded than Grace as his past influences his present so much more. Grace is hampered by oblivious parents but there isn't a whole lot of spark in the girl. She's strong, capable and rather a white lady knight but she often comes across quite tepid. Their romance is instantaneous, an event six years prior solidifying their connection to one another. This unsettled me a little as they were almost immediately in love mode without too much establishment of their girl/boy connection rather than girl/wolf connection. While it's believable to a degree, the time between Sam's entry into Grace's world as a human and their first kiss could have been more developed. Though the elemental nature of their attraction could justify Stiefvater's pacing there.
Shiver is a beautiful, transformative read. Her language can move between languid and jolting with effective storytelling. A great reading choice for a Sunday morning in bed.
Published: August 1st 2009
Format: Paperback (ARC), 390 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
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