Review of Spontaneous, by Aaron Starmer

October 26th, 2016

spontaneous_largeSpontaneous

by Aaron Starmer

Dutton Books, 2016. 355 pages.
Starred Review

The premise of this book got my attention: Dozens of Seniors at Covington High School are suddenly, without warning, spontaneously combusting. They’re going about their days, minding their own business, when they suddenly explode, splattering blood and guts all around them.

The story is told by Mara, a member of the Senior class. Here’s how the book begins:

When Kate Ogden blew up in third period pre-calc, the janitor probably figured he’d only have to scrub guts off one whiteboard this year. Makes sense. In the past, kids didn’t randomly explode. Not in pre-calc, not at prom, not even in chem lab, where explosions aren’t exactly unheard of. Not one kid. Not one explosion. Ah, the good old days.

How would you respond if your classmates started randomly exploding? How would the world respond? That’s what this novel is about.

I did think it was a nice touch that the second explosion happened in Group Therapy, in a group that had been formed to deal with the first spontaneous combustion. That group didn’t continue.

Mara was present during the first several explosions. Eventually, sports and classes get cancelled. Only the Senior class is combusting, so they are isolated from the rest of the world.

Various theories are put forward as to the cause, and some seem more likely than others. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that ultimately which theory to believe is left to the reader.

The story here is compelling. I liked Mara, if I did feel sorry for her. She doesn’t cope real well — drugs, booze, and sex — but who would cope well?

There’s a little bit of a message: Essentially, I was able to pull out of it “Live for today and do the best you can, because that might be all you’ve got.” But I’m straining to get that much message out, and the whole thing felt pretty bleak.

What caused the spontaneous combustions wasn’t the only issue left unresolved at the end. A little more resolution might have made it easier to find a point to the book.

For a book about explosions, it didn’t end with a bang, but seemed to trail off.

So I didn’t feel satisfied at the end of this book, but I enjoyed the ride tremendously. Spontaneous is actually a funny book about a lot of teenagers dying. Pulling that off is rather amazing.

Besides, what would you do if you were part of a Senior class that started spontaneously combusting?

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of When Green Becomes Tomatoes, by Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad

October 17th, 2016

when_green_becomes_tomatoes_largeWhen Green Becomes Tomatoes

Poems for All Seasons

by Julie Fogliano
pictures by Julie Morstad

A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2016. 56 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely book that goes through the seasons with poetry. Each poem’s title is a calendar date. The book begins and ends with March 20 as the seasons go around.

The poems have nice variety. Some rhyme and some don’t. The styles and thoughts cover many different moods. The wonderful pictures make a lovely accompaniment. This is a meditative book and will help you notice the moments.

A few examples:

march 22

just like a tiny, blue hello
a crocus blooming
in the snow

march 26

shivering and huddled close
the forever rushing daffodils
wished they had waited

may 10

lilac sniffing
is what to do
with a nose
when it is may
and there are lilacs
to be sniffed

june 15

you can taste the sunshine
and the buzzing
and the breeze
while eating berries off the bush
on berry hands
and berry knees

Okay, I should stop with Spring! These are only some of the shortest poems, and the book does go through all the seasons. (The “When Green Becomes Tomatoes” poem falls on July 10.)

I will copy out one more, which I just love:

January 5

i would not mind, at all
to fall
if i could fall
like snowflakes
(more drift and swirl
than tumble thump
more gentle float
than ouch and bump)
the most perfect way of all
to fall
is to fall
and fall
like snowflakes

These are lovely. I like the simple child-voice, but with beauty that adults can appreciate.

mackids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/when_green_becomes_tomatoes.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Sonderling Sunday – Meeting the Heffalump

October 16th, 2016

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books. Tonight I’m continuing a look at Winnie-the-Pooh, otherwise known as Pu der Bär.

pu_der_bar

Last week, I began Chapter 5, “In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump,” In welchem Ferkel ein Heffalump trifft. We left off on page 63, Seite 69. Piglet has dug the Very Deep Pit, and Pooh has placed the bait of honey in the Cunning Trap.

We’ll start with the first sentence of the section:

“And off Piglet trotted to his house TRESPASSERS W, while Pooh made his preparations for bed.”
= Und Ferkel trabte zu seiner Wohnung BETRETEN V, während Pu seine Vorbereitungen für das Ins-Bett-Gehen traf.

“the night was beginning to steal away”
= die Nacht gerade anfing sich davonzustehlen

“sinking feeling” = Gefühl des Sinkens

“murmuring a murmur” = murmelte ein Gemurmel

Okay, I have to reproduce the “murmur”:

“It’s very, very funny,
‘Cos I know I had some honey;
‘Cos it had a label on,
Saying HUNNY.

A goloptious full-up pot too,
And I don’t know where it’s got to,
No, I don’t know where it’s gone —
Well, it’s funny.”

= Dies ist ein echtes Rätsel mir;
Ich
weiß, ich hatte Honig hier,
Mit einem Zettel, richtig fein,
Und HONICH drafgeschrieben.
Ein Riesentopf, voll bis zum Rand,
Und jetzt ist er mir durchgebrannt.
Wo kann er hingegangen sein?
Wo ist er nur geblieben?

Try to use this in your conversation:
“It all comes of trying to be kind to Heffalumps.”
= Das kommt alles daher, dass man versucht Heffalumps gut zu behandeln.

And here’s a Useful Sentence:
“The more he tried to sleep, the more he couldn’t.”
= Je mehr er zu schlafen versuchte, desto mehr konnte er nicht schlafen.

“making straight for a pot of Pooh’s honey”
= begab sich schnurstracks auf den Weg zu einem Topf mit Honig von Pu

(I love that word schnurstracks! Google says it means “footprints” or “directly.”)

“eating it all” = fraß ihn völlig leer (“devoured it completely empty”)

“licking its jaws” = die Lefzen leckte

“half-light” = Dämmerlicht

“jiggering about” = herumhüpfte

“Was it Fond of Pigs at all?”
= Konnte es Schweine überhaupt ausstehen?

“a Clever Idea” = eine schlaue Idee

“heffalumping” = geheffalumpt wurde

“Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear!” = Owei, owei, owei!

“bumping” = schmettern

“made a loud, roaring noise of Sadness and Despair”
= stieß einen lauten Ton der Trauer und Verzweiflung aus

“a Horrible Heffalump!” = ein unheimliches Heffalump!

“scampered off” = hoppelte davon

“Help, help, a Herrible Hoffalump!”
= Hilfe, Hilfe, ein unheffliches Heimalump!

“Hoff, Hoff, a Hellible Horralump!”
= Heim, heim, ein heffunliches Hilfalump!

“Holl, Holl, a Hoffable Hellerump!”
= Heff, Heff, ein lumphässliches Limpfahump!

“an enormous big nothing”
= ein wahnsinnsriesengroßes Garnichts

“awful” = grässlich

“Smash” = klirr

“Foolish Piglet” = törichtes Ferkel

And we’ll finish with Christopher Robin’s words at the end of the chapter:
“Oh, Bear! How I do love you!”
= Ach Bär! Wie sehr ich dich liebe!

Now you know how it sounds when you meet a Heffalump and you try to report it in German.

Review of Duck on a Tractor, by David Shannon

October 15th, 2016

duck_on_a_tractor_largeDuck on a Tractor

by David Shannon

The Blue Sky Press (Scholastic), 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Hooray! A sequel to David Shannon’s classic, Duck on a Bike! Though as is best with a picture book series, you don’t have to read the first one to appreciate the second.

The beginning of the book does refer to the earlier one:

Down on the farm, Duck sometimes got wild ideas. One day he decided he could ride a bike, so he did. Then he spotted the tractor.

“I bet I can drive a tractor,” he said. The other animals weren’t so sure, but they all said, “Well, if he can ride a bike, maybe he can drive a tractor, too!”

So Duck starts driving a tractor and convinces all the other animals to ride along. The fun part here is where we hear what each animal says (an animal sound) – and then what that animal is thinking.

The animals are thinking things like “This is the silliest thing I’ve ever done!” “This sure beats walking!” and “I was going to take a nap, but this should be very interesting!”

The Duck manages, somehow, to drive into town, with a full load of animals on the tractor. Then we hear what the people of the town say – and what they are actually thinking. For example:

Deputy Bob blabbered, “If that don’t beat all!” But what he thought was, “How am I gonna explain this to the sheriff?”. . .

The Mayor almost choked on his pie. “Good gravy!” he sputtered. But what he thought was, “Those pigs are even fatter than I am!”. . .

Farmer O’Dell observed. “That’s a dang nice tractor.” But what he thought was, “Hey, that’s my tractor!”

This is silly fun, and I’m looking forward to trying it for my next storytime. I think it will work best with older preschoolers and early elementary school kids, since there are lots of words on each page and some inside jokes.

We’ve got farm animals, a big tractor, and a silly situation. This one’s destined to be another classic.

scholastic.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The White Book, by minibombo

October 15th, 2016

white_book_largeThe White Book

by minibombo

First published in Italy in 2013 as Il libro bianco, by Silvia Borando, Lorenzo Clerici, and Elisabetta Pica.
Candlewick Press, 2015. 44 pages.

This book makes me smile.

It’s a wordless picture book. The background, like the title says, is white.

We see a boy with several buckets of paint and a paint roller.

Each time he rolls a different color of paint on the pages, a different animal appears, made of the new color of paint, and outlined in white. This makes the boy smile.

But then the animal does something to make the boy frown. The birds fly away. The fish swim away. The dinosaur is scary. The elephant is too big. The giraffe is too tall.

The final animal is – you guessed it – a dog.

Without words, we can easily see that this animal is just right.

This book is for young kids who won’t even wonder how using a roller could outline these animals. Without words, with just simple expressions on the boy’s face, there’s so much to talk about. You can start with colors and animal names, but it won’t be long before kids will be talking about the boy’s feelings and maybe how they would feel about each animal appearing before them.

I do think it’s funny that there’s a copyright notice for the “English translation” at the front. Okay, they did translate the title. And the copyright notice information. I looked at minibombo’s website, and I hope that more titles from this Italian publisher are forthcoming.

minibombo.com
candlewick.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave

October 14th, 2016

everyone_brave_is_forgiven_largeEveryone Brave Is Forgiven

by Chris Cleave
read by Luke Thompson

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2016. 12.75 hours on 10 discs.

First, let me say that Chris Cleave’s writing is magnificent. His use of language is rich and evocative. Narrator Luke Thompson’s voice and dreamy accent is wonderful — the voices of the different characters were distinct and clearly distinguishable throughout.

This is another World War II novel — but showed me aspects and details of World War II that I knew nothing about — the siege of Malta, the fate of children who were not evacuated from London, the treatment of Negroes in England, and what it was like to be in London during the bombing.

But — it’s another World War II novel. Yes, I was enthralled. Yes, I was never tempted at all to stop listening. (Did I mention the author’s magnificent and evocative use of the language?) But I’m afraid, sadly, I’m getting tired of World War II stories. I’ve read so many good ones in the last year: All the Light We Cannot See, Anna and the Swallow Man, Salt to the Sea, and The War That Saved My Life.

This one, I’m afraid I never was very fond of the characters. They were interesting. I liked Alistair best — but mostly it was sympathy for all he had to go through. (And his voice was the dreamiest.) The rest were all right, but not necessarily people I’d ever be friends with if they were real.

And the main love story didn’t quite work for me. As far as I could tell, it was some sort of spell cast on them when they laid eyes on each other. Despite obstacles. I just couldn’t quite get behind that, even though they kept telling me how strong that attraction was. I didn’t feel like they actually knew each other well, despite some flirtatious letters (which were fun to listen in on).

And Chris Cleave can think up horrors like no one else! He still hasn’t topped the scene in Little Bee for the most horrific scene I’ve ever read. But this was a book about war, and there were several truly awful moments. They were warranted — this is a war story. But that may be partly why I’m getting tired of World War II stories.

So — I can’t stress enough that this is a well-written book that shows you the daily lives of a group of people caught up in World War II. It lets you peek into their hearts. But those are a few reasons why I personally liked and admired it but didn’t love it. If you take it up, be sure you’re ready for a story about war.

chriscleave.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Brave Enough, by Cheryl Strayed

October 13th, 2016

brave_enough_largeBrave Enough

by Cheryl Strayed

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015. 135 pages.

I love quotations, as anyone knows who’s stumbled across my Sonderquotes blog. On top of that, Cheryl Strayed has already gotten many quotes on Sonderquotes from when I read her book Tiny Beautiful Things.

But you might not be aware that I’ve collected quotations since I was in high school. I’ve got a little notebook that holds index cards on which I’d write out quotes. So I was charmed by this story that opens Brave Enough:

At age twelve, when I came upon a sentence on page two hundred and something of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Ring of Endless Light, I was so taken by it I had to stop reading. “Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light,” I scrawled in semipermanent marker on the inside of my forearm, where it stayed for the better part of a week (and in my mind for the better part of my life).

I’ve been a quote collector ever since.

I so agree with this part:

I think of quotes as mini-instruction manuals for the soul. It’s my appreciation of their very usefulness that compelled me to put together this book. Not because I believe in my own sagacity, but because I believe in the power of words to help us reset our intentions, clarify our thoughts, and create a counternarrative to the voice of doubt many of us have murmuring in our heads — the one that says You can’t, you won’t, you shouldn’t have. Quotes, at their core, almost always shout Yes!

This aims to be a book of yes.

And I start with a great big Yes to this at the end of the Introduction:

The best quotes don’t speak to one particular truth, but rather to universal truths that resonate — across time, culture, gender, generation, and situation — in our own hears and minds. They guide, motivate, validate, challenge, and comfort us in our own lives. They reiterate what we’ve figured out and remind us how much there is yet to learn. Pithily and succinctly, they lift us momentarily out of the confused and conflicted human muddle. Most of all, they tell us we’re not alone. Their existence is proof that others have questioned, grappled with, and come to know the same truths we question and grapple with, too.

There you have it. I went through this book one page per day, pausing to put especially good quotes into Sonderquotes.

This book contains lots of yes.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Books to Nominate for the Cybils!

October 11th, 2016

cybils-logo-2016-web-smNominations are open for the 2016 Cybils Awards until October 15!

I’m a judge in the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category this year, and I’ve already begun reading.

You’re only allowed to nominate one book in each category, and I’ve already used up my nominations, so let me urge readers to nominate some of these books before time runs out on the 15th:

First, one I’ve read and enjoyed tremendously is Love, Lies, and Spies, by Cindy Anstey. That would be for the Young Adult Fiction category.

The rest of my suggestions are books in the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category. They look intriguing. I haven’t read them, but I would like to — so please give me an excuse to do so by nominating them in my category!

First, by two very good authors:
Railhead, by Philip Reeve
Lady’s Pursuit, by Hilari Bell

Some others that look intriguing:
Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard
Julia Vanishes, by Catherine Egan
Once Upon a Dream, by Liz Braswell
The End of Fun, by Sean McGinty

Happy Reading!

Review of Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk

October 10th, 2016

wolf_hollow_largeWolf Hollow

by Lauren Wolk

Dutton Children’s Books (Penguin Random House), 2016. 291 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s the Prologue of this book:

The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.

I don’t mean the small fibs that children tell. I mean real lies fed by real fears — things I said and did that took me out of the life I’d always known and put me down hard into a new one.

It was the autumn of 1943 when my steady life began to spin, not only because of the war that had drawn the whole world into a screaming brawl, but also because of the dark-hearted girl who came to our hills and changed everything.

At times, I was so confused that I felt like the stem of a pinwheel surrounded by whir and clatter, but through that whole unsettling time I knew that it simply would not do to hide in the barn with a book and an apple and let events plunge forward without me. It would not do to turn twelve without earning my keep, and by that I meant my place, my small authority, the possibility that I would amount to something.

But there was more to it than that.

The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered.

So much, sometimes, that I wasn’t sure I wanted such a burden.

But I took it anyway, and I carried it as best I could.

At the end of the book, Annabelle says:

But Wolf Ho

So this is a story about Lies and about Truth, about basic questions of Right and Wrong.

It’s not a World War II story, even though that’s the backdrop. Annabelle lives on a farm in Wolf Hollow. She attends a one-room school and looks out for her little brothers.

The story involves a dark-hearted girl who comes to Wolf Hollow, and who looks sweet and pretty to the adults, but is a cruel and relentless bully.

It also involves a homeless man named Toby, a veteran of World War I, who roams the hills with three guns on his back and camps out in an abandoned building. Again, to adults Toby looks scary, but he’s open-hearted and kind.

Annabelle has a window on both those people that isn’t shared with most of the folks in Wolf Hollow.

This book isn’t light-hearted and doesn’t really have a happy ending. But it’s a book about doing what’s right and seeing who people really are.

But it’s also a lovely book about love and friendship that leaves you uplifted in spite of the tough issues it uncovers.

penguin.com/youngreaders

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/wolf_hollow.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Sonderling Sunday – In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump

October 9th, 2016

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books. Tonight I’m looking at Winnie-the-Pooh, otherwise known as Pu der Bär.

pu_der_bar

Last time I looked at Winnie-the-Pooh, we covered chapter 4, in which Eeyore loses his tail. This week, we’ll look at Chapter 5, “In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump.” The German chapter title is In welchem Ferkel ein Heffalump trifft.

I like to begin with the first sentence, so here it is:
“One day, when Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet were all talking together, Christopher Robin finished the mouthful he was eating and said carelessly: ‘I saw a Heffalump to-day, Piglet.'”

= Eines Tages, als Christopher Robin und Winnie-der-Pu und Ferkel alle miteinander sprachen, schluckte Christopher Robin bin das, was er gerade im Munde hatte, herunter und sagte beiläufig: »Heute habe ich ein Heffalump gesehen, Ferkel.«

(Translation back to English with the help of Google is: “One day, when Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pu and Piglet all with each other talked, swallowed down Christopher Robin what he just had in his mouth, and said casually: ‘Today have I a Heffalump seen, Piglet.'”)

I like this one:
“Just lumping along”
= Einfach so vor sich hin gelumpt

“You don’t often see them.”
= Man sieht sie nicht oft.

“Not now”
= Im Augenblick nicht.

“Not at this time of year”
= Nicht in dieser Jahreszeit

“as they stumped along the path”
= als sie den Pfad entlangstapften

The number here is 160. It doesn’t seem to have to do with the conversion to square meters.
“Hundred Acre Wood” = Hundertsechzig-Morgen-Wald

“stepping stones” = Trittsteine

“heather” = Heidekraut

“If you see what I mean, Pooh.”
= Falls du verstehst, was ich meine, Pu.

“It’s just what I think myself, Piglet.”
= Genau das finde ich auch, Ferkel.

“But, on the other hand, Pooh, we must remember.”
= Aber andererseits, Pu, müssen wir auch daran denken.

“Quite true, Piglet, although I had forgotten it for the moment.”
= Sehr richtig, Ferkel, es war mir nur kurz entfallen.

“very solemn voice” = sehr feierlicher Stimme.

“I have decided to catch a Heffalump.”
= Ich habe beschlossen ein Heffalump zu fangen.

“Cunning Trap” = listige Falle

“That’s just it. How?”
= Das ist es nämlich. Wie?

“they should dig a Very Deep Pit”
= sie eine sehr tiefe Grube graben sollten

“humming a little song”
= ein kleines lied summen

“looking up at the sky”
= den Himmel betrachten

“He would Suspect.”
= Es würde Verdacht schöpfen.

“It isn’t as easy as I thought.”
= Es ist nicht so leicht, wie ich dachte.

“gorse prickles” = Stechginsterstacheln

“much more trappy” = viel fallenmäßiger

“larder” = Küchenschrank

“top shelf” = obersten Brett

“No doubt about that.”
= Gar kein Zweifel.

“It is honey, right the way down.”
= Es ist Honig, bis ganz unten.

“And have you got any string?”
= Und has du vielleicht Bindfaden?

“Heffalumps come if you whistle.”
= Heffalumps kommen, wenn man pfeift.

“Some do and some don’t. You never can tell with Heffalumps.”
= Manche kommen und manche knommen nicht. Bei Heffalumps kann man nie wissen.

And this chapter is longer than I realized. Translating it ist nicht so leicht, wie ich dachte. I will come back to this chapter the next time I do Sonderling Sunday. I’m leaving off right where the Very Deep Pit has been dug and the Cunning Trap is set. The actual meeting with the Heffalump, I will save for next time.

Meanwhile, this chapter had lots of Handy Phrases to try to work into your conversation. Gar kein Zweifel.

Bis bald!