January 29, 2016

In the Spotlight: Night on Fire by Ronald Kidd

One of my biggest pleasures in life if finding books and sharing them! 

And to me blogging isn't just about reviewing books, it's also about introducing you to books you may not know - even if I haven't even read them yet! 
They look so good I just need to shine the spotlight on them!

Today I'm spotlighting:

Night on Fire from highly acclaimed author, Ronald Kidd, explores life in the 1960s through the eyes of a feisty young tomboy eager for change.

Thirteen-year-old Billie Sims doesn’t think her hometown of Anniston, Alabama, should be segregated, but few of the town’s residents share her opinion. As equality spreads across the country and the Civil Rights Movement gathers momentum, Billie can’t help but feel stuck–and helpless–in a stubborn town too set in its ways to realize that the world is passing it by. So when Billie learns that the Freedom Riders, a group of peace activists riding interstate buses to protest segregation, will be traveling through Anniston on their way to Montgomery, she thinks that maybe change is finally coming and her quiet little town will shed itself of its antiquated views. But what starts as a series of angry grumbles soon turns to brutality as Anniston residents show just how deep their racism runs.

The Freedom Riders will resume their ride to Montgomery, and Billie is now faced with a choice: stand idly by in silence or take a stand for what she believes in. Through her own decisions and actions and a few unlikely friendships, Billie is about to come to grips with the deep-seated prejudice of those she once thought she knew, and with her own inherent racism that she didn’t even know she had.

About the Author
Ronald Kidd is the author of ten novels for young readers, including the highly acclaimed Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial. His novels of adventure, comedy, and mystery have received the Children’s Choice Award, an Edgar Award nomination, and honors from the American Library Association, the International Reading Association, the Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library. He is a two-time O’Neill playwright who lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

January 28, 2016

Book Review: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Title : The Crossover
Author : Kwame Alexander

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I'm delivering," announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood.

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story's heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

Simple Version: Fantastic story that brought the characters to life – pulling them off the page and into my heart.

Full Version: This book pulled me in from the start. I loved the characters of Josh and Jordan. They were so well developed that they became very real to me. After teaching middle school for 19 years I could see these two in my classroom, walking down the halls and being with their friends. Kwame Alexander did a fantastic job bringing them to life. Josh (the twin telling the story) was so realistic. He had the swagger I’ve seen middle schoolers have but he also didn’t know how to handle situations like his brother’s interest in a girl. Very realistic! Because of this, I care so much for these boys and ended up being put on an emotional roller coaster I kinda saw coming but hoped I was wrong about.

Some people are turned off when they see a book is written in verse or at the very least they are apprehensive. I know my students were the first time I had them read a novel in verse (yes I MADE my student!), but what they found was once they had the rhythm of the verse it read like any other novel they had read. And this one did just that. Within a page the verse became just part of the story only noticeable when Kwame Alexander decide he wanted you to see the movement or feel the emotions. I loved how then he would expand the letters or move them around the page, sometimes making some letters bigger or others smaller all so you could see and hear and feel the movement of the characters. This was mostly done during the basketball games, and I found that they pulled me into and let me see the action as if I was sitting in the stands. After reading it written in verse I can’t imagine it told any other way!

I do admit it could be a hard sell to get middle school kids to read it. It’s about basketball so that helps a lot! I think with good book talking and my reluctant readers realizing that books in verse read faster – I could garner interest.

Final thought – I see why it won the Newbery!

January 27, 2016

WoW: Far From Fair by Elana K. Arnold

This post is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Today I'm Waiting On:

Release Date: March 8, 2016

Odette has a list: Things That Aren’t Fair. At the top of the list is her parents’ decision to take the family on the road in an ugly RV they’ve nicknamed the Coach. There’s nothing fair about leaving California and living in the Coach with her par­ents and exasperating brother. And there’s definitely nothing fair about Grandma Sissy’s failing health, and the painful realities and difficult decisions that come with it. Most days it seems as if everything in Odette’s life is far from fair but does it have to be?

I love middle grade books because they deal with so much that this age group is growing through even if it doesn't look identical to their lives.  This looks like it has topics/issues that my student face, and I firmly believe kids need to see themselves in the books they read! 

January 26, 2016

#ILoveMG Campaign

Middle Grade will also have a special place in my heart because I've worked in a middle school my entire teaching career. 

So when I saw the, and was contacted about, the iLoveMG campaign started by Workman Publishing and Algonquin Young Readers Group I needed to share!

iLoveMG inspired by Trevor Ingerson, head of Workman’s school and library children’s marketing, iLoveMG aims to lift the conversation around and harness enthusiasm for “the middle child” of kid lit within the publishing community and beyond.

How to join in:

Twitter Week: January 25-29
Prizes, Themed days and more! @workmanpub / @algonquinyr

Diverse MG Recommendations
If MG were pop songs/artists #MGpop (i.e. Because of Winn Dixie Chicks) 
MG I wish I had (when I was a kid)
Throwback MG
MG Mashup (i.e. A Wrinkle in Circus Mirandus, Three Times Wonder)

Sign up for the #iLoveMG newsletter: tinyletter.com/iLoveMG

I hope you'll join in and support middle grade!

January 25, 2016

SnapShot Reading

In an effort to keep my blogging simple I like to just take a picture of the current book I'm reading.  

Today I'm Reading:

By Jim Murphy

It's interesting, but I'm not too far into it.  It's one of the books I'm reading for the class I'm in on picking books for a media center.  

January 22, 2016

Guest Post: Jake Gerhardt Author of Me & Miranda Mullaly

Today I'm very excited to welcome to the blog Jake Gerhardt author of 
Me & Miranda Mullaly!

First you need to find out about the book

The fates of three 8th grade boys converge in biology class one day, as each falls desperately in love with the same girl. There's Sam, the class clown; Duke, the intellectual; and Chollie, the athlete. And the object of their collective affection? The enigmatic Miranda Mullaly—the girl who smiles like she means it, the girl who makes Christmas truly magic when she sings, the girl who…barely realizes her admirers exist! 

But nothing will stop the guys from doing everything they can to GET THE GIRL, not even their inevitable confrontation.

Told in alternating perspectives, Me and Miranda Mullaly is a comedy of errors where small misunderstandings lead to big laughs. And beneath the humor, every attempt to win Miranda becomes a compelling look at the larger world of each guy's life.

My Thoughts and My First Crush
I had a chance to read an advanced copy of the book.  I really enjoyed it! As a middle school teacher who has seen many, many students come and go, I could completely see Miranda, Sam, Duke and Chollie! I've had students with all of their traits! This made them very realistic to me.  

I really enjoyed the parts with Sam and his principal because I could just see that all happening! And I felt for Sam because here he was trying to make a change and people not allowing him to be anything than what he was.  

What also really cracked me up was the three boys and their inability to even comprehend that Miranda does not see the situation in the same way they all do.  I would love when you'd hear a whole event from like Sam's perspective and then hear it from Miranda's because the difference was amazing AND realistic.  Boys at this age, for the most part, have no clue how to show interest in a girl.  And then Miranda going on about being in love - I could see that from a girl this age too!

I will admit it did bring back memories of my first crush.  His name was John, and I thought he was so cute! Then he moved and broke my heart! We wrote letters for a bit (yes in those days we wrote letters through the mail!), but that didn't last long.  He came back to visit once when I was a senior.  That was just a little awkward!  I often think of him now and wonder how he's doing and if he's still as cute as I thought he was!

In the end I found it a fun book about being in middle school, having that first crush and dealing with all that comes with that.  I think it's one that students would relate to!

Ok now you've hear from me - but where did those characters come from?  Who were they based on?  Was Jake really Sam when he was younger or was he more like Duke (oh I hope he wasn't like Duke!!!)
He was kind enough to answer those questions for me!

Welcome Jake!!!
The best part of writing Me and Miranda Mullaly was having the opportunity to go back and revisit my middle school years.  There’s a little bit of me in Duke, Chollie and Sam.   I can remember feeling the way Chollie, Duke and Sam do throughout the book.   In fact, there isn’t an emotion that they contend with that I did not experience at the age of thirteen as well.

                Duke:  I was a little bit like Duke because when I was in middle school I had an enormous amount of worthless facts in my head.  Like Duke, I often thought if someone (especially one of my sisters) was unaware of a particular fact he or she was a moron.  I would think this even if I’d only learned the fact the day before.  And like Duke, I must’ve been terrible to live with.
                And don’t let the fact that Duke proudly wears a bow tie and confidently carries as briefcase fool you.  He is just like any other typical teenager; insecure, full of doubt and often overwhelmed.  Who hasn’t felt that way at thirteen?  I know I certainly did.             

                Chollie:  Chollie is very fortunate to have an older brother, even if the advice he is given is always wrong.  I had no such thing, but there were occasions when my sisters and I were civil to one another (a rare in middle school, mostly because of me) and I always appreciated their help when I was in a pickle. 
What I had most in common with Chollie was a love of sports.  Football, baseball, basketball, track, just about anything that was competitive you could count me in.  I definitely needed gym class and time after lunch to burn off my energy.  I’m sure my teachers appreciated it.

                Sam:  If you asked my friends from that time, they would surely say I was most like Sam.  I was a bit of class clown and the assistant principal, a really great guy, kept a close eye on me.  I was never is serious trouble, nor was I ever kicked out of class.  In fact, I loved being in class.  I not only loved watching the teachers teach but really liked being with my classmates.  Probably a little too much, for wherever I was seated I often struck up a conversation with my peers next to me.
                Like Sam, I had sisters.  But I had two older sisters and two younger sisters.  I was surrounded by girls, which was not much of an advantage when it came to the ladies.  In fact, often when my sisters had their friends over at the house it was really only fun for my friends, who were free to hang out and flirt.  My sisters rarely wanted anything to do with me when I was thirteen.  Looking back, I can’t blame them.
                 Although Sam has a plan for his future (to be a standup comedian) I had nothing remotely as well planned as Sam. In fact, I recently read a bio my seventh-grade nephew who wrote he wanted to be a professional athlete or a teacher.  That’s pretty much how I felt in middle school.  Like Sam, I thought no obstacle in the future could stand in my way and certainly didn’t fear failure. 

                I especially enjoyed writing about the relationship between Mr. Lichtensteiner and Sam.  I had a relationship like that with one of the school disciplinarians, Mr. Leiberher.  He knew I was a pretty good kid, and he personally knew my father and knew that my father ran a tight ship at home.  My father gave Mr. Leiberher permission to keep me in line when I needed it, and Mr. Leiberher took full advantage of the carte blanche, often making an example of me in front of the boys.  Definitely not fun at the time, but looking back I realize it was important for keeping me in line. 

So now we know - well kinda! I think that's how it is with all authors - bits and pieces of themselves and the people they know end up in their characters.

Care to share about your first crush?????

January 20, 2016

WoW: The Last Place on Earth by Carol Snow

This post is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Today I'm Waiting On:

Release Date: February 16, 2016

Daisy and Henry are best friends, and they know all each other's secrets. Or, so Daisy thinks, until she wakes up one morning to find that Henry and his family have disappeared without a trace. Daisy suspects Henry's disappearance is connected to their seriously awkward meeting the night before, but then she finds a note from Henry, containing just the words "SAVE ME." Deeply worried, Daisy convinces her unemployed brother to take her on a rescue mission into the California mountains. As they begin to home in on Henry's exact location, they also start to find some disturbing clues... clues that call into question everything Daisy believes she knows about her friend. Why is he so hard to find? What kind of trouble is he in, exactly? And most importantly, who is actually saving who? 

This book just sounds really really good! I love the mysterious feel to it, but also that it's about friendship.  

January 19, 2016

Urban Boys Book Blast +GIVEAWAY

I’m really exctied to be on the book blast for this Young Adult novel by K.N. Smith! THE URBAN BOYS: Discovery of the Five Senses is perfect for the young adult reader in your life – but don’t just take my word for it:
"The Urban Boys - an energetic YA adventure debut with stellar action sequences. Smith's writing is intelligent and often lyrical. Her exuberant prose never fails to dazzle." - Kirkus Reviews
About The Book
THE URBAN BOYSAuthor: K.N. Smith
Pages: 292 Release Date: September 29th, 2015
Publisher: Two Petals Publishing
The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses is an action-adventure story about five teen boys who are mysteriously exposed to a foreign energy source that gives them extremely heightened senses. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell become hypersensitive gifts that forever change the world. The story chronicles their effortless interrelations and later exposes the testing of their deep bonds. It introduces the reader to an array of supporting characters who alter the boys’ lives forever. The Urban Boys offers young and mature readers central themes of loyalty, responsibility, honesty, fear, and triumph, which become artfully integrated with cinematic-level action and high drama. The story twists, turns, and grinds through elements of paranormal and action-adventure in a diverse, exciting, edge-of-your-seat narrative! 

Overview: The story’s small town of Danville Heights, a carefully crafted universe, contrasts with the dark, gloomy town of Sandry Lake, where evil abounds. Upon the boys’ mysterious incident with the energy source, they’re instinctively called to Sandry Lake to root out evil. Their senses guide them each time. However, secrecy about their mission, furious battles with evil thugs, extreme fatigue, and stress and pressure soon overwhelm the boys, but they must find a way to embrace their fate. A lurking, Dark Stranger seems to know their plight, and a strikingly beautiful, fearless girl lends way to heightened confusion. Shocking details about these two characters, and the evil antagonist, the dreaded Druth, twist and grind the story even further. 

Despite tension and fierce battles, will the boys hold it together long enough to fulfill their destiny? 

Intriguing, intelligent, and full of action, The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses offers a memorable, emotion-packed, thrilling ride for young and mature readers alike!

Book Trailer

About The Author
K.N. Smith is an American author and passionate advocate of childhood and family literacy programs throughout the world. She continues to inspire students of all ages to reach their highest potential in their literary and educational pursuits. Her creative, lyrical flair sweeps across pages that twist, turn, and grind through elements of paranormal and action-adventure in diverse, exciting, edge-of-your-seat narratives. K.N. Smith has over twenty years' experience in writing, communications, and creative design. She lives with her family in California.

WEBSITE: www.knsmith.com
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January 15, 2016

Diversity Website: Read Proud. LIsten Proud.

A long while back I received an email from Random House and The Listening Library about a new website that was being launched.  I should've shared it right then and there, but it got pushed to the back burner, and I'm not happy about that!

The website is titled: Read Proud. Listen Proud

I'm going to let Random House and Listening Library explain what the website is all about!
(taken from their press release)


Resource for educators, librarians and parents recommends LGBTQ-focused titles for teens, offers discussion guides, and more

NEW YORK, NY (June 25, 2015)—Listening Library and Penguin Books for Young Readers announced today the launch of their joint campaign to highlight recommended LGBTQ books for young adults: Read Proud Listen Proud. The online resource is designed to spark discussion in the classroom and at home and to encourage understanding through storytelling, celebrating everyone for who they are.

The conversation started by the We Need Diverse Books movement over the last year has demonstrated the need for inclusive literature for kids and teens. The teams at Listening Library and Penguin Young Readers worked together on Read Proud Listen Proudto provide educators and librarians who work with teens, as well as their families, reading and listening recommendations featuring LGBTQ characters, thought-provoking discussion guides, inspiring author interviews, and audio clips, all hosted at www.readproudlistenproud.com.

“Stories teach empathy and help people of all backgrounds to respect themselves and others,” said Cheryl Herman, Marketing Director, Listening Library. “Whether a book or audio is centered on LGBTQ-related issues or features a character who is a positive LGBTQ role model, that story helps to teach young readers and listeners how to be tolerant and loving towards others.”

The campaign kicks off at the American Library Association’s annual meeting, held this year in San Francisco, where the two publishers will be giving away thousands of pairs of rainbow sunglasses during the conference as well as at the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 28, the anniversary of the raid and riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York City that catalyzed the modern gay rights movement.

The history of the riot and the movement that followed is vividly brought to life in award-winning author Ann Bausum’s STONEWALL, one of the first nonfiction chronicles of the movement written for young adults and one of the key inspirations for Read Proud Listen Proud. The site includes interviews with Bausum and Tim Federle, narrator of the audio edition of STONEWALL and author of BETTER NATE THAN EVERFIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE!, about its personal resonance to them and importance to young LGBTQ readers today.

As a teacher I sadly see this is one area that is still a struggle to bring into schools in terms of materials given to students to read.  And what frustrates me is that I know there are students who NEED these books because it reflects their lives.  
At least through my blog I can share with my readers a place they can go to find books that can reflect what they might be looking for and needing! 

January 13, 2016

Wow: Ascending the Boneyard by C.G. Watson

This post is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Today I'm Waiting On:

Release Date: February 16, 2016

Donnie Darko meets The Matrix in this mind-bending and captivating mystery about one teen’s surreal experiences after surviving a major trauma.

Everything’s a battle.

Sometimes life gets too real, and Caleb Tosh has taken one hit too many. First, there was the accident that changed everything for Tosh’s younger brother. Now his mom has left. All the pain, the grief and loss, have finally pushed Tosh over the edge.

If only he could have a do-over. Wipe his reality. Start fresh. Maybe he could fix all of his mistakes and everything would be different. Tosh immerses himself in the complex missions from the game he obsessively plays, The Boneyard. The game bleeds into the dark nature of his everyday life, folding reality into surreality until it’s impossible to separate one from the other. Tosh is desperate to Ascend, to reach the next level, to become Worthy.

Readers are brought on a one-of-a-kind, absorbing journey where no one can say what is real and what isn’t—right up until the shocking, yet deeply powerful conclusion.

Its it wrong to say because the cover is super eye-catching?? Ok there's more than that, but that is the first thing that drew me to the book. I do think the story sounds great too!

January 12, 2016

In the Spotlight: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

One of my biggest pleasures in life if finding books and sharing them! 

And to me blogging isn't just about reviewing books, it's also about introducing you to books you may not know - even if I haven't even read them yet! 
They look so good I just need to shine the spotlight on them!

Today I'm spotlighting:

Salt to the Sea
by Ruta Sepetys

The author of Between Shades of Gray returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies.

In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

This one looks just fantastic. I need to show it to my daughter. She loves history and LOVE anything to do with Prussia.

You can read a bit of the book HERE.  

January 11, 2016

Snap Shot Reading: Seventeenth Summer

In an effort to keep my blogging simple, I like to just take a picture of the current book I'm reading or just finished.  

Today it's: 
Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly

I'm reading this one for a class I'm taking.  
I'll be honest, it's a tough read.  It was written in 1947, and for me it hasn't withstood the test of time.

Have you read it???

January 9, 2016

Book and a Cuppa Swap

Yup you guessed it - I'm participating in another swap.  
This is the Book and a Cuppa Swap

But seriously COFFEE and BOOKS??? How could I not!!
For this swap we'll:

"Send a package worth $15-$30 that includes at least one mug, one book, and other book and mug-related goodies to your partner." (taken from the CGS website)

Again this is being hosted by Chaotic Goddess Swaps.  
You should check it out and maybe find a swap or two to sign up for!

January 8, 2016

Gene Luen Yang Named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

I was very excited to see that Gene Luen Yang was named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the .  
The ambassador program was established in 2008, by the Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, to highlight the importance of young people’s literature in developing a literate, tolerant, informed citizenry. Yang will serve a two-year term, traveling the nation to champion diversity in all forms—and formats—with his platform, “Reading Without Walls.”

About Gene Luen YangGene Luen Yang began drawing comic books in the fifth grade; he began making comics professionally over fifteen years ago. In 2006, his graphic novel American Born Chinese (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/First Second Books) became the first graphic novel to be a finalist for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album. In 2013, Boxers & Saints (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/First Second Books), his two-volume graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion, was a National Book Award finalist and won the L.A. Times Book Prize. Gene has also won an Eisner for The Eternal Smile, a collaboration with Derek Kirk Kim. He is the author of the Secret Coders series (with artist Mike Holmes) and has written for the hit comics Avatar: The Last Airbender andSuperman. Yang lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Learn more at geneyang.com.

My daughter and I had the pleasure of meeting him a Teen Lit Con in Minnesota last year.  He was fantastic!  My daughter went to his session, and she really liked him.  Also - Avatar the Last Airbender is HUGE at my house, so we've loved his work for a long time!

I'm excited because I "have" to read his book American Born Chinese for a class I'm taking this spring.  (life's rough I know!)

To read about Gene and the National Ambassador check out the links below.  

Official Announcement on the Children's Book Council Website

Article at Publishers Weekly

January 6, 2016

WoW: Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

This post is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Today I'm Waiting On:

Release Date: February 2, 2016

On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry gets a bag of sand in the mail-his only inheritance from his father and mother. He soon learns that this is no ordinary bag of sand. It is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians who are taking over the world by spreading misinformation and suppressing truth. Alcatraz must stop them, using the only weapon he has: an incredible talent for breaking things.

Ok when I looked into this one I saw that it was actually out before, so technically there is nothing to wake for BUT I love this cover, and I think it will attract more readers, so I'm looking forward to it for that reason.  Plus - it's about librarians - it has to be cool! 

January 5, 2016

Book Spotlight: Tuesday McGillycuddy Series by Angelica Banks

One of my biggest pleasures in life if finding books and sharing them! 

And to me blogging isn't just about reviewing books, it's also about introducing you to books you may not know - even if I haven't even read them yet! 
They look so good I just need to shine the spotlight on them!

Today I'm spotlighting:

The Tuesday McGillycuddy Series 
by Angelica Banks

Finding Serendipity
When Tuesday McGillycuddy and her beloved dog, Baxterr, discover that Tuesday's mother—the famous author Serendipity Smith—has gone missing, they set out on a magical adventure. In their quest to find Serendipity, they discover the mysterious and unpredictable place that stories come from. Here, Tuesday befriends the fearless Vivienne Small, learns to sail an enchanted boat, tangles with an evil pirate, and discovers the truth about her remarkable dog. Along the way, she learns what it means to be a writer and how difficult it can sometimes be to get all the way to The End. 

A Week Without Tuesday
Something is broken in the land of story. Real and imaginary worlds are colliding—putting everything and everyone in grave peril. Tuesday and Baxterr, at the request of the Librarian, and with the help of Vivienne Small, venture to find the Gardener—the one person who can stop this catastrophe. On their way, they'll meet friends and foes, and discover strengths they didn't know they had. Will they be able to save the land of story?

Doesn't this series sound just cute!?!  
I just had to share! 

January 4, 2016

Snap Shot Reading

In an effort to keep my blogging simple, I like to just take a picture of what I'm currently reading!

Today I'm reading:

The Crossover  by Kwame Alexander

I've meant to read this for soooooooo long, and now I have to read it for a class so that's perfect!!!!

Have you read it??