Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Ladybird Books; The Adventures of Wonk

Last Saturday was something of a 'red letter' day for me. I was wandering around the International Antique and Collectors Fair at the Bath and West Showground when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted two 'Wonk' books. Now, as any Ladybird collector will tell you, these little books are very hard to find.  I hesitated about buying them because of the price but in the end, there was no way I could leave without them.

There are six books in the series with two stories in each book. The titles are as follows:

1 – Going to sea and The new fishing net
2 – Strawberries and cream and Adventures in the night 
3 – Fireworks and The diamond ring affair 
4 – The secret and The night watchman 
5 – The circus and Wonk flies high 
6 – The snowman and Kidnapped 
The two I found are Going to sea and Fireworks the first and third books in the series.

The books were written by Muriel Levy 'Auntie Muriel of Radio fame' as it states on the title pages and illustrated with vivid  colour pictures by Kiddell-Monroe. They were all published by Wills and Hepworth between 1941 and 1948.

Each story recounts the everyday adventures of Wonk, a loveable koala bear, and his best friend Peter.  Like most Koalas, Wonk, is often thinking about sleep, or is asleep. A perfect example of this can be seen in Going to sea, where Wonk wants to sleep and dream about food, but Peter wants to learn about ships and the sea, so that he can write about the Navy when he grows up.


In Fireworks, Wonk and Peter are trying to raise money for Guy Fawkes Night. Peter’s money-box is empty. His favourite uncle has joined the Fleet Air Arm, and his uncle Joseph doesn't like noise so won’t consider helping. Wonk thinks it would be a good idea to go Carol singing as he’s sure the neighbours would love to hear them sing. The first neighbour they visit offers to give them money but only if they promise to stop singing and go home!



The Adventures of Wonk - Fireworks and the Adventures of Wonk - Going to sea are now sold, thank you for your interest.

If you visit an antiques or book fair remember to keep on eye out for these little books, they are few and far between and well worth collecting.



Sunday, 27 November 2011

November in Henstridge


November has been a greyish kind of month in our part of Somerset so Friday's blue sky and sunshine made a very welcome change. After parcelling up the orders and dropping them off at the local post office, we decided to take the long way back through the fields. We usually manage the Post Office 'run' (sedate walk) in about twenty minutes but with the sun shining and the birds singing, we were in no hurry.

As many of you probably know my husband is a keen photographer and never leaves home without a camera and several different lenses. I take a compact camera that fits into my bag. Terry photographs anything that moves while I prefer things that keep still! So while he is busy photographing birds I look for easier subjects and usually manage to discover something interesting.




Friday was no exception, fungi the size of dinner plates, holly branches with beautiful evergreen foliage and bright berries standing out against the bluest sky, a bright red post-box and bunches of newly emerging catkins.  Should catkins be flowering in November?


More of my finds - blue flowers thriving in concrete, a butterfly enjoying the sunshine, a group of purple berries and the most amazing weather vane.  How long has that been there?


I was feeling really pleased with my efforts until Terry spotted a grey squirrel sitting in a tree. I took at least twenty photographs - and this is the best shot I got. Terry, however, took the most amazing close-ups of the squirrel taking a nap, eating berries and playing hopscotch with a magpie! OK, the magpie bit is an exaggeration, but you get the picture.

Maybe it's time I invested in an all singing all dancing camera - but then again....

Friday, 25 November 2011

A Postcard From Enid Blyton by Roger Thiedeman


Born in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1949, I acquired a passion for reading at a very young age. Dominating my early reading were the works of Enid Blyton, starting with Mary Mouse strip books, then, inevitably, the ubiquitous Noddy titles, as well as Blyton’s retold Bible stories and tales of Galliano’s Circus. Later, the Wishing-Chair and Faraway Tree books became firm favourites, as did the Five Find-Outers Mystery series.

During the school holidays in 1958, along with my younger brother, cousins, and a few neighbourhood playmates, I staged a Noddy play for the benefit of our parents and neighbours. I was playwright, casting director, producer, stage designer, and, of course, principal actor. My mother went to a lot of trouble to make me an authentic Noddy costume, even borrowing the bell from our cat’s collar to fix atop my pointy blue hat.

From all accounts, the play was a roaring success – well, as much of a success as a kids’ play that uses a bedroom for a stage can be! So much so that I decided to write to Enid Blyton and tell her all about it.

To my utter delight, I received in reply a post card purportedly from Enid Blyton, images of which are seen here. For many years afterward I revelled in the belief that not only was the card typed out by Blyton herself, but that the undisputed queen of children’s literature (J.K. who?!) had signed the card too. The slight smudging of the ink convinced me that this was an actual signature by Enid Blyton’s own hand, not a printed-on or rubber-stamped facsimile.


Much more recently, however, the custodian of The Enid Blyton Society website, and various Blyton biographies, disabused me of that notion. I learned, to my disappointment, that at the peak of her popularity, Enid Blyton rarely, if ever, wrote personal replies to the mountains of letters she received from all over the world. Instead, she delegated that monumental task – along with signing of letters and cards on her behalf – to her secretaries, including one or both of her daughters.

Although initially deflated by those revelations, I have since come to terms with it. Taking a positive view, I continue to treasure that post card as a tangible link with at least some component of the Enid Blyton ‘empire’.

Roger Thiedeman
Melbourne, Australia.


Roger shared this lovely memory during an email ‘conversation’ about childhood books. When I suggested it would make a really nice piece for this blog Roger not only agreed but also supplied the photographs. Thank you Roger, I appreciate it and if you ever feel like contributing anything else I would be delighted.

If anyone else would like to share a book related memory I would love to hear from you.

Update 25th June, 2013.
I would like to thank Freda Knight for allowing me to publish this email;

As an avid 'Enid Blyton fan' born in 1952, I was interested - when googling "Postcards signed by Enid Blyton" to come across Roger's very touching and interesting article posted on your website.  As a book collector and member of the Enid Blyton Society, I related to Roger's passion for Enid Blyton's wonderful books and, also, to his disappointment in later years regarding the veracity of the postcard he received from her in reply to his letter.  However, no one can be absolutely sure that she didn't personally reply to Roger's letter.  I am inclined to believe that Enid Blyton replied personally in this instance.  Thank you for posting such an interesting article on your website. Kind regards, Freda.
A further update 3rd July, 2013.
Having asked Freda’s permission to publish her previous email she sent a further update. Thank you Freda, I always enjoy hearing from readers of this blog. If anyone else would like to comment or email, please feel free to do so. Barbara

For your information, Barbara, and by way of update - since my e-mail to yourself, I posted a similar response on the Enid Blyton Society message board (referring to Roger's article) (I am a fairly new member), asking whether it really was the case that other people responded to Enid's mail, as naively I believed that despite the logistical problems involved she somehow managed to answer all her own mail.  Apparently, however, staff at the Enid Blyton Magazine routinely answered mail that was sent direct to their office (in order not to overburden Enid), and Gillian Baverstock (Enid's daughter) who worked at the Enid Blyton Magazine office at that time responded to letters in Enid's name.  I would imagine that letters sent to the 'Green Hedges' address would be answered by Enid herself.  I would still like to think that Enid saw Roger's initial letter as the story was so charming.
Kindest regards, Freda 


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

William the bad by Richmal Crompton

"I've often thought it would be fun to run away to sea same as people do in books" said Ginger, expressing the general feeling of reckless despair to which the situation had driven them. "I used to think that" said William, "till I went on the sea. Your even been on the sea?" Ginger admitted that he hadn't. "Well, it's not a bit like what you'd think it is from books" said William. "It gives you a sort of feelin' that you don't find anythin' about in books. After I'd been on the sea I made up my mind that if I ran away I'd sooner set up as a robber than go to sea. I bet robbers never have that sort of feeling that sailors mus' have all the time"

William the bad Pg. 97
By Richmal Crompton
William the bad is now sold, thank you for your interest.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Book of the Week - Pussy and Puppy Nursery Rhymes illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone


I've always enjoyed the illustrations of Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone but usually associate them with fairy tales or children's prayers so finding this book of pussy and puppy nursery rhymes was a nice surprise.


A selection of well known and not so well known rhymes about cats and dogs published in 1972. These include pussy cat mole jumped over a coal, ding dong bell, Dame Trot and her cat, I had a little dog, hark hark the dogs do bark, Old Mother Hubbard and many more. 




Half the rhymes are about cats and kittens and the rest are about dogs of all kinds. Each and every page is beautifully illustrated in full colour.


A lovely book to add to a Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone collection. 

Pussy and Puppy Nursery Rhymes is now sold, thank you for your interest.

Update April 2014; we have compiled a list of books illustrated by Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone here

Saturday, 19 November 2011

One Lovely Blog Award

My blog has just received the One Lovely Blog Award from Allyn at Allyn's Blog "Dreaming with Words". Thank you so much Allyn I am absolutely delighted to receive this special award.

The requirements of receiving the award are:
1. To thank the giver and link back to her site.
2. Provide 5 random facts that folks may not know about you.
3. Pass this award on to 5 other lovely blog sites and let them know you're awarding them.
4. Copy the award logo and paste it onto your own site.


So here we go with 5 random facts about me that you probably'd don't know.

I collect almost anything to do with childhood - books, magazines, ceramics, toys, games, textiles and ephemera of all kinds.

I was given a toy guitar for my tenth birthday and eventually learnt to play Hang down your head Tom Dooley and Leaning on a lamppost. They were the only two tunes I mastered and I played them over and over and over again.

When I was a little girl my dad used to sign - underneath the lantern by the barrack gate, darling I remember the way you used to wait, 'twas there that you whispered tenderly that you loved me you'd always be my Lili of the lamplight my ow Lili Marlene. It was the only song I ever heard him sing.

School friends used to call me Flickers - I'm not going to tell you why!

My grandma Daisy refused to spend money on toilet paper; if you needed to use the toilet she handed you a newspaper and a pair of scissors. It was essential to cut the newspaper into neat squares otherwise it wouldn't flush!

Here are my 5 nominations;
Carry Us Off Books
Storybook Love Affair
Sharon's Sunlit Memories
The Desert Rocks
The world from my window

Congratulations, I hope you all have fun with the award.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Added Value: Things found in books part sixteen

Not the most attractive item I've found but one of the more interesting ones with a wealth of information about three early magazines.  Illustrations and short description of each magazine with more details on the back.


The Quiver; the leading magazine for Sunday reading. Many well-known divines, essayists, and novelists contribute to its pages, which are illustrated by the best artists.

Cassell’s magazine; for the household. Articles on household management, health and health resorts, sketches of North-country character, country nooks and city corners for holiday travellers, commerce, gardening, needle-work, painting, and dainty dishes for the family table!

Little folks; for all girls and boys. Now recognised as the best magazine for girls and boys, as well as for the very little folks. For girls there is always very much of interest, fancy needle-work, music and other matters particularly suitable to girls whilst boys will find, stories of heroism and adventure, curious discoveries and inventions, and many articles of character.

Found in Modes of Production of Victorian Novels by N. N. Feltes published by the University of Chicago Press.

Modes of production is now sold, thank you for your interest.
Have you ever found a forgotten bookmark? 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

From knitting and crochet to bows and arrows!

A thank you and a giveaway.

I toyed with the idea of starting this blog for a very long time before finally taking the plunge.  Just because I love ‘old’ books and illustrations it didn't follow that anyone else would. I am therefore surprised and delighted at the support and encouragement I've received. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to comment and/or follow.

Some of the featured books are from my own collection while others are for sale at March House Books.  The girl’s own book by Mrs Child has been with me for a very long time and has never been advertised for sale.

Published in 1850 it was given as a birthday present to a Miss Riley from a Miss Wickham on the 23rd October, 1852. The inscription is quite difficult to read but I think I've got that right.  The book isn't in pristine condition but then it is over 160 years old so that is to be expected.

The preface ‘addressed to parents’ reads – this little book has been compiled with an earnest desire to make it useful, in all respects, to its readers; but, as I have relied on my own judgment and experience, there is, therefore, little doubt of numerous imperfections. 



The contents page is a joy to read… from exercises including the bow and arrow, cup and ball, snow-balling and swinging to baskets (allspice, alum, feather, clove, lavender, wafer and so on). Followed by bees, charades, enigmas, forfeits, games, knitting, netting, crochet, ornaments, puzzles, riddles and miscellaneous items including a branch of roses, maxims for health and gracefulness and the self-satisfied duck! The book contains 376 pages embellished with engravings. 



How to enter;
There is just one prize - The girl's own book published by William Tegg & Co, London as described in this post.
The first name out of the hat will win.  Shipping is worldwide. Please leave a comment on this post with your contact email so that I can let you know if you win. I will not contact you for any other reason. If you would rather not leave your email address just leave a comment telling me you wish to be entered in the draw and then contact me using the contact email button in the right hand column .

Followers and non-followers are welcome to enter although I would be delighted if non-followers would like to follow.  The giveaway ends on the 11th December and the book will be shipped the following day. 

I have no sweatmeats, cakes, or toys,
as gifts for little girls and boys;
But look in me, and you shall find
Both food and playthings for the mind.

I hope lots of you enter. I'm sure whoever wins will love this little book as much as I have.

Giveaway now closed - you can see the winning entry being drawn from Santa's hat here 



Monday, 14 November 2011

Tom Puss at the Panto by Marten Toonder



In 1952, my brother was given a copy of the Jack and Jill all colour gift book. I was only four at the time and my ‘best’ Christmas present that year was a doll with real hair that (according to the box) would grow and grow. I don’t think my brother was particularly fond of the Jack and Jill book and a couple of years later it moved to my bookshelf. Mum probably decided to pass it on thinking I would enjoy the Enid Blyton story. I did enjoy that story, but the one I enjoyed the most and have never forgotten was ‘the fair’ written and illustrated by Marten Toonder.




Years later I realised Marten Toonder was the creator of the Tom Puss and Oliver B. Bumble cartoons that began to appear in a Dutch newspaper in 1941. With the Netherlands under Nazi occupation, the popular American Mickey Mouse cartoon disappeared from the pages of the daily newspaper and the gaps were filled with Toonder’s comic strip Tom Puss. After the end of the war, Tom Puss re-emerged and appeared in no fewer than fifty newspapers all over Europe and other parts of the world.


Tom Puss and Oliver B Bumble became a huge success and the demand for other products grew.  Picture postcards, puzzles, toys and books were produced in large numbers and Marten Toonder had to engage additional staff to help with the work.



In 1985, at the age of 72, Marten Toonder decided he had said all he had to say, and on 20th January 1986 the newspapers published the last instalment of his last story, aptly titled Mr Bumble and the End of Endlessness.



I don’t know what happened to my brother’s copy of the Jack and Jill all colour gift book; it was probably thrown away or taken to a charity shop. I’ve spent years looking for another copy and last week I finally found one.  It's in poor condition having lost most of its spine, but the illustrations are as bright as the day it was printed. It's now back on my bookshelf, and that’s where it will stay. I may lend it to my brother but only if he promises to return it.

All the illustrations in this post (other than the front cover of the Jack and Jill all colour gift book) are from Tom Puss at the panto. 



Tom Puss at the panto is now sold, thank you for your interest.

Have you ever lost and then found a 'special' book?

Thanks for calling in.




Sunday, 13 November 2011

Adventure downstream written & illustrated by Rosalie K Fry


I visited an antiques fair yesterday and was lucky enough to find this copy of Adventure downstream written and illustrated by Rosalie K Fry.

I’ve only seen two copies in the last twenty years and both have sold really quickly. This copy was listed today (Sunday) and sold within hours. The buyer was obviously extremely happy and sent this email;

I am so excited about this, I can hardly speak!!  I have been looking for this book for 50 years!




It could be some time before another copy turns up so I thought I would share a couple of the illustrations with you. Enjoy!



I can really appreciate the buyers excitement because last week I found a book I’ve been trying to find (for my own collection) for a very long time.  More of that tomorrow...

Added Value: Things found in books part fifteen


Today's find is this great old postcard;

The caption reads - hello, old man, any trouble?

Undated but probably 1930s?

Message reads; I thought of you last Sunday I went for a lovely sharp walk like you and I used to enjoy. It was dry and frosty but not too biting, the roads were fine. Elsie.


The Godstone and the Blackymore is now sold, thank you for your interest.

How about you? What do you use as a bookmark? Have you ever found a lost bookmark?

Friday, 11 November 2011

I thought I saw a pussy cat

Herewith, in no particular order, are my furry top ten!

The necessary cat by Nicola Bayley 

Did you know that the Savoy Hotel in London employs Kaspar, a wooden cat in dinner dress, to be the fourteenth guest for parties of thirteen – thus avoiding bad luck? Or that the Chinese Desert Cat has very hairy paws to protect them from the hot sand? Discover these feline facts and much more in Nicola Bayley's The Necessary Cat, a tribute to cats and kittens of all varieties. Exquisitely illustrated in colour - this one really is the cat’s whiskers.



Tiger by Nick Butterworth


Tiger isn’t a real Tiger but he is very good at jumping, roaring and pretending! Nick Butterworth’s illustrations are delightful. Dare I say this one is the cat’s meow?





A camping holiday by Kathleen Hale


This is the first book in the series introducing Orlando, his wife Grace and their kittens, Blanche, Pansy and Tinkle. In this story the family go on a camping trip and the kittens learn to swim, paint pictures and sleep under the stars.  Orlando the splendidly striped marmalade cat with eyes as green as gooseberrie is possibly one of the most widely recognised feline characters and also one of my favourites.






The Christmas day kitten by James Herriot


Debbie the little stray cat can often be found warming herself in front of Mrs Pickering’s fire but she is very shy and only stays for a short while. Then one snowy Christmas morning she arrives carrying a new-born kitten... A lovely Christmas story with very pretty illustrations.






The church cat abroad by Graham Oakley

The story of the Church Mice begins in the Anglican Church of Saint John, where Sampson the cat and Arthur the mouse live a quiet and happy life. Sampson has listened to so many sermons about the meek being blessed that he has grown quite docile and treats Arthur just like his brother. In this story Sampson and Arthur decide to become film stars to help pay for repairs to the vestry roof. This leads to them becoming stranded on a South-Sea island from which they can only escape by masquerading as exotic animals.


Toffee's night noises by Sally Chambers



It's bedtime.Windows are closed, curtains drawn, teeth are brushed and lights turned off. All is quiet. Or is it? Toffee slips outside and finds the garden full of sounds. Moths humming, mice scratching, traffic rumbling and the town clock chiming but then Toffee hears a strange sound… 




Cat up a tree by Anne Isaacs

A collection of poems about cats with illustrations by Stephen Mackey. My particular favourite is – the fireman’s lament which begins “You can’t catch a cat with a ladder or rope, a dishful of fish or a hatful of hope. Forget the net: it will all come to naught unless the cat should decide to be caught. Take it from me: I've put in my share of bone-numbing hours thirty feet in the air, dreaming of home and a hot mug of tea while casting for shadows on top of a tree…”



A shop full of kittens by Ian Penney


In this hide-and-seek story, Mrs Tabby and her nine kittens live in the basement of a department store. The kittens love to hide among the clocks, carpets, china, foods and all the other wonderful things and Mrs Tabby has to go from one department to another to try to find them all before the store opens.





Cat in the Manger by Michael Foreman

A long time ago, in a faraway land, a cat lived in a barn. He had to share it with the other animals: cows and goats, chickens and mice! But that was all right; he was good at catching mice. Then, one wintry night, the door flew open and in came a man and a woman, to take shelter from the snow. Michael Foreman captures the wonder of the Nativity through the eyes of a little cat.




The Cat in the hat comes back by Dr. Seuss



Another of my all time favourites and one I couldn’t possibly leave out… the one and only cat in the hat. "So you see!" laughed the cat, "now the snow is all white, now your work is all done; now your house is all right! And you know where my little cats are?" said the cat. "That Voom blew my little cats back in my hat". 




Update August 2015 all the books featured here are now sold, thanks for looking.

Do you have a favourite cat book or one you think deserves a mention? I would love to know so please leave a comment. 


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Noddy and Tessie Bear

"Sound the fire-bell, Mr. Plod," begged Mr. Noah. "Get everyone under cover. You don't know what's going to rain on us next - bricks, maybe - sticks, stones - why, there must be enemies about." "This is all very strange," said Mr. Plod. "I will put up a notice and offer a LARGE reward to anyone who can tell us what is happening. Get under cover, now!" Mr Plod went into the police-station, just escaping another egg, and wrote out a very large notice, which he pinned up outside the police-station.

Noddy and Tessie Bear Pg. 40
By Enid Blyton
Noddy and Tessie Bear sold, thank you for your interest.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The art of Kay Nielsen

The celebrated Danish artist Kay Nielsen was born in Copenhagen on the 12th March 1886. His father was the Director of the Royal Danish Theatre, and his mother, Oda Larssen, was a very popular actress and singer. Kay (christened Kai) was inspired to illustrate the traditional Norse sagas read aloud to him by his mother during his childhood.

Kay left home at the age of eighteen to study art in the schools of Montparnasse, Paris. From 1904 to 1911 he studied at Colarossi and the Academie Julian.  The Russian Ballet, which took Paris by storm while he was studying there, proved to be a huge inspiration which led to the distinctive and exotic costumes found on many figures in his later book illustrations.


Kay's most productive and successful period began in 1911 when he moved to London and held his first major exhibition at the Dowdeswell Galleries in New Bond Street (July 1912). The success of this exhibition led to Kay Nielsen’s first commission from Hodder & Stoughton - In Powder and Crinoline a collection of lesser known old fairy tales retold by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.

By general consent, Kay Nielsen’s next book East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North, was his most celebrated and spectacular success. The tales were translated from the Norwegian of two devoted collectors of Scandinavian folklore, Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe and published by Hodder & Stoughton in October 1914. 
In 1917 Kay returned to Copenhagen and was employed as the chief stage designer at the Danish State Theatre until 1923.  During this period he painted a series of illustrations for The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and A Thousand and one Nights but the printing of this work in Denmark was abandoned due to the high costs after the war.

 He returned to London in 1924 when Hodder & Stoughton published his edition of Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales.  This was quickly followed by an edition of Hansel and Gretel and other stories by the Brothers Grimm.   The illustrations for Hansel and Gretel and his later book Red Magic were exhibited at the Leicester Square Gallery in London in late 1930.

In 1938 he and his wife moved to Los Angeles where Kay managed to obtain occasional work as a set designer. He spent four years working for Walt Disney 
where his work was used in the "Ave Maria" and "Night on Bald Mountain" sequences of Fantasia. In 1942 he was commissioned to paint a large mural called The First Spring and a later commission was for an alter painting based on the 23rd Psalm for the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, this was completed in 1947, after which there was no more work for six years.   Even in his native Denmark, to which he and his wife returned briefly, Nielsen’s art was no longer in demand. He remained in artistic obscurity until his death in June 1957 at the age of 71.  




His books, however, have enjoyed a happy ending. Embellished with gorgeous watercolours, ornate endpapers and decorative motifs, they are now highly sought after by art lovers and book collectors worldwide.

The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen now sold, thank you for your interest.


I like the ethereal quality of Kay Nielsen's art - but what do you think?

Friday, 4 November 2011

Added Value: Things found in books part fourteen

Found - Edward's bookmark

Needlework classes at my school were all about making table mats and napkins decorated with cross-stitch but this is the first time I’ve seen a cross-stitch bookmark.  

I suppose Edward must be all grown up now – but Edward if you are reading this and would like your bookmark back let me know and I will return it to you.  

Found in The Joker and Jerry Again illustrated by Cecil Aldin


This is just one of several 'finds' this week I will be including some of the others over the next month or so.
The Joker and Jerry again is now sold, thank you for your interest
Thanks for calling in!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Jan Wahl: Pleasant Fieldmouse illustrated by Maurice Sendak

Thus he got ready and tied up the sandwiches in neat parcels with ribbons of grass. Then all of a sudden he knew he had left our something and went hurrying from poster to poster, scrawling under the bottom line, in yellow-coloured letters - since no other kind of paint was left - TUESDAY, although the manner in which he spelled it was TOOZDAY.

Pleasant Fieldmouse Pg. 13
By Jan Wahl with illustrations by Maurice Sendak

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