Books for boys that aren't about farts, butts, or "no girls allowed"
May 29, 2020 3:57 PM   Subscribe

I need a new series of books for my son. He is six (AND A HALF! as he would proudly tell you), and we have finished several book series and he's eager for a new one. We've read the entire Ramona Quimby set (which he absolutely loved), the entire new Amelia Bedelia set (which was fun but he didn't love them), and all the Harry Potter books he's able to handle so far (which he loved but they were getting too scary for him). When we finished the final Ramona book, he asked what series was next, and I have no idea what to try.

We tried the Little House on the Prairie books, and he enjoyed some parts but they just didn't hold his interest. We've read all the Brownstone's Mythical Collection books, and he loved them a lot, but he wants chapter books.

I have to admit, the books I'm tempted to choose are the ones I read as a child (Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, The Witch of Blackbird Pond) but I think he'd appreciate more series-books with boys as protagonists. Unfortunately, I didn't read many of those as a kid.

We tried The Hobbit, but it's not interesting to him yet. He loves reading his dad's Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual and Players Handbook.

He has all the Stick Dog books (which are fine, but he's bored with them), the Dog Man books, and a few Captain Underpants books -- we do not want any more like this.

What are some series of books I should consider? "Series" is very important. We have all the Narnia books, so that's next on my list to try, but I'm open to any suggestions, either classic or modern!
posted by erst to Media & Arts (79 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and we've tried Roald Dahl books, but the only one he's even remotely liked was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and he didn't even like it that much.
posted by erst at 4:02 PM on May 29, 2020

Geronimo Stilton
Percy Jackson
39 Clues
on preview: crosses off Roald Dahl
posted by Flannery Culp at 4:05 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How about the Henry Huggins books, also by Beverly Cleary? 6 books total.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 4:13 PM on May 29, 2020 [11 favorites]

My fathers dragon? The Saturdays has two boys and two girls
posted by azalea_chant at 4:17 PM on May 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume and its sequels.
posted by Fukiyama at 4:18 PM on May 29, 2020 [22 favorites]

Seconding Babymouse
Maybe the Artemis Fowl books? Try the first one, possibly.
The Chasing Vermeer series
posted by cooker girl at 4:20 PM on May 29, 2020

Best answer: I haven’t read the Encyclopedia Brown series for ages, so I’m not sure about sexism, but I can promise no farts or butts - unless there’s a newer post 70s version. If there is sexism, it’s not going to be “no girls allowed.”
posted by FencingGal at 4:22 PM on May 29, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer: The Moffat books! 4 about the humans and 2 (Ginger Pye and Pinky Pye) about their dogs.
posted by 8603 at 4:22 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Scarlett Thomas’s Worldquake books might be a little older-geared, but at least one person I know has read them with a kid this age. There’s magic, and strong, complex male and female characters. The kids in them are eleven and twelve.
posted by centrifugal at 4:23 PM on May 29, 2020

Best answer: I also remember liking Encyclopedia Brown, and if your son likes them there are tons of books in the series.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:24 PM on May 29, 2020 [6 favorites]

My 4.5yo LOVES the HILDA comics by Luke Pearson. They are about a brilliant, adventurous girl in a world of trolls and weird creatures who live in the wall. There's now a Netflix cartoon based on them. They're really well-drawn and the stories are great. I like them, too.
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:24 PM on May 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

How about Swallows and Amazons? They're a little old (and thus might have some sexism, although I don't remember anything too overt) and a bit twee, but they're also wonderful adventure books with boy and girl characters.

(Just a head's up: originally one of the characters was named Titty, because did I mention they're old and twee? She had been renamed Kitty in more recent editions, I believe.)
posted by kalimac at 4:30 PM on May 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: And don't forget The Borrowers.
posted by 8603 at 4:35 PM on May 29, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer: The Three Investigators (or Alfred Hitchcock & the Three Investigators if you're buying used books) delighted me at a similar or slightly older age.
posted by eotvos at 4:36 PM on May 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Half Magic, Edward Eager. There is a series! In the E Nesbit flavor.
posted by grinagog at 4:37 PM on May 29, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings series. “P.G. Wodehouse for children” is a popular description of them. They’re deftly written tales of comic absurdity with an delightfully irrepressible main character.

(Don’t be put off by their setting of a 1950s British boys’ boarding school - they’ve held up well over time! My stridently feminist, lefty, working-class self adored them as a girl in the 1980s.)
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 4:39 PM on May 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series? I'm not TOO far in with my own kids so I can't speak to the later books, but my boys are enjoying it! (11 in the first sequence, and then there are two or three spin-off serieses.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:39 PM on May 29, 2020

Response by poster: I appreciate the suggestions for things like Babymouse and Hilda, which are excellent and I should have mentioned them, but I'm not looking for graphic novels at the moment -- we have lots of those, and a friend who works at a graphic novel shop who keeps us well-supplied with all the best new stuff. Kiddo loves the Steven Universe books, Wings of Fire series, The Witch Boy series, and a bunch of others. Just looking for a non-graphic-novel book series, with chapters, for now!
posted by erst at 4:41 PM on May 29, 2020

The Mysterious Benedict Society might hold his attention. Encyclopedia Brown if he likes mystery.

Percy Jackson and A Series of Unfortunate Events though they might be a little scary.
posted by cessair at 4:43 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Soup! Robert Newton Peck wrote, in the 1970s, the somewhat-autobiographical novel Soup about growing up in small-town Vermont in the 1930s with his friend Luther, who is called Soup (because, IIRC, when his mother bellows from her porch to get him home for dinner, only the "soup" of "soup's on" is audible at a distance). Soup gets them into mischief, and then they endure the consequences. Soup himself is kind of a Huck Finn type character. The 1930s will be a bit foreign to your son, but far from unapproachable.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:49 PM on May 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

My 7yo loves How to Train Your Dragon. Very little in the way of farts, awesome adventures, and there are 12 of them so they last a while. :)
posted by forza at 4:52 PM on May 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

Ah, and while they aren't novels, I recall that my grandmother read to me, at around that age, from "All Creatures Great and Small," the first of several collections of episodic accounts in the life of James Herriot, a rural North Yorkshire veterinarian. His patients were cats and dogs as well as every manner of livestock; sometimes they get a bit gross, sometimes a bit sad (putting down the occasional pet is part of his work). I reread the first collection a few years ago and at the moment I don't recall anything too upsetting, and nothing at all too adult. Certainly there were references to animal reproduction and euthanasia as I said.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:01 PM on May 29, 2020 [7 favorites]

Maybe The Great Brain books by John D. Fitzgerald? Small town Utah in the 1890s, the Great Brain is kind of a Tom-Sawyer type and there are hijinks. I haven’t re-read as an adult, though.
posted by charmedimsure at 5:04 PM on May 29, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Agree with Encyclopedia Brown, for sure.

If you're doing Narnia and Harry Potter, The Dark is Rising Sequence probably isn't too advanced? I loved those around 7 or 8 years old, even though I never did get into Narnia much.

A Wrinkle in Time is the first of several related novels, although I'm not sure whether they qualify as a "series" in the sense you're looking for? At least one of them has the younger brother Charles as the protagonist.

I know you said boy protagonists, but if he liked Ramona, he might also enjoy Anastasia Krupnik and Harriet the Spy...

I haven't read any of these books in at least 25 years, so I apologize if there are any problematic aspects that appear when looking back with a contemporary perspective.
posted by slenderloris at 5:05 PM on May 29, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I haven’t read them to my kids yet (they’re not quite old enough) but I loved the Boxcar Children books when I was a kid.
posted by lomes at 5:16 PM on May 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

Warriors! A huge book series about feral cat colonies and their mystical adventures. My daughter became obsessed when she was six, and nearly two years later is still deep in the Warriors-iverse.
posted by saladin at 5:23 PM on May 29, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Definitely Henry Huggins! He might also really enjoy Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events. My daughter absolutely loved the Macdonald Hall series by Gordon Kormon, and my memory is that they were funny in a somewhat similar way to the humour in Harry Potter. Maybe Warrior Cats as well? There's like 40 of them, my daughter started reading them when she was 6 and still picks them up occasionally at age 13!
posted by DTMFA at 5:27 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

John Bellairs' Lewis/Roserita magical fantasy series is pretty low key and very charming, as well as age appropriate — and his stock has risen greatly since last I looked, which is very gratifying, but it's terrible to learn that he died in his early 50s.
posted by jamjam at 5:30 PM on May 29, 2020 [6 favorites]

Came to recommend “The Great Brain”. Maybe the Boxcar Kids?
posted by kellygrape at 5:36 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Someone already mentioned the Dark Is Rising, but I was also into the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander around a similar age. I think that was a bit older than six and a half, though.

My brother was very into Swallows and Amazons. I presume it's going to be deeply problematic in some way, but I haven't revisited it as an adult.
posted by hoyland at 5:39 PM on May 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

The Melendy Family series is another oldie but goodie. The first in the series is The Saturdays, in which the children decide they can have more fun if they pool their allowances and take turns doing something with the money. The youngest child is a six-year-old boy.
posted by FencingGal at 5:48 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also came to recommend the Great Brain books.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:50 PM on May 29, 2020

My kids both LOVED the Dory Fantasmagory books at that age. Also Ivy and Bean and Judy Moody have a lot of books to keep you busy.
posted by rozee at 6:00 PM on May 29, 2020

Maybe the Redwall series? I loved those books as a kid. I haven’t read any of them as an adult, so I don’t know how they’ve aged.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles is a pretty fun series, too, and I think they’ve held up pretty well. You get a male protagonist in book 2.
posted by Maeve at 6:08 PM on May 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Six and a half is probably too young for the Hardy Boys, but I was into them by the time I was seven.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:08 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My son loved the books you’ve read. Next-up favorites were Sideways Stories from Wayside School (author Sachar reads the audiobook, and it is phenomenal) and The Penderwicks (also on audiobook). He still listens to the Penderwicks once or twice a week.
posted by dreamphone at 6:10 PM on May 29, 2020 [9 favorites]

Everything by Daniel Pinkwater. His stuff has a wide range of formats (picture books/chapter books/hybrids) but almost all of them are appropriate for all ages. Some of them get really weird, all of them are silly and absurd.
posted by rikschell at 6:40 PM on May 29, 2020 [6 favorites]

The Dragon Masters series (a little formulaic, but age appropriate and my kids love them). The first book is Rise of the Earth Dragon.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 6:50 PM on May 29, 2020

We just finished How to Train Your Dragon with my 8 year old. It was an amazing series. The main protagonist is a boy and there are some weird sexist things in the early books (which is all the more surprising because it's a recent series and the author is a woman), but overall a great story.

Very different from the movies, too, if you've seen them. I like to think of the book and movies as being two totally different stories that happen to exist in the same universe.
posted by Betelgeuse at 6:57 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Redwall series is excellent!
Also Pippi Longstocking
posted by scrubjay at 7:07 PM on May 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

My son loved The Notebook of Doom series. He also loved The Littles series.
posted by ChristineSings at 7:23 PM on May 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Bruce Coville

Louis Sachar - Wayside Stories of Wayside School
posted by Jeanne at 7:24 PM on May 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Hilde Cracks the Case series
posted by Ideal Impulse at 7:35 PM on May 29, 2020

William Joyce's "Guardians of Childhood" series, that inspired the Rise of the Guardians movie, have been on my "track down and read someday" list for a while.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:36 PM on May 29, 2020

Magic Treehouse? There are about 700 of them so it should be a good challenge for a young completist.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:37 PM on May 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

The L. Frank Baum Oz books. Narnia.
posted by shadygrove at 8:16 PM on May 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

You might try The Spiderwick Chronicles, Animorphs, or the Secret Series. My daughter read all of those somewhere between 5-8 and still goes back to them as favorites now that she's almost 14.
posted by Lady Sugar Maple at 8:35 PM on May 29, 2020

Six and a half is probably too young for the Hardy Boys, but I was into them by the time I was seven.

Also Nancy Drew.
posted by bendy at 9:03 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Six and a half is probably too young for The Bytes Brothers Goto a Getaway, but I was into them by the time I was 4'b0111.
posted by Arctic Circle at 9:05 PM on May 29, 2020

We have been loving Mrs.Piggle Wiggle. They are old but all the cures for various naughty kid ailments still apply and cracked my daughter up. Some of it a bit dated in terms of gender roles and things like that but made for good discussions. We have read all 4 and are moving onto the Missy Piggle Wiggle series.

Seconding the How to Train Your Dragon series!
posted by scrubbles at 9:06 PM on May 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Checking my shelf of beloved kids' books:

The Phantom Tollbooth
The Twenty-One Balloons
Stuart Little ("For you I pine, for you I balsam")
The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books.
The Mouse and His Motorcycle trilogy.
The Mouse and His Child may be a little old for him or a little too weird...
I was also read too frequently from The Golden Treasury of Poetry.
I also had tons of joke books, and now that I read this list, a disturbing obsession with anthropomorphized rodents (see also, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH).
posted by bendy at 9:22 PM on May 29, 2020 [5 favorites]

They're older, but the Henry Reed books by Keith Robertson are terrific.

And I think I'm required by my Canadian citizenship to recommend the Macdonald Hall books by Gordon Korman.
posted by ZaphodB at 9:32 PM on May 29, 2020 [5 favorites]

The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne are good independent reads for sparking curiosity.

Redwall by Brian Jacques is a joy. This review gives a good rundown of the series strengths and weaknesses.

Wayside School, by Louis Sachar.

Gordon Korman, Bruce Coville, and Andrew Clements all have thoughtful series-like themes throughout their writing.

Where the Mountains Meet the Moon, Grace Lin.

A sidenote: I agree with every recommendation so far, and most of the authors are white and almost every main character is white or white-coded. This reflects the general publishing situation in children's literature, especially for series. Resources like the Coretta Scott King awards, your local librarian's recommendations, and can help you find books that better represent your community.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 9:50 PM on May 29, 2020 [11 favorites]

The Bunnicula Series!
posted by augustimagination at 11:34 PM on May 29, 2020 [5 favorites]

robert mccloskey's homer price books

there is a fart or two and no girls allowed as one of the plotlines in paula danziger's matthew books but the latter is resolved in a non sexist way. she was best known for the cat ate my Gymsuit.
posted by brujita at 11:47 PM on May 29, 2020

The “How to Train Your Dragon” books by Cressida Cowell? It’s a long series & the books are "proper" books, but with great hand-drawn illustrations by the author in a child-like style.
posted by pharm at 12:27 AM on May 30, 2020

The Wizard of Oz books.... there's 14 or 15 of them by L. Frank Baum (and more by another author who picked up after him). They are so much fun to read aloud... sometimes intense but in a good strengthening way (because you can reassure that oyr heroes always find a way through).
posted by kokaku at 3:07 AM on May 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Reading the thread with interest, and not seeing these (possibly for good reason), I thought I'd mention them. n.b. - I've worked in Children's Books for so long, I sometimes forget that they're for children, and there are probably important representational things I'm missing (as I'm running on nostalgia), but:

Tove Jansson's series of books about the Moomins, up to about Moominsummer Madness - November and Moominpappa At Sea are without doubt a bit heavy for anyone under.... older than six and a half. It's possible that Moominpappa At Sea is too heavy for most people. Midwinter is somewhere in between. The Exploits of Moominpappa is delightful and mad. The Moomins generally face disaster cheerfully and pragmatically, which is something I always liked at that age.

One book at work that made me laugh a lot (which is what would have recommended it to me at that age) is the Timmy Failure series by Stephen Pastis.

I don't know if Michael Bond's Paddington and Thursday series are available - the characters in the Paddington books are a lot more cyphers than those in the films, but the films got Paddington himself - the well-meaning nexus of chaos - exactly right. The lesser-known Here Comes Thursday and its sequels are about a mouse who moves in with a family of mice who live in a church tower, and my memory tells me it's a junior Jerome K. Jerome (it even has a character called Harris in it), but then my memory tells me lots of things that turn out to be not only wrong but also absurd.

And as another indulgence: long out of print, but available second-hand very cheap from UK booksellers (if you feel like shipping things across the Atlantic in the current Situation), are the books Eric Thompson (Emma Thompson's father, fact fans!) wrote to go along with his series The Magic Roundabout. They are very silly, even Dougal and the Blue Cat, which is a parable about fascism. There's one of the 1998 reissues on AbeBooks which purports to be available for a dollar, with $4.57 shipping to the U.S.
posted by Grangousier at 3:19 AM on May 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I came here to recommend the Moomin series. I started reading them when I was seven. I loved them then and I love them still.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:44 AM on May 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Clementine series feels like a modern Ramona.

Ursula Le Guin’s Catwings series is a great six year old level for reading or being read to, and feature a mix of male and female main characters.
posted by nonane at 5:06 AM on May 30, 2020

We read Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon at that age and my son loved it. I think it would be right up your alley. It's not exactly a series, but there are a few linked books.

Anything by Tom Angelberger might work, and he writes for a bunch of age levels. There's Inspector Flytrap, Origami Yoda, and a bunch of other stuff.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:57 AM on May 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Basil of Baker Street (aka The Great Mouse Detective) books. There are four or five written by original author Eve Titus; their language is somewhat archaic but if your child gets on that wavelength it only makes them more charming.

Disney bought the series and is now releasing new books, which are a little more modern and less dense. Not quite as good as the originals but it’s nice to have the series continue.
posted by ejbenjamin at 7:16 AM on May 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Non Fiction... but the “I Wonder Why...” and “DK Eyewitness” books may be of interest.
posted by oceano at 7:25 AM on May 30, 2020

Aaron Blabey’s Bad Guys series does feature fart jokes, but has been a big hit with our Beverly Cleary, D&D, and Dog Man loving boy.
posted by Kreiger at 7:47 AM on May 30, 2020

Seconding poetry, stuff meant to be read aloud and learned by heart and then riffed on. I grew up with Poems Every Child Should Know which was elderly even then, but part of the joy is getting comfortable with different speech rhythms with the verse structure as a prop. I think. I’ve been mildly looking for a modern version but all I find is free verse.
posted by clew at 9:21 AM on May 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing and the other Fudge books, as well as the Wayside School books, were hilarious to me at around his age. They’re not particularly high-minded (although Wayside School is kind of philosophical in its way) but I think they’re a little more elevated than fart jokes.
posted by sallybrown at 9:49 AM on May 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Mushroom Planet series is another that hasn't been mentioned yet.
posted by slenderloris at 10:47 AM on May 30, 2020

Seconding Edward Eager.

Also maybe try the Green Knowe books (or at least the first 4 anyway; the 3rd is my favorite.)
posted by gudrun at 11:00 AM on May 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Magic Tree House series... that's 50+ books which he'll be reading by the end.
The Boxcar Children - they're good.
Ivy and Bean - These are girl protagonists - but they are awesome -11 books in all
Neil Patrick Harris's series 'The Magic Misfits' is freaking awesome, but a little older - my daughter is 8 and is currently working on her magic show (it teaches tricks)
Frank N Stein books are awesome Science! style books
James Patterson's The Treasure Hunters series are fantastic long reads.
Rick Roidan's Percy Jackson books are pretty good
I've been reading the Redwall books to my son since he's been 6 and he's 11 now (note: the language is tough as an adult to read - as the characters read in accents and the moles have a definitive Cockney accent)
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:37 AM on May 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: He's already gotten a couple of general recommendations, but Bruce Coville's My Teacher is an Alien and (especially) Alien Adventures series are great introductions to sci-fi. If your son's interested in fantasy novels, maybe he'll also be into the sci-fi side of the coin?
posted by ZaphodB at 1:29 PM on May 30, 2020

Best answer: I see so many of my boyhood favourites echoed above - this would be my list for that age:
  • the Henry Reed books by Keith Robertson
  • the Henry Huggins books by Beverly Cleary
  • the Wayside School books by Louis Sachar
  • the Great Brain books by John D. Fitzgerald
  • the Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald J. Sobol
  • the Fudge books by Judy Blume
  • the Ralph S. Mouse books by Beverly Cleary
  • the Happy Hollisters books by Jerry West (children's mystery/family series - think Hardy Boys but aged down a bit)
And some singletons that, even though they aren't (or I can't recommend the) series, were favourites of mine around that age:
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop
  • How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  • Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith

posted by namewithoutwords at 2:09 PM on May 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Phantom Tollbooth is great, still one of my favorite books.
posted by radioamy at 9:42 PM on May 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

They are listed as being for just a tad older than him at 8, but there are 20ish Black Stallion books. I loved them because I was a horsegirl but the protagonist is a young boy. They're basically ancient and I read them decades ago but recent reviews say that they hold up.
posted by kattyann at 5:47 AM on May 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

I recommend books by Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, and Richmal Crompton.

Everyone has heard of Roald Dahl, but Enid Blyton's Noddy, Famous Five, and Secret Seven children's books are very good. Richmal Crompton's Just William book series is great as well.
posted by GiveUpNed at 6:16 AM on May 31, 2020

Marguerite Henry's horse books have mostly boy protagonists.
posted by brujita at 9:13 AM on May 31, 2020

Enid Blyton is a bit risky, there's some casual racism. (I read all her books as a kid.)

I second Jennings, who is as the poster above said (so perfectly): "P G Wodehouse for kids." The Jennings books have (IMHO) the same good-natured outlook on life that Wodehouse has.
posted by phliar at 3:54 PM on June 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I grew up during the 1970s, and even then, the heyday of the Black and White Minstrel Show, I wasn't allowed to read Enid Blyton.

(It's a tricky thing, though, that stuff. One of my favourite books - or two very slim books merged into one slightly less slim book - was Grimble by Clement Freud. On the one hand it was a wonderfully witty and dry story about a boy fending for himself because his parents are flakes, each chapter with a recipe, on the other... well ... google Clement Freud.)
posted by Grangousier at 5:44 AM on June 2, 2020

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