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Posts by Ann


Writing Prompts, Poetry, Earth Day, and a big Happy Anniversary!

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A blank page can be quite intimidating whether you write a lot or are a beginning writer! That is why we all need prompts for writing. As I think about it, my monthly postings for Booklights have been prompted by those of the other bloggers' postings throughout the previous month.

Terry started March out by giving great suggestions for prompting young writers. As she reminds us, a picture is truly worth a thousand words (or at least 20 if you are six-years-old). mcdonald-hand.jpgAnd while I don't want to "steal" any of the ideas for prompts for April that Terry might share, I think a delightful prompt for today comes from Megan McDonald, author of Judy Moody books.

Her prompt is an illustration of a practical joke the Judy Moody plays on her brother Stink. Young writers are then invited to write about a practical joke played on someone or make one up.

Pam's posting earlier today reminds us that we will celebrate National Poetry Month during April. Here is a website that provides great prompts for writing poetry. It includes a 40 minute webcast of Jack Prelutsky and interviews with Maya Angelou, Karla Kuskin, and J. Patrick Lewis.

Pam also reminds us that this is a wonderful time of the year to bring off the bookshelf Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit. While the book is rather dense in text, don't postpone reading it to young children. They catch on to language quite quickly. I tell my university students of the child who, after hearing Peter Rabbit numerous times, was overheard telling his tired, old dog, "I implore you to exert yourself!"

Susan has introduced me to several Passover books that are excellent. And the "old" Easter book of which Pam reminds us, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, was a favorite of an author I mentioned last August. I told about a visit with author Jean Davies Okimoto. She talked about The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by Dubose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack (who later won a Caldecott Honor). Although first published in 1939, this is a very progressive book. Jeanie remembers how she knew this was a tale with a truly feminist perspective. She noticed the ranges of bunny colors and the inclusiveness of the story.

In that same August posting, I suggested that parents and teachers might want to read Jeanie's picture book Winston of Churchill, One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming, which is illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell. As I said , the book brings forward concerns for the environment in an interesting way for children and their parents.

So that brings me to look ahead to April 22 which is Earth Day. While I don't usually start our recommendations for books to get for special days, I will go ahead and get us started this month with three books released this year that you might check out.
fancy nancy.jpg
Fancy Nancy: Every Day is Earth Day, by Jane O'Connor. An "I Can Read!" book for beginning readers.

polar bears.jpg
Where Do Polar Bears Live? by Sarah Thomson. This is a piece of non-fiction with challenging concepts written for primary graders. Be sure to notice the end papers!

global warming.jpg
Global Warming, by Seymour Simon. A publication by the Smithsonian and written by my favorite writer of science picture books. Wonderful photographs!

I would add to that list an older book, one that I mentioned in September, Peter, Pamela and Percy in the Big Spill. The story relates the oil slick off of Cape Town that harmed many sea birds in 2000.

It seems appropriate that this month, I have gone back to postings from March as well as throughout the year. For the day after Earth Day, April 23, was the day in 2009 that Gina first welcomed everyone to Booklights. So, happy anniversary to a wonderful group!

Happy Reading, Ann


A Patchwork Quilt

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Perhaps it is because we are having one more dreary, cold, wet (yes, still snow flurries!) day in Nashville, all I want to do is what Jen has just recommended: cozy up with a good book. And I would add that I'd like to cozy up under a fabulous quilt!quilt.jpg

I will use that quilt metaphor in this month's posting. So many of the postings this past month provide great fabrics of ideas and suggestions for developing in young children a love of reading. I will try to sew some of those fabrics into a quilt of connections. Thanks to James Ransome's end pages in Under the Quilt of Night for this quilt that I would choose for wrapping myself.

Immediately upon reading Jen's post, I registered to vote in the contest Ideas for Change in America. I had not heard about this contest and was delighted to read so many great project ideas. The "Read to Kids" campaign gets my vote, of course. I particularly like what the creators have said in the description:

"By reading aloud with children, we can improve their interest in and attitudes toward reading and improve children's fundamental literacy skills, including reading comprehension, vocabulary, reading ability, listening comprehension, attention span and ability to articulate thoughts. Being read to by an adult also helps build a child's self-esteem and confidence.

A national "Read to Kids" campaign could engage national and local literacy organizations, schools, teachers, parents, authors, publishers and nearly every sector of business and society that understands that our nation's future depends on our children's literacy skills."

I join Jen in encouraging you to vote....and suggest that you send the "Read to Kids" description on to those you know in the business world as well!

Thank you, Pam, for reminding us about Goin' Someplace Special. 51pIwG2kZwL.jpgThis ranks very high on my "favorite books of all time" list. Those who share my love of this book should be sure to check out the Reading Rockets website that Gina has led us to. The writing prompts for Goin' Someplace Special are excellent. Even though the February challenge has ended, I plan to store the ideas inside a copy of the book.

NOTE to sure to check for the March prompts. One of my former students entered one of her second grader's writing in January and her student was selected for an honorable mention. What a fabulous way to validate the efforts of a young writer!

Susan got us all thinking about how we organize, shelve, and attempt to easily locate our books. As a Mac computer user, I have used a software package called Booxter for several years. The program allows me to use a scanner like they have at the grocery store to record the ISBN codes on the back of each book (you can also manually enter these). All the information I need, including a picture of the cover, immediately pops up and is added to my catalog of books.

Finally, I'll add my own "piece of fabric" to this quilt. It actually brings us back to our many conversations around this year's Caldecott Award winner, The Lion and the Mouse. The website Teaching Books includes a video of Jerry Pinkney as he talks about the creation of the book. He ends the interview by saying that this fable is truly about family and helping others.

Scroll on down the link and check out the suggestions for enriching a reading of big no no.jpgBenny and Penny in the Big No-No (this year's Geisel Award winner). The book becomes interactive when you click on the "Play" button.

Let's hope for lots of sunshine and even some days that will make us all want to take our books and young readers outside!

Happy Reading......Ann


Wonderful Wordless Picture Books

Posted by Ann on February 1, 2010 at 9:41 AM in AwardsPicture BooksRecommendations
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In my posting on January 2, I suggested that we put together a list of the 10 best picture books from the decade that just passed. I said that list would be my posting this month. Since I have already changed my mind about my New Year's resolutions, I have also changed my plan for this posting. BUT I promise to get back to that list very soon.

Given this year's Caldecott Award recipient, The Lion and the Mouse, is an almost-wordless picture book, I want to talk about ways to use such books with children. Parents and teachers may be at a bit of a loss on ways to share these books with children. With the great assortment of wordless picture books available, it would be a shame if children just looked at the pictures with adults telling the story.

Let me first include some of my favorite wordless picture books. David Wiesner's books may well be the leaders of the group. Three of his books have been awarded the Caldecott Award: 2007 for Flotsam, 2002 for The Three Pigs, and 1992 for Tuesday.0618194576_l.gif0618007016_l.gif0395870828_l.gif

Raymond Briggs's The Snowman gave us the first "modern day" wordless picture book. 0375810676_l.gifMitsumasa Anno followed with many beautiful wordless (or almost wordless) picture books, my favorite being All in a Day.0613145135_l.gif

So how might we "read" these books with children? The youngest child will enjoy looking at the illustrations and will likely discuss what he sees. Jerry Pinkney would want us to spend a good bit of time on the end pages! Those endpages caught my eye when I shared them with you last November. pinkney endpages.jpg

Kindergarteners will begin to see how the pictures are connected to tell a story. Many are able to tell that story aloud. Second graders can start to write the story that goes along with the illustrations. Fourth graders are able to include a plot and describe the characters with greater elaboration. Wordless picture books should also be used with middle schoolers, who are able to expand the story being told in creative ways.

Enjoy The Lion and the Mouse with children of all ages.Take a look at the wordless picture books mentioned above. And let us know what other wordless picture books you have read and enjoyed.

Happy reading, Ann


The Season for Awards Begins!

Posted by Ann on January 12, 2010 at 2:26 PM in Authors and IllustratorsAwardsPicture Books
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First, welcome back to Booklights posting, Susan! Your January 6 posting got many of us looking forward to next Monday when the Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King Awards and others will be announced. Several other important awards have already been I want to talk about one of particular interest to Booklights parents.

The thirteenth annual Charlotte Zolotow Award was announced this morning. The award is given annually for outstanding writing in a picture book (published in the United States in the preceding year) for children from birth - age seven.

And the 2010 Charlotte Zolotow Award goes to.....What Can You Do with a Paleta? a beautiful story of a young Mexican-American child's delight with a popsicle on a hot summer day (which may be difficult to imagine after this past cold, cold week). The book is both culturally specific and universal in its theme. 1582462216_t.gif

As the judges said, "Author Carmen Tafolla playfully appeals to all of our senses with rich imagery and crisp language. She invites us to think of all the creative things that can be done with a paleta, from painting your tongue purple or giving yourself a blue mustache to making a new friend or learning to make tough decisions. A sprinkling of Spanish words and Magaly Morales' sun-warmed acrylic illustrations add details of life in a vibrant barrio where the daily arrival of the paleta wagon is met with anticipation and celebration."

So parents and teachers, go ahead now and check out this beautiful book and have it ready for a sunny day when your children are ready for popsicles/paletas!

The 2010 Zolotow Award committee named three Honor Books:
Birds, written by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek
0061363049_t.gifPouch! written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein
0399250514_t.gifPrincess Hyacinth: (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated),
written by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Lane Smith

The 2010 Zolotow Award committee also cited four titles as Highly
Hello Baby! written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Ready for Anything! written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza
Under the Snow, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by
Constance R. Bergum
Who Will I Be, Lord? written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by Sean Qualls

I also want to mention that the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction was also just announced. It went to Matt Phelan0763636185_t.gif for The Storm in the Barn. It is a graphic novel that will be most enjoyed by children ages 9-12.

Happy reading of award-winning books! Ann


2000-2009: What Were the BEST Picture Books?

Posted by Ann on January 2, 2010 at 12:08 PM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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My "job" at Booklights was originally supposed to be writing an end-of-the-month wrap-up. So as December ended, I thought about responding to this month's posts OR writing an end-of-the-YEAR (well, since April when Booklights began!) summary. I have spent the past few days re-reading our posts, clicking on the wonderful links, and reflecting on the great suggestions for bringing children and books together.

Decisions, decisions......I could easily do my "job" and summarize our December posts. For example, I could suggest that you heed Pam's and Jen's and Terry's advice to provide children with a model of at least one grown-up who enjoys reading a good book. If I took that route, I could mention how wonderful the conversations we have with children about our own reading tend to be.

Or, just as the media always does at this time of the year, I could certainly go back to the "Best of 2009," and re-direct you to some of the Booklights highlights. Should I do that, I'd need to talk more about Gina's September 22 Show and Tale, Susan's August 19 posting about reading the classics, Susan T.'s November 17 suggestions that started us talking about gift books, and Jen's Growing a Book Worm series that began on November 2.

But, I have been influenced by the hype about the end of the decade. We tend to want to think back over the last 10 years and how those years have changed our lives. From international events, to political activities, to the impact of cell phones and electronics, reflection on these years makes for lively discussion.

So how about thinking about the best picture books that were published over the past decade? What were your favorites? What were the favorites of your children who were born during the decade or as the last millennium ended?

To prompt your thoughts on the questions, you might want to return to the Booklights posts where we listed some of our favorites. Pam included How to Heal a Broken Wing, Susan mentioned Zen Shorts, and Jen listed Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.....all published in the last decade. And my list of favorites? Unfortunately, they were all published pre-2000!

So this month I resolve to come up with a list of the Ten Best Picture Books from the last decade. At this point, I suspect it will likely include Ian Falconer's Olivia, David Wiesner's The Three Pigs, Jack Prelutsky's If Not for the Cat, and Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse.

Let me know what you'd like to see included!

Happy Reading and Happy New Year, Ann


Gifts for a Year-Full of Reading

Posted by Ann on November 30, 2009 at 5:35 PM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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I truly have the best job in the world....being an aunt! And since this is the gift-giving season, I thought I should mention my ritual of selecting my niece's and nephews' Christmas gifts each year. When the children were young, I gave a "book to start each month" as his/her gift. I wrapped one book to be opened on Christmas morning; then they waited on the other wrapped books in the bag and opened one on the first day of each month throughout the year.

In order to make sure my selections were age/stage/interest level appropriate, I purchased and wrapped the books in two intervals. I wrapped January - June books for under the tree. Then I took July - December when we spent our vacation together in June.

Now that there are three teenagers in the family, I select far fewer picture books (although my 19-year-old nephew is getting one this Christmas). So I thought that I would pretend with this post that I still have a preschooler for whom to buy. Here is what would be wrapped for January - June, 2010:

January: The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. Using only a few words to describe the animal sounds in the beloved Aesop's fable, Jerry Pinkney illustrates the story of kindness in a beautiful way. I think that this may be my favorite picture book of the year! And the end pages begin and end the story with illustrations that are easily pored over for a long time.pinkney endpages.jpg

February: The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin. This is not your typical book of colors, as the text is written in both Braille and in white letters on all-black pages. But the text presents color to the reader in a creative way.

March: A is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet by Stephen T. Johnson. And this is not your typical alphabet book either! Adults will enjoy studying the 26 abstract creations that form the letters of the alphabet every bit as much as the child to whom they are reading.

April: The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett. Gravett uses humor to provide the reader with a very happy way to discuss motherhood, fatherhood, adoption, and acceptance. And the "Eric Carle-type collages" help the new baby make a dramatic entrance.

May: How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham. "No one saw the bird fall." But Will was not like the masses of people who walked by/around/over the injured bird. The illustrations show us the gentleness and care taken to save the bird and return it to the sky.

June: Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Susan L. Roth. The inspirational Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson's book for adults, is now available for very young readers. The stunning cut paper and fabric collages are the perfect illustrations accompany the story.

Finally, you may also want to do like I do and pick out a couple of gifts to give yourself! This year,silvey.jpg I am selecting Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book edited by Anita Silvey. The collection includes children's books that first inspired 100 leaders from arts, sciences, politics, and business.

Will you share with us your own recommendations for picture book gifts for young and "not so young" readers?

Happy Reading, Ann


As the Frost Starts Showing Up on Pumpkins!

Posted by Ann on November 1, 2009 at 1:15 PM in Chapter BooksEasy ReadersNonfiction BooksPicture BooksRecommendations
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October was certainly an action-packed month for those at Booklights! In addition to Pam making great suggestions of Halloween books, she organized and led an excellent meeting of children's book bloggers gathering in Washington, D.C. It was a pleasure to get to meet colleagues who constantly read and think about how important quality literature is for children and their families.

Susan T. recommended good books for children who have developed a passion for volcanoes. One suggestion was Magic Tree House #13: Vacation Under the Volcano, by Mary Pope Osborne. Parents should also know about Ancient Rome and Pompeii, the non-fiction companion Magic Treehouse Research Guide #14. 51AM8JX16JL._SL500_AA240_.jpg5130GADDHHL-1.jpgSteven Bush may also want to be sure to share this before heading out with his son in February to see a real volcano!

The non-fiction companions provide fascinating information that supports the travels of Jack and Annie in the Magic Treehouse fantasies. Boys, in particular, love knowing the real facts and I have never failed to learn new, accurate, scientific information when reviewing these guides as well.

Terry's posting Reading from Afar brought back so many fun memories. When my own niece was about three-years-old, she overheard her dad say he needed to be sure to pack a book for a very long international flight. When he went back to finish packing his suitcase, he found that Sarah had placed in his bag her favorite picture book! While Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse was surely not the novel he anticipated reading on the flight, it provided a wonderful thing for him to read to her when he called to check in back home.

It also reminded me of a community service project that one of my college students implemented. While volunteering in a Nashville women's prison, she noticed that incarcerated mothers had very little to talk about with their children after the first few minutes of a visit. She was able to take children's picture books to the prison for the mothers to read and record. Mothers then had a set of books and tapes to give their children during visits, and wonderful topics of conversation for subsequent visits.

Jen ended last week's posting talking about the importance of knowing your child's independent reading level. In addition to being sure your child is able to read the text with around 95% accuracy, also check out comprehension every now and then. And having lots of picture books around helps, as illustration often aids in comprehension.

Finally, Gina asked what readers' opinions have been about the movie Where the Wild Things Are.Where the Wild Things Are.jpg She asked if true fans should avoid it or give it a try. I can only report the words of a 10-year-old friend as he left the movie, "Max has anger issues!" Not a movie for young viewers, for sure! But we can all continue to love the book.

Happy Reading.....Ann


International literature for children

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As I mentioned at the end of last month's posting, I traveled to Glasgow, Scotland in September to attend an international symposium on picturebook research. What a thought-provoking meeting it was! I want to share some of what I learned as it relates to the September postings on Booklights.

One very interesting presentation dealt with the end papers of picture books. As you are reading to your children, be sure to talk about the entire book....the cover, the title page, but also notice the end papers. More and more frequently, illustrators are using the inside of the front/back covers to tell part of the story.

cover missing sheep.jpghands end page.jpgFor example, in Mircea Catusanu's new picture book The Strange Case of the Missing Sheep, Catusanu includes hands for counting sheep.This serves as a preface to the actual story. A book created for children ages three and up, the humorous text and illustrations will also keep the adult reader entertained

chicken .jpgchicken papers.jpegYou may remember that Susan T. included in her introduction her latest favorite book, The Chicken - Chasing Queen of Lamar County, by Janice N. Harrington, pictures by Shelley Jackson.The end pages of this book cleverly lead the reader to know that feathers will fly as the chickens are being chased.

Another picture book with fabulous end papers is Peter Sis' Madlenka's Dog. Madlenka's neighborhood is "in the universe, on a planet, on a continent, in a country, in a city, in a house on a block where everyone is walking a dog." The end papers start narrowing the story in by showing the view of the universe, with the planet. Sis then zooms in closer on the page opposite the book's title page. So the end papers actually start to establish the book's setting.madlenka end page.jpeg

When reading this book with your child, also be sure to remove the cover and look at the front and back illustrations. Sis has even used the covers to help describe the setting for Madlenka's search for a dog.madlenka cover01.jpg

another world.jpgThis month's postings have provided many great suggestions for books to read aloud to older children. A book by Brazilian author Ana Maria Machado that would be an ideal read aloud for sixth/seventh graders is From Another World. The book won the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2000. It reminds us all that the horrors of slavery were not limited to the United States. Brazil shared many of the same brutalities toward African slaves that our own history includes.

big spill.jpgFinally, I can't help but add a penguin book from South Africa to Pam's September 3rd Thursday Three. Peter, Pamela and Percy in the Big Spill relates the oil slick off of Cape Town that harmed many sea birds in 2000. I think that reader Terry who posted a comment and must enjoy nonfiction will also like this link that supports the story told in picture book format.

Happy Reading, Ann

P.S. It is not only our nation's capitol with a fabulous fall book festival; Nashville has many of the same authors visiting us the weekend of October 9-11. I hope that all of you in the area will come visit us for the Southern Festival of Books! And like Pam, I'd love to host you.


Favorites, favorites, favorites!

Posted by Ann on August 31, 2009 at 5:55 PM in Authors and IllustratorsChapter BooksPicture BooksRecommendations
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It has been another fun month of reading the many, many suggestions for great books for kids recommended by the Booklights gang. Jen started us off with several delightful fractured fairy tales. These are great for children who already know the original versions, as they best understand the humor in the new versions. 51JQ09W7W6L.jpgMy personal favorite modern fairy tale is Sleeping Ugly, by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Diane Stanley.

And Susan's suggestion of reading a book for a second time that you loved during the first time you read it got tremendous response! The novels/chapter books that were suggested also provided us with a wonderful list of books to read aloud to children. Just because you have a child who is able to read on his or her own, please don't stop that habit of reading aloud. There is little more reassuring to a child than the time spent with a parent over an engrossing story.

Many of the books that were mentioned have also been recorded on tape or digitally. Check them out from your library for the family to listen to as dinner is being prepared or you drive to school.

I love Gina's new Tuesday feature of Show and Tale. I have been traveling in the Pacific Northwest over the past few weeks and have asked folks all along the way about their favorite children's books. Now, you must realize that my southern accent caused a bit of a snigger when I said "Show and Tale!" But I initiated wonderful conversations with the simple question.

One of my favorites was the visit with author Jean Davies Okimoto. She talked about The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by Dubose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack (who later won a Caldecott Honor).515ACKW4D3L.jpg Although first published in 1939, this is a very progressive book. Jeanie remembers how she knew this was a tale with a truly feminist perspective. She noticed the ranges of bunny colors and the inclusiveness of the story.

And if you check out Jeanie's favorite children's book, also check out the latest book she wrote, Winston of Churchill: One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming, written by Jean Davis Okimoto and illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell.51K89hnMQ4L._SL500_AA240_.jpg The book brings forward concerns for the environment in an interesting way for children and their parents.

Next week, I head to Glasgow, Scotland to attend the symposium "Beyond Borders: Art, narrative and culture in picturebooks." I hope to return home with lots of new insights into picturebooks and to be able to introduce some international favorites.

Happy Reading, Ann


Keep those book bags filled!

Posted by Ann on July 28, 2009 at 10:59 AM in Nonfiction BooksPicture BooksRecommendations
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Susan's July postings about her participation in the annual Caldecott and Newbery dinner reminded me how excited we ALL become when we meet authors of books we love. Children are no different from grown-ups. kelly.JPG Even my college students find great pleasure in getting to know authors and illustrators, evidenced by this photo of my fabulous student Kelly talking to last year's Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz. Next year's Caldecott/Newbery dinner will be in late June in Washington, D.C., so make plans if you live in the area!

Susan's thoughts about awardees prompts the reminder that the jurists have to make comparisons across a wide range of books, genres, and intended audiences. As Jane Langton said: "These books are apples and oranges, pianos and prunes, washtubs and weasels."

cover.jpg I want to add to Pam's July 9 posting my favorite new book that would fit well with her others about animals. AFRICAN ACROSTICS, by Avis Harley, photographs by Deborah Noyes, is a nice "multi-genre" picture book of poetry and lots of information.

One of the many fun acrostic poems is "Hornbill's Hot Day."

And what child would not delight in hornbill.jpg
seeing the photograph of a hornbill?

Pam has continued to give us great recommendations on filling those book bags. I heard from my chum Whitney who said, "Sometimes it feels silly to schlep around a bag of books without knowing yet if we'll like them once they're at our house, but the kids really love picking out books and then pouring over them once we're back in the living room."

Happy Reading! Ann

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