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Books as Gifts

Holiday Buying Guide 2008


Polar bear graphic

Good books last. They are truly the gift that is remembered long after the holiday or celebration is over. In fact, a book that connects with a young reader will grow with them as it is shared countless times.

These books were chosen with just one criterion in mind — good literature that's so engaging that your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or student will gladly turn off the TV and put away the Gameboy. Give books as gifts and watch kids read.

Happy holidays from Reading Rockets!




For 0-4 year olds

A Kitten Tale

By: Eric Rohmann
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Of four kittens, only one is really excited about the possibility of snow but inspires the others to enjoy it when it finally comes. Bold line and simple form combine with straightforward text to create a captivating kittens’ world.

Dance with Me

By: Charles Smith
Illustrated by: Noah Jones
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Join two children as they shake and dance and enjoy their neighborhood and get others to join in on the beat. Rhythmic language and jaunty, child-like illustrations make a trek all the way to a party.

Everybody Bonjours!

By: Leslie Kimmelman
Illustrated by: Sarah McMenemy
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Follow a family on vacation where it is clear that "When in Paris, everybody bonjours." Illustrations are reminiscent of Bemelmans' Madeline series with their delicate touch and fondness for Paris. An afterward provides a bit of information about the places visited.

Five Little Firefighters

By: Tom Graham
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Just when the five firefighters are getting ready to eat their dinner, an alarm sends them out to rescue a family and their cat. The small size, lots of onomatopoeic language, and a diverse cast of firefighters make this contemporary book even more appealing.

Giant John

By: Arnold Lobel
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

John is a truly gentle giant who sets out to make his way in the world. He finds a job with a royal family (providing climate control among other duties). John and his old friends find the true meaning of friendship when near disaster strikes.

Hooray for Fish

By: Lucy Cousins
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Fish of every size, color, and disposition are shown in engaging illustrations and an animated rhyme, sure to please the youngest listener all the way to the satisfying conclusion with a "kiss, kiss, kiss," for Little Fish and Mom.

Jazzmatazz!

By: Stephanie Calmenson
Illustrated by: Bruce Degen
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Words make music and it's sure apparent as the words and illustrations swirl and move around the pages of this lively and engaging book. Celebrate music and music-making when sharing this book aloud.

My Big Book of Spanish Words

By: Rebecca Emberley
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Sturdy pages introduce young readers to familiar ideas and objects in Spanish and English. From colors to shapes and things that go, this colorful book will introduce readers to vocabulary in two languages.

My Very First Bilingual Book: Animals/Animales

By: Eric Carle
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Descriptive language introduces a series of animals in both English and Spanish accompanied by Carle's signature illustrations. The animal word appears in both languages with one hidden by its picture on sturdy board that slides to reveal the other.

Peekaboo Bedtime

By: Rachel Isadora
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

A cheerful child gets ready for bed, playing and saying "Peekaboo! I see…" until at last, ready for bed, the child sees "you!" This companion to Peekaboo Morning features the same child but stands alone.

Princess Baby

By: Karen Katz
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Early on, toddlers can discover princesses and like to be treated as royalty. This is definitely true for the round-faced baby who with her sparkly crown and shoes doesn't understand why her loving parents call her silly names like cupcake. The humor is for the adults, the book is for young princesses everywhere.

The Life of a Car

By: Susan Steggall
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Readers follow a car from the factory where it's manufactured to a family driving and maintaining it; through an accident (uh-oh!), towing, recycling, and a new car built. Simple language and crisp illustrations show the process. (Astute readers will notice the wheel on the right side as the author/illustrator is from England).

Your Skin Holds You In

By: Becky Baines
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Everything you never knew you wanted to know about skin is presented in an engaging, light combination of photographs and drawn lines. The result is an informative book that can be shared in layers, demonstrating that "it's your skin that holds you in!"

For 4-5 year olds

Alfie and the Big Boys

By: Shirley Hughes
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Things aren't always as they seem as young Alfie learns when he helps one of the "big boys" Alfie knows from the school next door. Young readers will see themselves in Hughes' gentle illustrations which depict everyday people doing daily things.

Baby Face: A Book of Love for Baby

By: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by: Diane Goode
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Adorable babies are lovingly pictured in appealing illustrations and rhyming text. There is a reassuring tone from a "Baby Face" to the "Baby Bed." Even children who are no longer babies will enjoy the soothing language and images.

Danny Diamondback

By: Barry Jackson
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Danny, a young rattlesnake all alone, tries to befriend other desert animals but without success; that is, until he meets a prairie dog with a vision problem. Exaggerated illustrations use varied perspectives to add humor to the text told with a twang.

Dog and Bear: Two's Company

By: Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Even the best of friends sometimes have problems they must work out. And it's true for Dog and Bear, the best friends who can get angry but get over it. Simply crafted illustrations are the perfect complement to the uncomplicated text.

Doggone Dogs

By: Karen Beaumont
Illustrated by: David Catrow
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Ten hounds escape from their unfortunate owner for an adventurous — and very funny — day out and about. The comic illustrations build with the lively rhyming language for a zany escapade.

How to Heal a Broken Wing

By: Bob Graham
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Children often see what adults miss, and so it is when Will finds a pigeon with a broken wing on the sidewalk of a busy city. Will and his parents, help the bird recover over time then release it. Limited text and well paced and placed illustrations tell the affecting story.

Lemon the Duck

By: Laura Backman
Illustrated by: Laurence Cleyet-Merle
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Lemon was a lucky duck. His brood mates were all healthy and eventually went to live independently, but Ms. Lake and her class would always provide Lemon the special attention he needed. This surprising story is based on the author’s experience with the real Lemon the duck.

Let's Eat!

By: Pat Mora
Illustrated by: Maribel Suarez
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A Hispanic family's preparation for dinner is presented in easy words in both Spanish and English. Warm illustrations depict an affectionate family enjoying their daily routine. This is the first book in Pat Mora's My Family/Mi Familia series, a four-book collection of easy-read bilingual books.

Mommy, Do You Love Me?

By: Jeanne Willis
Illustrated by: Jan Fearnley
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

His mother loves her chick unconditionally; she can lose her temper when requests for quiet go unheeded. Little Chick realizes that even though they get mad, parents and kids always love each other. Large, comic illustrations enhance the wit of the presentation.

Monkey and Me

By: Emily Gravett
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A slightly frumpy, highly energetic girl and her expressive toy monkey dramatize seeing different animals from penguins to well, monkeys. The repeated phrase "Monkey and me…" combines with animated illustrations that use few colors for great impact.

My Father's Dragon

By: Ruth Stiles Gannett, Ruth Chrisman Gannett
Illustrated by: Ruth Chrisman Gannett
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

An author's note from Ruth Stiles Gannett, now 85 years old, provides background for this modern classic. In honor of its 60th anniversary, the fantastic tale of the boy who sets out to find his father is a bit larger with colorful endpages but otherwise unchanged.

Night's Nice

By: Barbara Emberley, Ed Emberley
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Night can be a great time for lots of things; seeing fireworks, or city lights. It's even good for sleeping. This book is as fresh as when it was first published with lilting language and colorful illustration.

Silly Lilly & the Four Seasons

By: Agnes Rosenstiehl
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Lilly is an effervescent child who enjoys each season and the special things that can be done during them. Comic book-like format and conversation balloons clearly depict her delight and make this book easy to follow and to read.

So Much

By: Trish Cooke
Illustrated by: Helen Oxenbury
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

With each "ding dong!" of the door bell, another relative joins Mom and the baby to play and enjoy each other until the last arrival when the celebration really begins. The extended family who loves Baby SO MUCH celebrates Daddy's birthday.

Ten Things I Can Do to Help My World

By: Melanie Walsh
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Going "green" is made accessible to young children with 10 can-do activities like turning out the lights or unplugging the television when not using them. Unique page shapes, die cuts, and bold colors add to its appeal.

The Sandman

By: Ralph Fletcher
Illustrated by: Richard Cowdrey
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Have you ever wondered where the sand found in sleepy eyes comes from? It's explained in this appealing, old-fashioned feeling story of a tiny man named Tor who realizes that the sand from a found dragon's scale makes everyone sleepy.

Walk On! A Guide to Taking the First Steps

By: Marla Frazee
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A bald baby with a round head and an expressive face confronts the challenge of learning how to walk. Children who have mastered the art of walking and adults who cheer them on will appreciate the subtle humor in both text and cartoon-like illustration.

Who Ate All the Cookie Dough?

By: Karen Beaumont
Illustrated by: Eugene Yelchin
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Eeny, meeny, miney, moe! Who ate all the cookie dough? asks a mother kangaroo of other animals. No one knows, of course, until the culprit can be found quite close to home! Children will catch on to the repetition quickly and will delight in the rhyming response.

For 6-7 year olds: To read on their own

All Pigs Are Beautiful

By: Dick King-Smith
Illustrated by: Anita Jeram
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Dick King-Smith is not only a writer but a pig farmer. His deep knowledge and sincere affection for these creatures is contagious in the engaging text and illustrations. The accompanying audio includes a read along, audio of the book, and facts about pigs.

Are You Ready to Play Outside?

By: Mo Willems
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Piggie and his elephant friend, Gerald, are back this time to play outdoors in rain and in sun. Their unlikely friendship is patient, gently humorous, and reflective of friendship — regardless of age or species!

Art from Her Heart

By: Kathy Whitehead, Shane Evans
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Self-taught artist Clementine Hunter used paint and canvas to record life in the rural south. Her work was first hung on a clothesline, much later in galleries. This attractive picture book biography concludes with an author's note and actual images by Hunter.

Babymouse: Skater Girl

By: Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Babymouse wants to win the skating trophy and keeps a rigorous training schedule; one without friends and cupcakes. Ultimately, Babymouse figures out and acts on what is most important to her. The Babymouse books continue to be fresh, original, and real.

Curious George's Dictionary

By: American Heritage Dictionaries
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

George, the curious monkey, and the man with the yellow hat are featured in this carefully constructed, appealing picture dictionary. Illustrations done in Rey's style illuminate words from A to Z and additional features in this attractive introductory dictionary.

Hooray for Fly Guy!

By: Tedd Arnold
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A bug-eyed boy named Buzz and his pet, Fly Guy (a similarly eyed fly) save the day for Buzz's football team. This latest installment in the Fly Guy series stands alone, however, and is sure to delight young football aficionados.

Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig

By: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by: Chris Van Dusen
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When Mercy Watson, the Watson's beloved pet pig, eats the neighbors' flowers Animal Control Officer Francine Poulet is called in to capture the culprit. In order to do so, Officer Poulet finds she must think like a pig! Humor abounds in this easy novel with a very satisfying conclusion for all.

Oodles of Animals

By: Lois Ehlert
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Bold color and geometric shapes create portraits of creatures from caterpillars to monkeys to accompany short ditties. The result is a lively look at a range of animals. Some short verse is reminiscent of Ogden Nash ("RAT/Leave/a rat/where/it's at.")

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangara Maathai

By: Claire Nivola
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Wangari Maathai's native Kenya was a changed land, literally blowing away because its trees and growth had been destroyed. Rather than complain, she started a reforestation effort for which she was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Handsome illustrations combine with crisp text to tell the story of one person’s impact.

Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog

By: Eric Kimmel
Illustrated by: Janet Stevens
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Traction Man is back! In this adventure Traction Man takes on a compost heap, loses his trusty Scrubbing Brush, and meets Turbo Dog — all with tongue-in-cheek humor in both comic-strip-like illustrations and understated language.

For 6-7 year olds: To read with you

Anansi's Party Time

By: Eric Kimmel
Illustrated by: Janet Stevens
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Anansi is a trickster so when he invites Turtle to a party it is, of course, a scam. But turnabout is fair play, and so Anansi gets his comeuppance. Humor abounds in the energetic, droll illustrations and contemporary retelling of this traditional tale.

Animal Poems of the Iguazú

By: Francisco Alarcón
Illustrated by: Maya Christina Gonzalez
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Inspired by a visit to the Iguazú National Park in South America, Francisco X. Alarcón celebrates its animals, skies, waterfalls, and more in these short and vibrant bilingual poems. Each page holds pulsating paintings that swirl and move, further vivifying each poem.

Clever Duck

By: Dick King-Smith
Illustrated by: Nick Bruel
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Damaris is a very clever duck who with Rory (her sheepdog friend) figure out how to give just desserts to the arrogant pigs (with names like Mrs. O'Bese and Mrs. Portly). The results are nearly disastrous for all, but all ends well in this appealing fantasy.

Fanny

By: Holly Hobbie
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Fanny has always wanted a fashion doll but when her wanting goes unanswered, Fanny makes a ragdoll instead — and begins her own fashion trend with Annabelle. Fanny is believable as is her self-reliance. Readers can make their own paper Annabelle doll.

Frogs

By: Nic Bishop
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Stunning close-ups of colorful frogs in their natural habitats taken by an acclaimed photographer and biologist combine with clearly presented information on large, bright pages, sure to intrigue as well as inform readers of all ages.

Max's Bunny Business

By: Rosemary Wells
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Ruby and her friend sell lemonade in order to buy matching rings. When Max's help is rebuffed, he sells leftover Halloween candy to Grandma in time to buy the last ring. Good-natured competition and lots of humor make this another Max and Ruby winner.

Pitching in for Eubie

By: Jerdine Nolen
Illustrated by: E.B. Lewis
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Lily feels like she can't contribute to the family fund to help her sister Eubie's college fund. When Lily finds a way to help, her joy is conveyed through handsome, realistic illustrations and Lily's exuberant narration.

Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad

By: James Rumford
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Ali, a contemporary boy living in Bagdad enjoys soccer, "loud, parent-rattling music," and Arabic calligraphy. Ali finds solace in it during the noise of war much like 13th century calligrapher Yakut. Dynamic, evocative illustrations make this book memorable, sure to remind readers that children are similar world-over.

Small Fry

By: Jaime Adoff
Illustrated by: Mike Reed
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Being small isn't always easy, especially when growing up is associated with getting bigger. The pitfalls and pleasures of being a small fry is explored in a series of short poems accompanied by spirited illustrations.

The Fish Who Cried Wolf

By: Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Tiddler was a chronically late little fish with a big imagination. Tiddler's tales are believed by only one fish who shares them — which is what brings Tiddler safely home when he's really lost. Bright, cartoon-like illustrations add detail to this cumulative tale.

For 8-9 year olds: To read on their own

ABC3D

By: Marion Bataille
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The letters of the alphabet come alive through the use of paper engineering including pop-ups, reflective pages and more. The result is a stunning, interactive, and sophisticated book.

Cam Jansen & the Green School Mystery

By: David Adler
Illustrated by: Joy Allen
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Cam (short for "Camera") uses her photographic memory to help solve the theft of the cans and bottles to be recycled to earn money for her school. This installment in the gentle mystery series features a particularly timely topic.

Chicken Feathers

By: Joy Cowley
Illustrated by: David Elliot
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Joshua Tucker's best friend on the family farm is Semolina, a sassy and talkative chicken — at least with Joshua. A sneaky, hungry red fox puts Semolina at risk in more than one way in this satisfyingly old-fashioned story dotted with black/white illustrations.

Elephants of Africa

By: Gail Gibbons
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This large land animal is introduced through crisp, easy-to-follow text and realistic illustrations. Information presented will satisfy casual readers and is likely to inspire further reading.

Eve of the Emperor Penguin (Magic Tree House #40)

By: Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated by: Sal Murdocca
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Annie and Jack find themselves in remote and frozen Antarctica in contemporary times on a mission to save a small orphan — and Merlin himself. Fact combines with fantasy though readers can learn more about the place and its inhabitants in a companion volume, Penguins and Antarctica: A Magic Tree House Research Guide.

Independent Dames: What You Never Knew about the Women and Girls of the American Revolution

By: Laurie Halse Anderson
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This fact and fun-filled look at female contributions to the American Revolution provides a serious but lighthearted introduction to a range of known and unknown women. Affable illustrations include thought and speech bubbles.

Judy Moody Goes to College

By: Megan McDonald
Illustrated by: Peter Reynolds
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When Judy struggles with math, her parents find a tutor at the local college. In typical Judy fashion, she tries to transform her world — and her friends' world– with laugh out loud results for readers.

Sharks: Biggest! Littlest!

By: Sandra Markle
Illustrated by: Doug Perrine
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

They come in many sizes with different diets — but all sharks are covered with 'denticles' as a protective armor and are fascinating sea creatures! Full color photographs and crisp text briefly introduce them with suggested websites for additional information.

Silly School Riddles

By: Lisa Eisenburg
Illustrated by: Elwood Smith
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

These groaners play with words, like: "What member of the royal family can you find in your school? The prince-ipal!" Each silly riddle is accompanied by cartoonish illustrations to explain or just add to the humor.

Stichin' and Pullin': Gee's Bend Quilt

By: Patricia McKissack
Illustrated by: Cozi Cabrera
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Poems piece together the story of the quilters of Gee's Bend in Wilcox County, Alabama. Though over a hundred years old, the art of quilting is alive and is now accessible through poetry and vivid illustration.

Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express

By: Megan McDonald
Illustrated by: Peter Reynolds
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Judy Moody's little brother, Stink, helps find homes for rescued guinea pigs. Along the way Stink and his friends learn about caring for the critters as well as a bit about responsibility — with loads of laughs for readers along the way.

There's a Wolf at the Door: Five Classic Tales

By: Zoe Alley
Illustrated by: R.W. Alley
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A hungry but dapper wolf cannot get Alan, Gordon, and Blake (aka the Three Little Pigs) to open the door so he moves on. Readers will recognize the familiar tales retold and connected in the comic book style art and very funny text in an oversized format.

For 8-9 year olds: To read with you

Donovan's Double Trouble

By: Monalisa DeGross
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Fourth grader Donovan (introduced in Donovan's Word Jar) learns to cope with the change in his favorite uncle (who lost both legs in the war), with having difficulty in school, and more — all's possible with the help of his supportive and involved family.

Never Kick a Slipper at the Moon

By: Carl Sandburg
Illustrated by: Rosanne Litzinger
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

One of Carl Sandburg's original, quintessentially American tales for children (from Rootabaga Stories) explains why it's just not a good idea to kick a slipper at the moon. This illustrated telling will hold young listeners as they hear rich language best read aloud.

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out

By: National Children's Book & Literacy Alliance, Mary Brigid Barrett
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

From many voices and perspectives, over 100 authors and illustrators examine this multi-faceted American residence. American history comes alive for readers of all ages and with varying interests in this intriguing and unique compendium.

Sabertooth

By: Patrick O'Brien
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Dramatic illustrations depict a range of possible sabertooth cats, likely relatives to the cats that live today in the wild and in people's homes. How information about these extinct animals has come to light is clearly presented and is sure to pique curiosity.

Sandy's Circus: A Story about Alexander Calder

By: Tanya Lee Stone
Illustrated by: Boris Kulikov
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Alexander Calder — Sandy — had a vivid imagination and a fascination with the circus; his sketches of the circus became 3-dimensional. Vivid illustrations combine with an informal text to introduce a man whose art continues to inspire and intrigue.

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World

By: Jane Yolen
Illustrated by: Christine Joy Pratt
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Not all pirates did their dirty work on the sea and not all of them were men. The stories in history and lore of the Sea Queens are presented in an evocative format with bold illustrations, separating fact from fiction.

Snow Leopard

By: Jackie Morris
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Dazzling illustrations combine with lyrical language to emulate a creation myth. Set in the Himalayan Mountains, this original tale dramatically explains why the sun and moon wax and wane and of friendship between a girl and the Snow Leopard.

The Rabbit and the Turtle

By: Eric Carle
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Newly formatted with explicit morals added and one of Carle's signature illustrations accompanies a fable credited to Aesop. The lively, colorful style of art is ideal for the short tales each with its maxim, sure to generate discussion.

The Runaway Dolls

By: Ann M. Martin, Laura Godwin
Illustrated by: Brian Selznick
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Annabelle and her friend, Tiffany — both dolls come to life — soon learn that running way for any reason is full of pitfalls. The dolls' third adventure (The Doll People and The Meanest Doll in the World) is illustrated cinematically by a Caldecott Medalist.

Wish: Wishing Traditions Around the World

By: Roseanne Thong
Illustrated by: Elisa Kleven
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Children around the world make wishes. Information about what makes a wish come true follows a short poem. Each tradition is placed on a double-page spread accompanied by jewel-toned illustrations.

Proceeds from the sale of books purchased at Amazon.com help support the Reading Rockets project. Thank you!

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