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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Finally, the Finalists!

smallspacesAfter many emailed, texted, and phoned conversations, we finally made our choices.

In compiling the list, we try to balance between reader support: many of the titles have received strong HM reader support; critical success: winning other awards, making multiple end-of-the-year best lists, etc.; and the HM bloggers’ personal picks: since even one nomination could put a book on the table during the real Newbery process. We also believe that our Mock Newbery list should feature books representing varied genres and age-brackets while always centers the consideration of the Criteria: distinguished literary qualities.

So, here we go, in alphabetical order by title, we present to you the sixteen (yup, we have to squeeze one more in) books that will be discussed and eventually voted on, starting January 2nd, 2019.

  • The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson
  • The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
  • The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix
  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang
  • The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman
  • Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  • A House That Once Was by by Julie Fogliano, illus. by Lane Smith
  • The Journey of Little Charlie by Chrisopher Paul Curtis
  • Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
  • The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon
  • Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
  • Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

Tell us what you REALLY think: let the celebration and the indignation begin!

Roxanne Hsu Feldman About Roxanne Hsu Feldman

Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School (4th to 8th grade) Librarian at the Dalton School in New York City. She served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery Committees. Roxanne was also a member of 2008-2009 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award Committees. In 2016 Roxanne was one of the three judges for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. You can reach her at at


  1. No complaints here! All the ones I love are on the list, and I only have three books on this final list to read!

    I’m surprised to see SMALL SPACES on the list, though. I don’t remember seeing it discussed the past few months. I am, however, only 15 pages from finishing it. Looking forward to discussing it!

    • Small Spaces came out in late September. It received 2 nominations in November and 5 in December. It is one book that I have not read and we have not really discussed on the blog but it represents a genre that’s missing from the list – horror. Does this somewhat answer your question? I look forward to reading it myself. We can’t wait see the discussion by the HM Committee!

      • It does. I wonder, though, if next year it might not be neat to have a committee of 15 selected in early December and then, along with the hosts (you, Steve, Sharon) the list would be collaboratively created among those individuals? I don’t know. There are so many mitigating circumstances. I love, though, that the three of you solicit so much participation from both us avid blog readers and those casual readers as well.

        I throw out this approach, though, knowing full well that I won’t be able to participate as much (or at all) next year. I have seeeeeeecrets that I will reveal sooooooooon.

        I like the Small Steps is on the list and that you thought about a swath of genres. I finished SMALL SPACES at lunch, and look forward to discussing it with the other Mock Committee Members.

      • Joe, that might be a good approach that could simulate even more of the real process. Timing is key and also time and mental space that we can spare during busy work days is another factor. As I looked through the comment history of the 21 Heavy Medal members, at least six members did not nominate during the last three months. So, it’s also likely that they would support Parker Inheritance — after all, it was named an honor book by the Boston Globe/Horn Book committee and featured in at least FIVE Best of the Year lists: NYPL, SLJ, PW, Kirkus, Horn Book. We would urge all HM readers and HMC members to take another close look at each book on the list and start the slate clean, if possible, when consider these 16 titles for an Award and with each other. I hope this makes sense.

    • Oh man, I’m the opposite -I’ve read a ton this year but the ones I’ve read didn’t make the cut! I have a lot of catching up to do (but luckily Small Steps was next on my list)!

  2. Umm… you forgot JUST LIKE JACKIE.

  3. Leonard Kim says:

    It might be advisable next year to indicate upfront what the HM reader nominations are for. Last year, I think you really did take the top nomination-getters for the mock discussion list. This year, it’s hard to see how the nominations were used at all. Not just JUST LIKE JACKIE but also SNOW LANE was tied for 5th-most nominations and left off. I think the selections are perfectly justifiable but just appear arbitrary.

    Will the HM bloggers be voting and discussing this year then? (If not, I can envision some of these titles not clearing the initial vote and making the final discussion at all.)

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      Last year’s HM list did look more like the Nominations list. Of the 18 titles chosen, we included 15 of the top 16 in nominations (leaving off Piecing Me Together, which won an Honor…oops). But last year we had far fewer nominations: 159 vs. 363 this year. So far fewer books had wide-ranging support from HM readers. Another way to look at it: last year 15 of 18 books got 4 or more nominations (83%); this year 15 of 16 books got 4 or more nominations (94%).

  4. Good list! I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to read The Faithful Spy or not though. I really want to and have it, but I can’t even read regular sized actual print, so tiny hand lettering is pretty tough. It’s pretty though!

    I do agree with Leonard that it feels like the nomination process is a little pointless. My two very favorites made it (yay, book of boy and small spaces!), so I’m not too worked up about it. (Although I’m surprised about Snow Lane.) It’s a complicated thing since you have to pick the 15 books before some people can commit (although this year didn’t we get pretty much enough even before you announced the list?). But ideally all of the nominations of everyone in the voting group would be included. This probably isn’t doable, but it does seem like at least the top 5 nominees within that group should make it. Maybe there’s a way to make it that those are the 16 books we’re officially discussing, but we can still vote for anything that was nominated for the first round of voting? Or at least do a mini-vote (e.g., vote for your 5 favorites, weighted) among likely participants, before choosing the books, to make sure the group favorites/most likely to make it through the first round of voting make it in.

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Katrina, it’s an interesting idea to set the Mock Committee membership first and then go back to see what they nominated to build the discussion list. It’s not completely practical since not everyone on the mock committee submitted nominations and also because the list would be much longer than 16.

      But because I am a nerd, I went back and looked at the nominations of the 16 people who’ve signed on so far (not including our hosts). Here are some findings — 3 books on the list were not nominated by anyone (PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER, HOUSE THAT ONCE WAS, and, surprisingly, PARKER INHERITANCE.) The 3 books that are not on the list that had the most nominations (3 or more) from committee members were JUST LIKE JACKIE, SNOW LANE, and GHOST BOYS. Though I initially raised an eyebrow at the inclusion of POET X, it was actually nominated by 2 committee members (not including Roxanne.) There were 43 books nominated in all.

      • Great detective work here! Snow Lane and Just Like Jackie did not make it to most Best Of Lists and that definitely were a consideration — also they both had earlier support and fewer votes in December – as contrasted with both Hey Kiddo & Sweep (late publication but strong Nov. & Dec. nominations.)

      • Interesting, Leonard!
        Although, Roxanne, Just Like Jackie and Snow Lane I think both had more recent support than Night Diary. Or at least from me! (Jackie in November and snow in December).

    • Katrina, yes, if we have time perhaps we can see what the HM Committee would nominate as the slate for discussion. Do you believe the final list would differ significantly, given the considerations for Heavy Medal, a Mock Newberry blog with at least two items on our agenda: varying the kinds of books to be included and ensuring nuanced literary discussions?

      I’m not sure that the nominations process is pointless — we followed the number of nominations and timing for the real Newbery Committee and we took into account greatly the front runners — all top fives made it to the final lists and almost all titles received multiple nominations.

      • Well, only a *little* pointless. 🙂 I just mean that we talk about strategy in nominations, but the strategies assume a process we aren’t actually following. I understand why though. Maybe next year when you’re picking the slate there could be a straw poll of (likely) voters to just pick our first place pick to make sure those are included. I don’t think it would change the results very much, but it would be a way to keep things from falling through the cracks and help replicate the one nomination gets it on the table thing in a more manageable way. I just think everyone should get to vote for their very favorite on the first round of voting. My top two are there, so I’m good, but I feel bad for Jordan!

      • Not gonna lie, I’m a bit bummed. My current top three are JUST LIKE JACKIE, SNOW LANE, and MASON BUTTLE and ALL OF THEM were shut out of this list!!!

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Well, as I mentioned, I did look up the HM Committee members’ nominations. 11 books had 3 or more nominations. They were Book of Boy, Hey Kiddo, Snow Lane, Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, Front Desk, Ghost Boys, Girl Who Drew Butterflies, Journey of Little Charlie, Just Like Jackie, Louisiana’s Way Home, and Sweep.

      Looking at underrepresented genres, that list includes a graphic novel and a non-fiction book. We
      are missing an “older” book and a picture book. Poet X has 2 committee nominations and also gets us a book in verse. In picture books, Day You Begin and Baby Monkey were nominated by committee members. Day You Begin had more HM nominations overall, so maybe that gets the nod.

      So that’s 13 books based on committee nominations with 9 books in common with the list presented here. The lists could be made even more similar if you added a couple more books to get to 16 such as STYX (which got a single committee nomination, but is in the top 10 overall in HM nominations) and PARKER (which got no committee nominations, but was the 2nd-most nominated book overall.)

      • Leonard, so after the further examination, do you feel more at ease of the 16 finalists? House That Once Was is definitely a One-Nomination, Picture Book, we love the literary quality addition. And Small Spaces was nominated late (late September release), but very strong, 5 nominations in December alone, and it represents more of a niche genre: horror. So, when we wanted to put these in, we had to make decisions as to which titles to substitute out. It’s pretty painful (you should have heard the groans on the call)!

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Roxanne, I said from the start that the list was “perfectly justifiable” so yes, I am at ease with it. Anyone can quibble with individual selections. If I had to quibble with any of the selections, they would probably be FAITHFUL SPY, PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER, and THE NIGHT DIARY. And if you were to tell me that it was important to you guys to have multiple representatives of underrepresented genres like illustrated biography (since you have GIRL WHO DREW BUTTERFLIES in there as well) and GN (HEY KIDDO), then that explains that. NIGHT DIARY is middle grade historical, so I’m not sure what your thoughts were there, unless it was the diary format (though even then, when that was discussed, I and others felt that format wasn’t done in a particularly credible way.)

  5. Great Question Leonard and here are some potential answers:

    1. We have to pick fewer books (16, not 18) from a larger pool of nominations/suggestions (88 total vs 70 from last year) — this is because Midwinter is earlier and we opened up the suggestion/nomination process a lot earlier; there are also so much more reader participation — 54 individuals nominated this year, 20 more than last year! So wonderful.

    2. That said, if you look at the top 16, which Steven will reveal in a comment below soon, there is very little in genre/age range variants – and for this blog, we want to give all our readers experiences in thinking and discussing books that are not just Middle Grade Historical or Realistic Fiction. So, yes, we had to make really difficult decisions. Fortunately, in the REAL Newbery Committee, this process is unnecessary. All nominated titles receive equal billing at the Discussion time. (They also probably would have about HALF of the 88 titles to discuss….)

    3. Last year, we definitely threw in at least one title that did not get a lot of reader love – Orphan Island – both arbitrarily, but also with strong intention to not just have titles that resemble each other too much even though they have the most support. Because, in the real Newbery process, even a single vote would make a book on to the discussion table, and it could realistically be elevated during the discussion and make it to winning, or to be an honor title. (I’m wondering, for example, Last Stop on Market Street could have only had one person really rooting for it during the Nomination process and yet made it to be the winner.)

    4. It would totally be fine to have a general poll for readers to vote for their favorite from all 87 titles nominated – along side the 16 HM long listed titles.

    5. With a lot of people participating in the Heavy Medal Committee this year, we probably will just help manage the book discussion, posts, and comments without actually voting. What do you think?

    • Did you feel like it worked like you hoped last year? I feel like we didn’t discuss Orphan Island much at all and I think it didn’t get any votes (or maybe just very few). I love to talk about process – did that work out procedurally like you wanted? It seems like the risk of adding a title arbitrarily is that nobody will discuss it, thus taking the spot of something that would have generated more discussion. It’s a tough balance.

      • Good thoughts, Kari. In the real Committee, they would not have to deal with this limitation at all. As I see it, none of the book on our final list would risk being ignored/not discussed. Do you sense that they would?

      • Not necessarily! Leonard’s post made me curious about the three that none of the final group nominated and therefore won’t necessarily have a “champion” to argue for them. (The three he identified are THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER, THE HOUSE THAT ONCE WAS, and THE PARKER INHERITANCE.) Like I said, it’s not meant to be a criticism, just a procedural question.

      • Kari, even if it is criticism, I think it is warranted. Perhaps we did not make the best choices! Let’s hope that some titles get a little more play during the discussion process. I’ll take a closer look at the nominations from those who volunteered to join the Committee, too. (Some never commented or nominated before.)

      • I think last year adding Orphan Island didn’t work very well because we’d already discussed it a lot, so people had already made up their minds about it and actively not nominated it. But I think adding The House That Once Was was a good choice for a wild card because it hasn’t gotten that same coverage. (I, at least, haven’t even read it yet.) So that will be interesting to see how it works this time!

      • Good point, Katrina! I have that one at my school but haven’t looked at it much. I liked The Prince and the Dressmaker quite a lot, but The Parker Inheritance didn’t wow me. We will see what happens!

    • I think you should still vote. If the committee is larger than 15 people, you should all definitely vote.

  6. I actually want to compliment you on the variety of choices that you gave us. Age ranges from young adult to picture book. Poetry, nonfiction, graphic novel, and straight prose are all included. I think you have made choices that can make for a very interesting discussion. My concern is my ability to get one of the books that I haven’t read in time. In my case Small Spaces is checked out and there are several holds in front of me. The book is not available to buy at the local bookstore. I don’t want to commit to a discussion where I don’t have all the books. I participated last year and it was interesting to hear other opinions.

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      As it happens, SMALL SPACES will be one of the last books discussed. We’ll go alphabetical by title, so the order listed in Roxanne’s post above is what we’ll follow. Not sure if that’s enough to get sway your decision, Cherylynn? Also, the discussions of this HM16 will run a little differently that last year. The readers who sign up for the Heavy Medal Committee will read all books, discuss them all, and then vote. But others who are not on that Heavy Medal Committee will still have opportunities to comment on the books as we go. So if you’ve read 12 or 10, or even 1, you’ll get a chance to weigh in , although the Committee members will be responding only to each other’s posts. Last year it was only the HM Committee members who could comment. More details on how that will work later….

    • Cherylynn, we will figure out a way to get you the book. I’ll email you.

      • If it is the last one we do, I should be ok. I just know when the discussions start, I will not have the book yet.

    • I did get SMALL SPACES yesterday from Audible. If that is an option for anyone. You might check your local Overdrive accounts. Since it is very much the type of book my students beg for I also have a copy coming in print. I know not everyone gets to personally choose which books go into their library, but you might put in requests.

  7. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    Here’s the final Nominations Totals. Titles that made the Heavy Medal 16 in CAPS. We included the top 6 and 8 of the top 10, so these Nominations were definitely a factor….just not the only factor, as Roxanne explains above.

    BOOK OF BOY 14
    SWEEP 13
    HEY KIDDO 12
    Just Like Jackie 12
    Snow Lane 12
    Ghost Boys 10
    Rebound 10
    Truth as Told by Mason Buttle 10
    Breakout 8
    Harbor Me 8
    Bob 7
    Cardboard Kingdom 6
    Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World 6
    Merci Suarez Changes Goals 6
    Amal Unbound 5
    Be Prepared 5
    Benefits of Being an Octopus 5
    Boots on the Ground 5
    Checked 5
    Miscalculations of Lightning Girl 5
    Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle 4
    Hope in the Holler 4
    Mad Wolf’s Daughter 4
    Penderwicks at Last 4
    POET X 4
    Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair 4
    Day You Begin 3
    Echo’s Sister 3
    Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish 3
    Martin Rising 3
    Traitor’s Game 3
    Two Roads 3
    Dragons in a Bag 2
    Drum Roll Please 2
    Hurricane Child 2
    Out of Left Field 2
    Saving Winslow 2
    Spooked 2
    Sunny 2
    Thunderhead 2
    Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse 1
    Astonishing Color of After 1
    Attucks 1
    Baby Monkey Private Eye 1
    Betty Before X 1
    Blended 1
    Carmela Full of Wishes 1
    Dear Sister 1
    Dreamers 1
    Finding Langston 1
    Granted 1
    Heart and Mind of Francis Pauley 1
    How Sweet the Sound 1
    Jazz Owls 1
    Journey of the Pale Bear 1
    Language of Spells 1
    Length of a String 1
    Lifeboat 12 1
    Love Penelope 1
    Nightbooks 1
    No Fixed Address 1
    Nowhere Boy 1
    Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths 1
    Photographic 1
    Prophet Calls 1
    Remember Balloons 1
    Road Trip with Max and His Mom 1
    Sanity and Tallulah 1
    Science of Breakable Things 1
    So Tall Within 1
    Stella Diaz Has Something to Say 1
    The Last 1
    Tight 1
    Where the Watermelons Grow 1
    You Go First 1

    Total 373

    • Interesting! So, in theory we could go back up to 18 like last year by adding in Just Like Jackie and Snow Lane and then the whole top 10 would be there. Just saying… 🙂

  8. Just throwing my two cents in here. I just want to add that nearly all of my nominations were strategically pushing titles that were either under the radar or not getting the anticipated support I thought they deserved – AMAL UNBOUND, SUNNY, OCTOPUS, HARBOR ME… Though I did nominate JOURNEY OF LITTLE CHARLIE which I still feel is in my top three for the gold and has a ton of support. SWEEP has risen to my top three as well. So despite not seeing some of my favorite titles on the list, I am pleased with the final list.

    I just recently finished FINDING LANGSTON and am just now reading STYX. Plus I still need to read several on the list. Had I read STYX or LANGSTON sooner, I would have certainly included them in my nominations. So, I think you got the balance between nominations and notable books pretty well matched. Though, I am very surprised at how little support FINDING LANGSTON has received, and I have a feeling we may have missed one of the medal winners.

    • Will be very interested in seeing how Langston fares during Midwinter. Definitely a strong (even though slim) title that would appeal to educators and librarians due to the focus on the power of words and the solace of literature. It made many BESTS lists, too.

  9. I can’t cry about this list at all. As I only have one and half books to read, However, to stand in solidarity with my friends, I’ve promised to read JACKIE & SNOW LANE. (Isn’t there an aphorism, “Reading a good book is its own reward” or “He who has the biggest GoodReads tally when they die, wins.” ?)

    • I might not mind that we add those two books back on the table — Steven, please chime in — if all 20 (not Leonard, I made a mistake including him) members would read 18 books (just like last year) and we can double up on titles on certain days. I’ll email you all soon and we can decide!

      • Since there are members of the committee who would have entered them as their nominations I think they should be read. But that opens a whole can of worms. There is no way we can read every nomination from the twenty of us. But those titles did have a lot of support.

      • Yay!

  10. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    Yes, let’s go ahead and try 20. Maybe plan the double upped titles for Fridays, to give a little more time?

  11. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    This is the second year for Roxanne and I doing Heavy Medal and it’s been surprising to me how different the two years have been. I’ve tended to think of the blog as sort of mixture of various mock-Newbery things: lots of individual book discussions, information about the process, a nomination piece, voting at the end, etc. But because it can’t be exactly like the real committee, we would try to provide a taste of all those things, kind of mixed together. This year, though, I’m realizing that many readers are wanting the whole thing to tie closer to a Newbery year, with nominations directly impacting final discussion titles. That’s shown in day to day participation too: we’ve been kind of hit and miss on the number of comments in the individual book discussions, but we’ve seen a big increase in participation around nominations and the final list. I’m not sure what adjustments we might make next year if HM returns, but there are definitely some interesting possibilities. We’re planning on another reader feedback survey in late January, so that should give us more ideas. Just wanted to let you all know we’re thinking about this stuff and are always interested in ways to make HM as useful and as interesting as possible…

    • I hope you return (I understand SLJ is making changes). Having this transparent mock committee is both informative and a blast.

    • Frankly, I will be devastated if Heavy Medal gets the axe from SLJ. The Printz blog was eliminated last year, and the replacement “column” just doesn’t do it for me. This platform is a far richer experience.

      Thank you, Steven and Roxanne (and Sharon!) for making this such an inclusive, enjoyable discussion blog. Thank you for hearing us, too.

    • Honestly Steven, I wouldn’t change a whole lot. I’m still a little sour that my favorites were left off the final list despite being top nominated books, so maybe a few tweaks here and there. Like include the top 10 regardless of format and then allow for a handful of wild cards… I don’t know.

      I second Joe, that I would be pretty devastated if this blog were to go away. Many of the regulars on here from years past are people I’ve connected with in Goodreads or elsewhere by now but the discussion and conversation on here is richer than other platforms can provide.

      Thank you for your work organizing the posts and schedule.

    • Ditto to everyone!

  12. Is anyone else having trouble getting email notifications of new comments? I can’t get them to work anymore.

    • Yeah, I never get them. I need to walk all the way back to Heavy Medal and check. I’m sure I could monkey with my gmail and get it to work, but . . . . Inept.

  13. I’m content with the finalists list. I like that it’s a mix of nominations and stars–and manage-ably short enough to do some re-reading. I’m not in favor of adding more books. I’d like to have a thorough discussion of the finalists listed and feel like we can talk up missing favorites in other venues.

    AND, I’d like to say that I appreciate this blog so much! It has helped me make selection decisions for YEARS and this is the first time I’ve done much more than lurking… Thanks for inviting us to participate in the discussion.

  14. I will let SLJ know that comment follow-up emails are not working for some. (Actually it’s not working for me, either.)

  15. It would bring me so much joy if Prince and the Dressmaker got some love.

    I think this is a great, varied list. There’s a lot of overlap with stuff we read and voted on this year, and a lot of titles we never got to (I tell my students all the time, we’re never going to read as many books as the committee, so there will always be winners we never discussed).

    Just to update, in case anyone is curious, we held our voting last week.
    Winner: Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish
    Honor books: Mason Buttle, Poet X, Front Desk, Parker Inheritance

    • Glad to see the love for Marcus Vega!! (and also Front Desk)

    • Great choices. I do like Marcus Vega — it seems also on the above-MG age range. How old are the students? Yay for Poet X!

      • They are 5th and 6th graders. There was a fierce fight about whether or not Poet X was age eligible, but they all felt Marcus Vega was. The titles that didn’t make it to our final but gave a hard fight were Out of Left Field and Harbor Me.

        This was the first year that they had a hard time coming to consensus, and there were some real tears with Mason Buttle didn’t take the gold. It was a good experience for them to realize that the book of their hearts is not always the one the committee can agree on.

      • I noticed that all the books mentioned here are realistic fiction — what fantasy, sci-fi, or nonfiction titles did they read and didn’t pick?

  16. I would be happy to see the only two missing from the top ten get added in (disclaimer: I voted for Just Like Jackie, read and liked Snow Lane). Overall it’s a great and varied list, either way.

    I very very much hope Heavy Medal returns!! My heart dropped at hearing it was at all questionable. What a fantastic blog and what a wonderful job you have done with it.

  17. Molly Sloan says:

    Nice list, but where’s Mason Buttle?
    Seriously, I like the list. Have read better than half. I’ll get busy on the rest!

  18. sam leopold says:

    Good list…..but I am very disappointed in the absence of Mad Wolf’s Daughter. That, I believe , will win at least a silver. Also, The Day You Begin is the picture book with the most distinguished writing.

    Obviously I am in the minority here.

    Of the titles on the list, there are seven I am not impressed with…..nine of them are very good. I will probably be the “Simon Cowell” of this group this year. But I enjoy a little friendly debate. I will be re-reading these as we go along.

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