A Game of Fox and Squirrels
After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year old Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they've never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way things were… before she spoke up about their father's anger.When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called "A Game of Fox & Squirrels," Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam’s room and offers her an adventure and a promise: find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires.But the fox is hiding rules that Sam isn't prepared for, and her new home feels more tempting than she'd ever expected. As Sam is swept up in the dangerous quest, the line between magic and reality grows thin. If she makes the wrong move, she'll lose far more than just a game.

A Game of Fox and Squirrels Details

TitleA Game of Fox and Squirrels
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 14th, 2020
PublisherHenry Holt and Co. (BYR)
ISBN-139781250243010
Rating
GenreChildrens, Middle Grade, Fantasy, Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Animals

A Game of Fox and Squirrels Review

  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    I'll write a longer, real review of this when the book comes out next year, but: I've been lucky enough to read multiple drafts of this book, and it is AMAZING. I love all of Jenn Reese's books, but this is a huge leap forwards even from the wonderful Above World trilogy. It's utterly brilliant, wry and funny and dark and full of heart, and the story and characters have haunted me in the best possible way ever since I read the very first draft. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Preorder this one! Yo I'll write a longer, real review of this when the book comes out next year, but: I've been lucky enough to read multiple drafts of this book, and it is AMAZING. I love all of Jenn Reese's books, but this is a huge leap forwards even from the wonderful Above World trilogy. It's utterly brilliant, wry and funny and dark and full of heart, and the story and characters have haunted me in the best possible way ever since I read the very first draft. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Preorder this one! You won't regret it.
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  • Brandy Painter
    January 1, 1970
    Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.Jenn Reese's Above World trilogy is a beloved set of books in this house. My daughter still has all her original copies on her favorite books shelf 8 years later. (One of three series that remained from elementary to high school when others were moved to other rooms as she grew older.) When I discovered a new MG by Reese would be coming out this year, I was so excited. Little did I know the emotional journey in store for me while reading Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.Jenn Reese's Above World trilogy is a beloved set of books in this house. My daughter still has all her original copies on her favorite books shelf 8 years later. (One of three series that remained from elementary to high school when others were moved to other rooms as she grew older.) When I discovered a new MG by Reese would be coming out this year, I was so excited. Little did I know the emotional journey in store for me while reading this devastatingly beautiful book.You can try to plan for the Fox. You can save up your cards for him instead of trying to prepare for winter. Many people do. They spend so much time worried about the Fox that they forget about the rest of the game entirely. But remember: you never know when the Fox will appear, or what kind of Fox he will be when he does. And by then it will be too late.Samantha (Sam) has just arrived in Oregon with her sister Caitlyn. They are moving in her with their Aunt Vicky and her wife Hannah following Caitlyn suffering a broken arm due to their father's abuse. Aunt Vicky and Hannah live in a wood, own chickens, and Aunt Vicky's business partner has a friendly son named Lucas the same age as Sam. Sam isn't interested any of it. She is convinced she will not be there long. All she wants is to be back in L.A. by the time school starts. When her aunt gives her a card game for her birthday, Sam is intrigued by the beautiful cards containing adorable squirrels. She is particularly enthralled by the charming Fox card. Ashander The Fox has noticed Sam as well. Coming to introduce himself, Ashander offers Sam a deal. Go on a quest in the wood for him to capture the Golden Acorn, and she can have any wish she desires. Sam immediately sees an opportunity to fix her broken family. As the days pass, the quests get more difficult and demand more of Sam. How can she succeed when the Fox keeps changing the rules? And what will she do when Ashander asks her far more than she is willing to sacrifice?A Game of Fox and Squirrels is a vivid look into the mind of a child who has experienced trauma and is trying to figure out the next step in her world. Sam is suffering from a bit of cognitive dissonance as she starts out her time in Oregon only thinking of the good memories with her parents and desperately planning to get back to them. As her story continues, Sam proves herself to be brave, strong, and in need of a place in the world where she can be loved without fear. Sam's encounters with Ashander bring out her scarier memories of home as the Fox acts out the trademark behaviors of most abusers, continually changing the rules of right behavior and using compliments and sparing affection as weapons. But she knows the rules. Stay loyal. Stay quiet. Do nothing to disturb the peace. Finding strength in the books of fantastical quests that she loves, Sam understands what a true heroine needs to do to make things right. Sam's increasing desperation and fear are difficult to read at times, but with her Aunt and Hannah she has found a place she can rest and experience love. Throughout the story Vicky, an abuse survivor herself, reaches out to Sam in the best ways. It is this plus Sam's love for her sister that finally give her the courage to face the harsh realities of her world and find hope and a home.All of the character relationships in the novel are well done. Sam and Caitlyn have a relationship built on surviving. They have a methodology and a routine to interacting with people and protecting each other, though the role of protector typically falls to the older Caitlyn. Sam feels the need to become the protector once they're in Oregon, and she falls further and further into the Fox's game. As the story unfolds and the girls adjust to their new reality, their relationship changes shape too. Caitlyn accepts and embraces their new life faster, which creates tension, but opens Sam's eyes to who her sister truly is and could be. Vicky is suffering from memories of her own childhood. She is determined to give the girls a good home and break the pattern of violence. She is still terrified. Hannah is brilliantly supportive through all of this and great with the girls. The support system in this book is rounded out by neighbors Armen and Lucas, who are excellent friends. (Armen is a wonderful father who is doing a fantastic job raising his son.) This character relationships are the heart and soul of this book, and nothing I say about them can adequately describe the nuanced layers Reese was able to develop in each character and their relationships to each other.What is truly amazing to me is how well Reese pulled off a beautiful story of finding hope in darkness, the true meaning of family, and looking at childhood trauma in 215 pages that include the rules to a card game she created herself. Her sentence level writing is top level craftsmanship. Every page uses its words to their fullest capacity. She winsomely and unflinchingly tells so much story in a short novel. That is a true feat of talent.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    A new favorite, this one. I don't want to say too much because I think you should just read it when it comes out in April, 2020. It is charming at times and haunting at times. It is also filled with so much truth it made my heart hurt. And the last page? It slayed me. Like, I went to bed after reading it and was quietly sobbing because the little girl in me desperately needed to read those words. I think this book may affect people differently depending on their life circumstances, and that's ok A new favorite, this one. I don't want to say too much because I think you should just read it when it comes out in April, 2020. It is charming at times and haunting at times. It is also filled with so much truth it made my heart hurt. And the last page? It slayed me. Like, I went to bed after reading it and was quietly sobbing because the little girl in me desperately needed to read those words. I think this book may affect people differently depending on their life circumstances, and that's okay. And really, what an incredible talent to be able to write a book so that it works in different ways. It can be a lovely story one enjoys and nothing more. Or it can be a story that helps heal a person. For those who need it in a deep, meaningful way, this book is a gift. Truly. What a gift.
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  • Deva Fagan
    January 1, 1970
    This gorgeous story is a contemporary fantasy, in which the fantastical elements allow the reader to explore and come to terms with heartbreaking emotional realities. Featuring a magical card game, a sly talking fox, and a brave girl learning the true meaning of home, this is a perfect modern fairy tale for anyone seeking a light to guide them through dark forests of their own.
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  • katayoun Masoodi
    January 1, 1970
    very solid everything, good writing and good story.
  • Ms. Yingling
    January 1, 1970
    E ARC provided by Edelweiss PlusWhen Samantha's father's violence ends with her sister Caitlin's arm being broken, the girls are moved from their California home to their Aunt Vicky's in Oregon. Samantha is sure that this is a temporary stay, and that they will be home in time for the new school year, but this is unlikely. Caitlin is upbeat and tries to please her aunt and her aunt's wife, Hannah, but Samantha has more difficulties settling in. When Aunt Vicky gives her a card game with foxes an E ARC provided by Edelweiss PlusWhen Samantha's father's violence ends with her sister Caitlin's arm being broken, the girls are moved from their California home to their Aunt Vicky's in Oregon. Samantha is sure that this is a temporary stay, and that they will be home in time for the new school year, but this is unlikely. Caitlin is upbeat and tries to please her aunt and her aunt's wife, Hannah, but Samantha has more difficulties settling in. When Aunt Vicky gives her a card game with foxes and squirrels, Samantha is surprised when the main character, a fox named Ashander, comes to life and promises to help her find the Golden Acorn that can take her back home. Ashander requires sacrifices to make him happy in order for him to help Samantha, so she ends up sneaking around a lot and doing things that aren't quite helpful. She doesn't want to listen to Vicky that she is safe and loved, but when she finds out Ashander's true colors, she realizes that her new family has her best interests at heart.Strengths: I really liked the aunt and her wife stepping up to help with the girls, and they were definitely a model of love and care. The details about the abuse were just enough, and it was good to see a positive representation of a case worker. Caitlyn's eager-to-please attitude was interesting to see. There are a growing number of students who enjoy card games, and it's a good combination to have those entwined with a fantasy world.Weaknesses: Ashander was more evil than I suspected at first, and the illustrations remind me of something from a 1980s or 1990s book that I can't quite remember.What I really think: This is not quite the flavor of fantasy for which I have been searching. My fantasy readers are very specific, and my readers who ask for books about difficult family situations often will not read fantasy books. This would be a good choice for readers who liked Appelt's Maybe a Fox or Pennypacker's Pax.
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  • Jennifer Alvarez
    January 1, 1970
    Sam is my new favorite kid! This book shattered me, left me breathless, and then put me back together again. I absolutely loved it, I loved the characters, and I felt every beat of Sam's little rabbit heart as if it were my own. The fantasy elements guide the reader through Sam's trauma in a way that informs but protects the reader's psyche, allowing fear and suspense to bloom without overwhelming. All the characters are complex and believable, including the crafty fox. It's a fierce but gentle Sam is my new favorite kid! This book shattered me, left me breathless, and then put me back together again. I absolutely loved it, I loved the characters, and I felt every beat of Sam's little rabbit heart as if it were my own. The fantasy elements guide the reader through Sam's trauma in a way that informs but protects the reader's psyche, allowing fear and suspense to bloom without overwhelming. All the characters are complex and believable, including the crafty fox. It's a fierce but gentle read that inspires empathy. I highly recommend A Game of Fox and Squirrels! The author's note at the end adds a beautiful finish.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    It is rare in reading a middle-grade work that my adult heart is broken and I find myself weeping. This book is so amazingly written, so powerful in the juxtaposition of fantasy and brutal reality, that there was nothing to do but close the last page and cry. This masterfully written book tells the story of Sam and Caitlin, who open the book having arrived at their Aunt's house to stay following an instance of domestic violence. Sam is given a beloved game, one in which the stakes are as high as It is rare in reading a middle-grade work that my adult heart is broken and I find myself weeping. This book is so amazingly written, so powerful in the juxtaposition of fantasy and brutal reality, that there was nothing to do but close the last page and cry. This masterfully written book tells the story of Sam and Caitlin, who open the book having arrived at their Aunt's house to stay following an instance of domestic violence. Sam is given a beloved game, one in which the stakes are as high as the adventure is tempting, and the winner gets what their heart wishes most. Sam is unprepared for the tricks and turns in this game, but her life has taught her well and she soon has to make a critical choice as she finds the line between magic and reality becoming less clear. Now to find some cucumbers for my eyes...Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this digital ARC in return for a fair and honest review.
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  • Charlotte
    January 1, 1970
    wow. beautiful writing, moving story, hitting a tad close to home for anyone with a mercurial father and a brave older sibling...but so hopeful and healing. Brave squirrels!
  • Katy
    January 1, 1970
    I received my copy free through Goodreads Giveaways.A well written book on a tough subject for upper elementary - middle grade kids.
  • Tasha
    January 1, 1970
    Sam has moved with her older sister Caitlin to stay with her Aunt Vicky, a person they had never met before. They arrive in rural Oregon to a small house with a chicken coop and a large woods nearby. Aunt Vicky welcomes them warmly along with her wife. Sam knows how to stay invisible most of the time, hiding behind her sister’s ability to speak with grown ups. When her aunt gives her a card game, Sam loves the characters on the cards and starts to see a talking fox and squirrels nearby. The fox Sam has moved with her older sister Caitlin to stay with her Aunt Vicky, a person they had never met before. They arrive in rural Oregon to a small house with a chicken coop and a large woods nearby. Aunt Vicky welcomes them warmly along with her wife. Sam knows how to stay invisible most of the time, hiding behind her sister’s ability to speak with grown ups. When her aunt gives her a card game, Sam loves the characters on the cards and starts to see a talking fox and squirrels nearby. The fox sends her on a quest for the Golden Acorn, a prize that will allow Sam and her sister to go back home. As Sam starts the quests, she soon learns that showing the fox trust means starting a cycle of abuse once more.Reese entwines fantasy elements into this book that shows the deep consequences of abuse on a young person. Sam is desperate to get back in touch with her mother and father, though they were abusive parents. The abuse is shown in pieces of comments that Sam remembers, and it does not play out in front of the reader. This results in a haunting echo of abuse that carries through the entire book and all of the characters.Against that, the game is afoot with a sly fox who manipulates Sam, much as her own father did when she lived with him. The squirrels add a needed merriment to the book with their antics and also show a lot of concern and support for Sam. Yet they are clearly trapped in their own abusive situation with the fox too.Rich and layered, this mix of fantasy and stark reality is powerful. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
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  • Sarah Yung
    January 1, 1970
    Dang, almost teared up in a few places for this one. This is one of those middle grade allegorical fantasies that manages to be both effective and affecting. Reese balances Sam's reality with the fantastical elements quite well, using the titular game as a way for Sam to process her emotions, recognize that her parents are abusive, and see that she and her sister Caitlin are ultimately better off in Oregon:“In a flash, his humor, empathy, and wit vanished. Rather, Sam wished they had vanished. T Dang, almost teared up in a few places for this one. This is one of those middle grade allegorical fantasies that manages to be both effective and affecting. Reese balances Sam's reality with the fantastical elements quite well, using the titular game as a way for Sam to process her emotions, recognize that her parents are abusive, and see that she and her sister Caitlin are ultimately better off in Oregon:“In a flash, his humor, empathy, and wit vanished. Rather, Sam wished they had vanished. The aspects she loved were probably all still there, still every bit a part of him. Knowing this, that he could be this fox and the other at the same time, only made him more terrifying.” [189] “Those were the words Maple had said. I’ll do what I can to protect you. But Maple had given Sam up to save herself. She’d handed Sam to the fox without a fight. The fox would have hurt Maple. He had obviously hurt her before. But even so, Sam wanted… She wished… She hoped… That maybe this time, Maple would have loved her enough to at least try.” [190]
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  • Kimberly
    January 1, 1970
    Reese's new book is part fairy tale, part recovery story and all heart. The story follows two sisters as they navigate a new life after being separated from their parents because of abuse. There is a fox, and there are squirrels and riddles the young Samantha must answer in order to fulfill her one true desire: to go back home.But mostly, this story is about survival. It's about the family you make along the way and how much stronger you really are. I really liked watching how different the girl Reese's new book is part fairy tale, part recovery story and all heart. The story follows two sisters as they navigate a new life after being separated from their parents because of abuse. There is a fox, and there are squirrels and riddles the young Samantha must answer in order to fulfill her one true desire: to go back home.But mostly, this story is about survival. It's about the family you make along the way and how much stronger you really are. I really liked watching how different the girls handled they situations and how the fox and squirrel game came into the story. Samantha's healing and also her desire to go back to her parents is palpable and underlies the entire book, contradicting what she thinks she wants and perhaps what she knows deep down what is really best for them. The writing is very strong and it was incredibly easy to get lost into Samantha's world.The illustrations throughout the story, and the COVER! OMG that cover! are gorgeous and really added another level to my enjoyment of the book. I am slightly disappointed that they're not selling specific card decks to play this game. There was an insert with rules on how to play the game with a regular set of playing cards, but honestly, the descriptions and illustrations of the game were so beautiful, I really really want real ones!Overall, the story is a full heart, brimming with love that we need and life lessons and survival that only a fox (and squirrels) could show you. I highly recommend to everyone.
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  • Ron
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC of this book. The main character is a young girl who has been removed from her parents (along with her older sister) to go live with an Aunt. The book does a good job of giving you enough details about the removal without giving away so much that it ruins the story. The young girl slips into some fantasy around things she could do to get back home. If you like the first few chapters in the book, you'll like it all. Towards the end, I found myself wanting to finish to see where I received an ARC of this book. The main character is a young girl who has been removed from her parents (along with her older sister) to go live with an Aunt. The book does a good job of giving you enough details about the removal without giving away so much that it ruins the story. The young girl slips into some fantasy around things she could do to get back home. If you like the first few chapters in the book, you'll like it all. Towards the end, I found myself wanting to finish to see where the storyline ended up. You'll have to read for yourself if you want to know.
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  • Sallie
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you Edelweiss+ for an advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review.This book is about Sam and her sister who has been taken from her home by social services and sent to live with her Aunt and her wife who she didn't know about. There are small clues throughout the book as to why they were taken from her home, but nothing definite until the end of the book. Sam is given a card game from her Aunt as a birthday game. Almost immediately, she starts seeing the fox, Ashander, from the Thank you Edelweiss+ for an advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review.This book is about Sam and her sister who has been taken from her home by social services and sent to live with her Aunt and her wife who she didn't know about. There are small clues throughout the book as to why they were taken from her home, but nothing definite until the end of the book. Sam is given a card game from her Aunt as a birthday game. Almost immediately, she starts seeing the fox, Ashander, from the game. He talks to her and tells her that he has a way for her to get home and all she has to do is past his tests. Ashander is charming, manipulative, scary, and dangerous.Read this book! It was wonderful and so heartwarming. I cried, I laughed, and I cheered for Sam and her family. Find out what happened to Sam and her sister. It's a wonderful way to tell a story that no one usually talks about and how to get other children to speak up.
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    Wow, this was not for me. I found it heavy-handed; the protagonist’s voice often veering towards unrealistic, the whole thing rapidly concluded; ugh. I don’t feel great leaving bad reviews so I’m a little glad I’m in the extreme minority (in addition to ratings here, at least one major publication gave it a star), but, yeah, did not go for this one. Everyone processes differently, but for a book exploring the internal aftermath of an escape from an abusive parent, I’d send people to The War That Wow, this was not for me. I found it heavy-handed; the protagonist’s voice often veering towards unrealistic, the whole thing rapidly concluded; ugh. I don’t feel great leaving bad reviews so I’m a little glad I’m in the extreme minority (in addition to ratings here, at least one major publication gave it a star), but, yeah, did not go for this one. Everyone processes differently, but for a book exploring the internal aftermath of an escape from an abusive parent, I’d send people to The War That Saved My Life first. Read via digital ARC from #edelweiss
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  • Martha Meyer
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. Initially a realistic portrayal of the post abuse mindset of a young girl and her older sister in her aunt's care. This story uses magical realism (a cunning, tyrannical fox in a purple waistcoat with a trio of worried squirrels) to portray Samatha’s needs, feelings and insights. The abuse is never portrayed and we learn almost nothing about it. We only can watch how the two girls respond once in a new setting. Lovely depiction of a same sex marriage. Strong and fearless fiction.
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  • Sonja Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    Just finished reading A GAME OF FOX AND SQUIRRELS and I loved it. As someone who's experienced emotional and physical abuse firsthand, I could so relate to Sam's journey. I liked that we never directly experienced the abuse, but rather how directly (and differently) it can effect one's outlook and trust in the world. No matter your darkest struggle, this fantasy is an honest, magical, heart pounding adventure, filled with hope to help light the way
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  • Tracy Holczer
    January 1, 1970
    Oh, how I love this book. A heartbreaking page turner that weaves together elements of fantasy and realism seamlessly. Although the subject matter is difficult, this is not an “issue” book, and leaves the reader feeling hopeful. It’s perfectly written for the 8-12 set, a window into the lives of children who have suffered abuse, and for those kids who have done the suffering, a lifeline.
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  • Mr. Salerno
    January 1, 1970
    Sam and her sister are sent to live with their aunts after an unnamed incident with their parents. When Ashander, a charming fox, tells Sam that she can go back home, she’ll do almost anything for him in exchange for the golden acorn that will make it so. Even if it means betraying the people who are trying to protect her.
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  • Annarella
    January 1, 1970
    A great story that will be loved by children and adults.A dark, witty and well crafted plot with a cast of fleshed out characters and an amazing building made me love this story.It's the first I read by this author and won't surely be the last.Highly recommended.Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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  • Richard Guion
    January 1, 1970
    Wonderful novel that young readers will enjoy! Loved the characters in the blended family, especially loved Sam, the protagonist. Two sisters go to Oregon to live with their aunt. Sam longs for her home in Los Angeles and a magical force wants to grant her that wish. There’s a game to play and Sam must navigate through it in order to survive.
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  • Brigitte
    January 1, 1970
    Simply wonderful. One of the best stories focused on what it's like to be a victim/survivor of child abuse and the courage it takes to stand up for yourself and those you love who are also in danger.
  • Annie
    January 1, 1970
    Full review to come 10th April, 2020.This is a beautifully written uplifting book with difficult themes and I recommend it very highly.
  • Manleen
    January 1, 1970
    Very magical
  • Jon
    January 1, 1970
    Ah, this was so good. Sweet and sad and hopeful, and just great writing. Actually cried a little bit at the end. SO GOOD.
  • Ruth
    January 1, 1970
    Wow, this story will knock your socks off and send you on an emotional roller coaster with Samantha. It's amazing, heart breaking, and ultimately empowering.
  • Kat
    January 1, 1970
    #AGameofFox&Squirrels#NetGalleyAn excellent tween read full of adventure, fantasy and beautiful background. #AGameofFox&Squirrels#NetGalleyAn excellent tween read full of adventure, fantasy and beautiful background.
  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    Is it a fairy tale? Is it an allegory? Kids and adults, moving from danger to safety, need time, stories, support. This is about that, but indirectly. Quite lovely.
  • SevieReads
    January 1, 1970
    I absolutely loved this book. It will be a fall read aloud for my sixth grade class. Highly recommend for classrooms— grade 4-8.
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