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Written by Kristine O’Connell George
Illustrated by Maggie Smith
Clarion Books

What do you do with a book? When one little boy receives a book as a gift, he is instantly fascinated and playfully explores everything he can do with it. Aside from the practical application of reading, the boy learns that a book can be opened and closed; worn as a pretend hat; shared with pets, stuffed animals and baby siblings and hugged and cherished. This poem book, along with the vivid illustrations, delightfully depicts a toddler’s first magical and jubilant encounter with a book.

Potluck of Fun:
You can get all sorts of information about Kristine O’Connell George and her books at In the Bookshelf, you’ll find a list of her books and links to more about each title. For example, in the area about Book!, you can read about its Awards and Reviews, learn Kristine’s perspective About Writing Book! and discover more about Book! and Literacy, including recommendations for Books to Inspire a Love of Reading and Organizations that support literacy. Other areas of the site include For Teachers, For Students and Poetry Aloud!, which provides audio clips of Kristine O’Connell George reading from her books.

Read books to children from day one. And like the little boy in Book!, let your children explore books on their own, even before they can read – holding books and becoming familiar with them purely as objects. Board books are great for little ones as they withstand chewing, tearing and other consequences of exploration.

It’s so important for babies and toddlers to be exposed to books and form positive associations with them. Research shows us that early literacy practices greatly impact children’s future academic success. Go to, click on Parents and then, under Select an Age Group, click on 0-4. This will take you to the Your Baby, Toddler and Preschooler section where you can follow another link to Leading to Reading: Resources for Ages 0-5. Once in this area of the site, you can follow links by age group that lead to information and resources for age-appropriate Activities, Booklists, Stories & Songs and Fun & Play.

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I Love My Daddy Because...
Written by Laurel Porter-Gaylord
Illustrated by Ashley Wolff
Dutton Children's Books

With text written from a child’s perspective, this book presents some of the many ways in which human and animal daddies care for their children. Wildlife biologists were consulted and verified the accuracy of the animal behaviors. The realistic illustrations show familiar and unusual animal dads engaged in a wide range of activities with their young, and labels above the pictures identify the animals. From chimpanzees (“...because he makes me laugh”) to horned puffins (“...because he brings me dinner”), you and your children will see the beauty, joy and importance of nurturing behaviors that strengthen the bond between father and child.

Potluck of Fun:
This book makes the perfect Father’s Day gift that can generate special moments well beyond the holiday itself when dad reads it with the kids, hopefully over and over again. Similarly, the companion book, I Love My Mommy Because... (Dutton) is well suited to Mother’s Day and beyond. Both of these titles present opportunities for further exploring parent-child relationships. As your child grows, ask him, “What does Daddy do for/with you that makes you love him?” “What about Mommy? What are some of the things Mommy does?” Conversations of this nature will show your child just how much you do for him and how much he means to you.

There are numerous picture books for babies, toddlers and preschoolers that focus on the theme of dads and kids. For more titles that feature animal fathers, try Daddy Kisses by Anne Gutman (Chronicle Books) and Jean Marzollo’s Papa Papa (HarperFestival). For more books that highlight the things human dads do for their children, check out Because Your Daddy Loves You by Andrew Clements (Clarion) and What Daddies Do Best by Laura Numeroff (Simon & Schuster).

At, you might be surprised to find a handful of simple activity ideas designed specifically for dads and kids (ages 0-5). Once at the site, click on Activities. Then click on Daddy & Me. Each activity is described and accompanied by information on what Your Child Will Learn, Daddy’s Materials, Step By Step instructions, Tips and more.


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The Wednesday Surprise
Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Donald Carrick
Clarion Books

Every Wednesday night, when Anna’s mom works late and her brother goes to basketball practice, Anna and Grandma get to spend some time together. Anna loves books and she loves to share them with Grandma – story after story after story. It seems like Grandma can’t get enough either. Secretly, Anna and Grandma are working on a birthday surprise for Anna’s dad. When the big day comes around and Dad thinks he’s opened all of his gifts, he quickly finds out that there’s one more surprise in store for him and it just might be the best gift of all. This touching story reminds us all how books and reading can bring families together in the most incredible ways.

Potluck of Fun:
Grandparents Day is celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day. At the National Grandparents Day Web site (, you and your children can learn How Grandparents Day Began; check out Contests & Winners for grandparent-inspired artwork, essays, songs and poetry and explore related Activities & Resources. In both the Families and Teachers/Classrooms activity sections, you’ll find some terrific project ideas (along with samples) that are sure to help your children form strong relationships with their grandparents and appreciate all they have to offer.

Help your children pay tribute to their grandparents at In the Great Kids Pages links list, click on Crafts. Then, in the alphabetical list, click on Grandparents Day. From here, you can link to instructions for making Cards and Frames; Family Crafts that include a Family Collage, Ancestry Chart and Family Tree and fill-in-the-blank Books to Print About Grandparents.

Consider making picture albums or simple homemade books with headings or titles like “Grandma Loves Me,” “Grandpa and I Go to the Park” or “Why I Love My Grandparents” with your children. Use photographs, excerpts from journals and personal letters, children’s artwork and more to enhance your albums or books. Then share them with the whole family!

Eve Bunting has authored more than 200 books for children from preschoolers to young adults. She often tackles what she refers to as “tender topics” – difficult emotional and social issues like racial prejudice, illiteracy and grief. What makes Eve Bunting’s issue books for children so unique and wonderful is her ability to write them without being patronizing or judgmental but rather with an overriding sense of honesty, respect and comfort. Go to and enter the name “Eve Bunting” in the Search Our Site box. By clicking on the resulting links, you can read a little bit more about Eve Bunting and her books, as well as explore Teacher’s Guides to five of her books, including The Wednesday Surprise.

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Mr. Putter and Tabby Stir the Soup
Written by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Arthur Howard

Mr. Putter and his cat Tabby love to make soup, but when their stove isn’t working, that puts a real kink in the cooking plan. Luckily, their sweet neighbor Mrs. Teaberry agrees to let them make soup at her house. There’s just one problem: Zeke, Mrs. Teaberry’s bulldog wants to play instead. While Mr. Putter and Tabby stir ingredients into the pot, Zeke puts a new twist on the game of “fetch.” A deliciously funny story!

Potluck of Fun:
This is the twelfth book in the Mr. Putter & Tabby Series. The fifteenth book in the series, Mr. Putter & Tabby Spin the Yarn (Harcourt), is scheduled to be released in August 2006. Aside from featuring the title characters, all of the books in this series contain short, pleasing chapters infused with humor that get beginning readers hooked on words and stories.

Does your family have a dog that likes to fetch or a cat that likes to make soup (or at least one that likes to be in the kitchen with you while you cook)? The energetic Zeke and the charming Tabby will surely spark conversations about pet antics, like how pets vie for your attention when they want to play or go for a walk or be petted. What other real-life pet behaviors and actions (such as begging for a treat) can you and your kids exaggerate to build a humorous story?

If your child enjoys helping you with the cooking, try making a soup together. At, you can choose from more than 1250 soup recipes. The recipes are reviewed and rated by folks who have already tried them, so you can see how easy or difficult, delicious or not-so-delicious a particular recipe will be.

The Web site How to Love Your Dog ( is designed to be A Kid’s Guide to Dog Care. You and your child can explore all sorts of resources about caring for dogs along with dog-related Riddles, Poetry, Stories (all written by kids), Game Center, Teacher Resources and more. This site is recognized by the National Education Association.

At (the children’s section of the BBC Web site), you can find child-friendly information about other pets, such as Cats, Gerbils, and Rabbits. From the home page, click on the heading Wild and then click on Pets. For each type of pet listed, there is a Factsheet on caring for the animal, a Quick Check list of questions about specific things pet owner’s should do for the animal, an Interactive Guide to the animal and inks to more information.

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Noisy Nora
Written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells
Dial Books for Young Readers

This book, told in rhyming text, is sure to become a read-aloud favorite in your home. Nora wants some attention, but it seems she always has to wait – wait for Mother to finish feeding and burping baby brother Jack; wait for Father to finish playing with and reading to older sister Kate. It’s just not fair being the middle child, and Nora is tired of waiting. Maybe if she makes some noise, people will start paying attention. When that only leads to scolding from Mother and Father and teasing from Kate, Nora has to come up with a new plan. What will she do?

Potluck of Fun:
As you read and reread this book, take pauses just before rhyming words and let your child chime in to complete the rhyme. Be sure to praise her when she provides the correct rhyming word. If she offers a word that does rhyme, but isn’t the specific rhyming word in the text, first praise her for coming up with a rhyme, then tell her it’s not the word in the story and give her hints so she can guess the exact rhyming word.

Rosemary Wells has authored and illustrated more than 50 children’s books, giving readers countless hours of pleasure with such irresistible characters as Noisy Nora, Max and Ruby and Yoko. Check out these other titles for this age group: Max’s Dragon Shirt (Puffin), Yoko (Hyperion) and Bunny Cakes (Puffin). You can read more about Rosemary Wells by clicking on her name in the alphabetical list in Meet Authors and Illustrators under Features at

Although Rosemary Wells doesn’t intend for Noisy Nora (or any of her other books) to be an educational guide or teaching book, you can certainly use it to open a conversation about siblings, sibling rivalry, your children’s need for attention, etc. Ask your child what she thinks Nora is feeling. Ask him if he has ever felt like that. If your child has felt neglected, be sure to tell him that you never meant to hurt him and it was never your intention to neglect him. Talk to him about schedules, demands on your time and so on, but always wrap up your conversation by reassuring him that you love him very much and that you’ll make an effort to spend as much time as possible with him (it’s vital that you mean this and do make the effort). And don’t forget the hug and kiss!

For some expert advice on helping your toddler deal with the challenges of being a middle child, visit and type the phrase “middle child” in the Search box. Then select the resulting article titled Middle Child Frustrations. Also see the Pregnancy & Parenting section of the site. In the Ages & Stages navigation bar, click on your child’s age group (e.g. Toddler/Preschooler, Grade-Schooler, etc.). In the age group sub-menu, click on Behavior and then Discipline for more extensive articles and advice on this subject.


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Rufus M.
Written by Eleanor Estes
Illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

In this book, you and your children will find a timeless and irresistible character. At seven years old, Rufus Moffat is already very much his own person. When he encounters problems, like not having enough food or money, he comes up with unique and often humorous approaches to solutions. He also shares some wonderful adventures with fantastical and imaginary friends, including an invisible piano player. He becomes so determined to borrow books from the library that he goes to extensive efforts to meet the librarian’s requirements to sign a library card: teaching himself to write. Setting this story in the early 1900s, Eleanor Estes provides insights into an earlier time and experiences. Her character, Rufus, demonstrates a creative sense of problem solving that will generate laughter and inspire you and your children to consider unconventional solutions to everyday challenges. And, by capturing the excitement of getting your first library card, he might just inspire more trips to the library for your family, too.

Potluck of Fun:
Use this book to talk with your children about the library and follow up on such discussions with visits to your local branch. Encourage your child to get her own library card and check out books. Make sure you talk to her about the due dates – maybe post these dates on your family calendar and continue to draw her attention to them, reminding her of the responsibility involved. You can also explore your local library’s Web site with your children. Many library sites have pages designed for kids as well as listings of programs for kids. All of this will help your child get excited about books and reading.

At the Web site of the American Library Association, you can find some great tips for getting your children Involved with the library. Go to and enter the phrase “kids and libraries” In the Search box. Click on the resulting link for Coping with Challenges: Kids and Libraries. Here you will find information about the role of libraries, how librarians select books, how to help children make the best use of libraries and more.

Eleanor Estes (1906-1988) was a children's librarian before launching her career as an author with The Moffats (Harcourt) in 1941. Rufus M., and another of her books about the Moffat family, The Middle Moffat (Harcourt), are Newbery Honor Books. In 1952, she won the Newbery Medal for Ginger Pye (Harcourt).

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Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
Written by Mem Fox
Illustrated by Julie Vivas
Kane/Miller Book Publishers

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge likes living next door to a home for the elderly. He’s friends with everyone there, but his favorite neighbor is 96-year-old Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper. As the two share special times and secrets, Wilfrid discovers they have a lot more in common than just the fact that they each have four names. When Wilfrid overhears that Nancy has lost her memory, he asks the other residents what a memory is. With answers like “something from long ago” and “something that makes you laugh” in mind, Wilfrid sets out to collect and give to Nancy objects that represent his own memories. By doing so, he just might help Nancy recover the treasures locked in her mind.

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Does your family have relatives or friends who live in retirement or nursing homes? This book can help your child get an idea about such communities and maybe even get excited about visits. It also lends a child’s perspective on treating the elderly with dignity. Often, these types of residences have activities directors who create enjoyable programs that are open to family and friends. Consider taking part in these with your children and creating lovely memories.

Talk with your children about memories and create the opportunity for endless hours of fun by making family memory albums. Use photographs, letters (including printed E-mails), even relevant newspaper or magazine clippings. Come up with captions together and be sure to date items in the book. Encourage your children to decorate pages with their drawings and scribbles. Add in pieces you write together and individually about memories. Your children could even interview elderly relatives and write about some of their memories. Not only is this a joyful activity in the present, the albums are sure to be cherished in the future.

Memory plays an important role in many aspects of your child’s life – from schoolwork to socializing to routine tasks. At you will find activities that you can easily do with your children at home, in the car and even at the beach that will help build their memory skills. Enter the phrase “kids and memory” in the Search box. Click on the resulting link for Enhancing Kids’ Memory: What Works.

Mem Fox is a native of Australia and has written nearly 30 children’s books, as well as five books for adults. Renowned for her fantastic picture books, in the education community, she is equally celebrated for her expertise in literacy. In a 2005 interview, when asked what she would say if she could only assert one thing about the importance of reading to young children, she responded, “Parents who read aloud to their children are giving them a colossal investment in happiness and a huge educational advantage that will last them for a lifetime.” You can read more about Mem and her books at

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Nicholas at the Library
Written by Hazel Hutchins
Illustrated by Ruth Ohi
Annick Press

Have you ever thought of a librarian as a superhero? One who can lead a search and rescue with a magic ring? Nicholas at the Library reads like a trip through a dream on a rainy day at the library. Together, Nicholas and the librarian travel through books, physically jumping from one story setting into another as though from one movie set to another, trying to find the home of a lost chimpanzee who has become separated from his story. In a charming and fantastical way, this story reinforces the idea of the magic of books.

Potluck of Fun:
It might be fun to extend this story to your own home library. Sit with your child among all of his children’s books, both those you own and those you may have borrowed from the library. Ask your child which stories he thinks would be fun to “jump into” like Nicholas and the librarian did. Ask him why he chooses the stories he does and what he imagines doing once in them. This can give you some clues as to what types of stories and characters appeal most to your child, which you can then use when borrowing or buying more books. And if your child comes up with an interesting new story line, write it down and read it together later.

There is a terrific article about home libraries at the Reading is Fundamental Web site. Go to and click on the Parents link. In the left-hand side menu bar, select Articles. Scroll down to the Literacy-Rich Environments category and click on the link for Building a Family Library. This article gives straightforward advice on What’s Involved – stressing that “a home library doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive to provide rich reading experiences,” Family Projects – activities and inexpensive projects that support your family library and boost your children’s interest in books and Where to Find Good Books – tips for collecting new and use books on a budget.

You and your children can read more about Hazel Hutchins at In the Book List, you’ll discover more about her nearly 40 picture books and novels, including her easy reader First Novel Series centered around a lovable youngster named Robyn. She also sponsors a writing Contest open to children ages 6 to 12.


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The Same Stuff as Stars
Written by Katherine Paterson
Clarion Books

Once again, Katherine Paterson tackles troubling subject matter in a way that enlightens readers and ultimately imparts a message hope. Eleven-year-old Angel seems more responsible and grown up than her own parents: a father in jail and a mother whose drinking problem makes her unreliable at best. Angel and her seven-year-old brother Bernie have moved and been shuffled around too many times, including some time spent in foster care. Angel takes on a parental role with her brother and does what she can to keep both of them safe. When their mother abandons them with their poor but caring great-grandmother, Angel takes solace in books at the nearby library and a special friendship with an uncle who shares her interest in the stars and galaxies and, more importantly, teaches Angel that she herself is made of “the same stuff as stars.”

Potluck of Fun:
Katherine Paterson is a much-celebrated author of children’s books and young adult novels. She has a distinct talent for writing stories that are emotional and inspirational without being corny or patronizing. Through the years she has been rewarded with two Newbery Medals (for Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved [HarperTrophy]), and The Great Gilly Hopkins (HarperTrophy) is a Newbery Honor Book. In addition, she has twice been honored with the National Book Award for Children’s Literature and received the prominent Hans Christian Andersen Award.

If your child is fascinated by stars, planets, galaxies – basically space in general – check out the NASA Web site ( In the For Kids section of the site, you can play Games, see and read Art & Stories, try some Activities and play in the Kids' Club. In the For Students section, organized by grade level, you can explore Student Features and News, get Homework Help, read NASA Facts, get connected to other Internet and Multimedia Resources and more.

Another great Web site specifically about our solar system is The Nine Planets: A Multimedia Tour of the Solar System ( You can explore scientific information about each planet as well as connections to mythology. Scientific terms are all “clickable” and lead to definitions in a Glossary.

If you know a child in foster care or are a foster parent yourself, you might want to check out This Web site, Foster Club: The National Network for Youth in Foster Care, is intended to provide support and encouragement to the more than 600,000 children in foster care nationwide. Children can learn about Famous Foster Kids, win Achievement Awards and voice their opinions in Talk Back polls and the Message Board. The site also provides articles for kids about the foster care system, family and school relationships, emotional struggles and more. Sister sites exist For Teens ( and For Adults (

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The Giver
Written by Lois Lowry
Walter Lorraine Books/Houghton Mifflin

In this gripping science fiction novel, Lois Lowry explores the provocative idea of sacrificing free will and freedom for an ordered, supposedly problem-free society. Through the eyes of 12-year-old Jonas, we witness what appears to be a utopian futuristic society – one without hunger, disease or crime. The community is ruled by a Committee of Elders. Everyone has jobs for which they are suited, and every family consists of a mother, a father and two children – one boy and one girl. To achieve this appealing and idealistic state, however, everyone sacrifices all of their memories, along with their power to make individual decisions, see colors, hear music and more. At age 12, children receive their lifetime job assignments. When Jonas is selected to become the “Receiver of Memories,” the current Receiver must impart to Jonas all of the collective memories of generations. Jonas quickly begins to see the hypocrisy of his world and discovers his ideal society is not all it’s cracked up to be. But what will he do with this new-found insight?

Potluck of Fun:
This is a terrific book to read aloud together as a family. With its intentionally ambiguous ending, it’s sure spark lively discussions about sameness versus diversity, free will versus order. Try asking questions like: What if you didn’t have the opportunity to make your own decisions about what to wear, who to marry or what occupation to pursue? What if you didn’t have memories or couldn’t see colors? What is your interpretation of the end of the book? For more discussion ideas, you can refer to the questions included at the end of the Laurel Leaf paperback edition of the book. You can also find these questions by going to, searching for The Giver and clicking on the Reading Guide link. As you read the book together, try pausing to discuss predictions and stopping reading at cliffhanger moments to increase the suspense and your children’s anticipation of the next time you’ll read aloud together.

This book is currently in development with Walden Media to become a movie. This is the same production company that brought Hoot, Because of Winn-Dixie, Holes and many other children’s books and young adult novels to the big screen. To find out more, go to and click on Our Stories. In the In Development list, click on The Giver. Please be aware that you don’t want to visit this site if you haven’t finished reading the book: much about the story is revealed and would spoil it for you!

Lois Lowry has written more than 25 books for 9- to 12-year-olds and young adults. She has twice been honored with a Newbery Medal – once for The Giver in 1994, and once for Number the Stars (Walter Lorraine Books) four years earlier. At you and your children can discover more about Lois Lowry’s life and her books, including Gathering Blue and Messenger (Walter Lorraine Books), which form a trilogy together with The Giver.


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You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You:
Very Short Stories to Read Together

Written by Mary Ann Hoberman
Illustrated by Michael Emberley
Megan Tingley/Little,Brown

Rhythm, rhyme and repetition form the backbone of this delightful book that creates enriching opportunities for parents and children to truly share in the joy of reading. The book contains 13 very short stories designed to be read by two voices. The text appears in color-coded columns that make it easy to take turns reading lines individually and in unison. The playful spirit of the text is sustained by Michael Emberly’s lively illustrations.

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Read Me a Story (Yoko and Friends School Days Series)
Written by Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Jody Wheeler
Hyperion Books for Children

Yoko is a good reader, but she tries to keep this talent hidden from her family and teachers. When she writes to a cereal company for a decoder ring and helps a friend with origami instructions, her true abilities are revealed. When asked why she kept her ability to read a secret, Yoko admits she was afraid her mother would stop reading bedtime stories to her. Her mother calms her fears, reassuring Yoko that she will always continue to read to her and even encouraging Yoko to read to her, too. This charming story speaks volumes about the power and importance of reading aloud to children.



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Monty and Martine read from this book, and it’s a favorite for Gary Waleik and his daughter:

Owl Moon
Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by John Schoenherr
Philomel Books


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Gary also talks about reading stories that deal with real-life events happening in his daughter’s life, like the experience of losing a tooth in:

One Morning in Maine
Written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey


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Laurie Joy and Honey the Cookie-Bookie Bear demonstrate a book-based game using:

Noisy Nora
Written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells
Dial Books

(See this book’s Summary and Potluck of Fun in the recommendations for ages 3-6 above.)


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Imogene Washington read and sang to students at the Mattahunt School from:

And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon
Written by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
Illustrated by Janet Stevens


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Gloria Woods and her daughter enjoy and recommend books that relate to history in general and to one’s own family history, like:

Because of Winn-Dixie
Written by Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press

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The Finder family love reading books together and recommend the following selections:

The Giver
Written by Lois Lowry
Walter Lorraine Books

(See this book’s Summary and Potluck of Fun in the recommendations for ages 9-12 above.)


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The Thief Lord
Written by Cornelia Funke
The Chicken House

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The Going to Bed Book
Written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton
Little Simon

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Pat the Bunny
Written and illustrated by Dorothy Kunhardt
Golden Books


2006 Words That Cook   All rights reserved  Box 411, Natick, MA  01760  USA

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