some new favorite books

Nov 12, 2013 by

some new favorite books

Enough hip, connective tissue, and passing out talk! Let’s talk books! Anyone who knows me at all knows I am book lover. We have found some fabulous gems at the library recently. Annesley and I are loving our FIAR books and yet, I haven’t taken the time to blog our adventures. Along with all the reading with the children, I am in the middle of choosing books for next year’s colloquia group and trying to make them all dovetail with the books I am reading for the scholar class I will be mentoring at iFamily next semester.

Here are some of our recent library finds. Alphasaurs is absolutely delightful! Each page sports a dinosaur made up of the first letter of its name.


Scattered around the page are facts about the dinosaur’s size, weight, eating habits, and other behaviors. Fisher and Annesley love, love, love this book.


It is definitely going to be one we purchase and we added the author’s other books, Bugs By The Numbers, and Alphabeasties to our wish list as well.

Fisher and Annes love this cute little book, Little Owl Lost.


It is a similar story to Are You My Mother, but the illustrations are much more adorable and have my kids giggling the whole way through.


The Circus Ship is super cute as well.


It is a rhyming story about a mean circus owner and his animals that escape his violent temper in a storm off the coast of Maine. They find refuge in the town and the townfolk hide the animals when he comes looking for them. The finding of the disguised animals is fun, especially for Annesley. She cracks up every time she sees the monkey in the baby carriage.


I have been mentoring a WWII class this fall. It has been loads of work and loads of fun. Some of the fun has been learning more about the stories of men and women who did what had to be done. We Die Alone is fabulous!


I am not done with it yet, but I am amazed at the human spirit. We have more courage than we know.

My co-mentor, Jenn, read Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon in preparation for her lecture on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and she has been raving about it. It is definitely on my must-read list.


Last night we discussed the story of Tito Momen, a man who was imprisoned for 15 years in Cairo for converting from Islam to Christianity. We read this fascinating news article and are looking forward to reading his book, My Name Used To Be Mohammed.


We discussed taking Christ’s name upon us and how that doesn’t always look the same in different parts of the world and different eras of time. We talked about having enough conviction of your Savior to be willing to give up your whole world and even your life if state publicly that you believe in Him. Doesn’t the book sound amazing? I definitely want to read this one in my adult book discussion group.

In my scholar class next semester we are studying John Brown, Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther, and we would like to study a great woman, but don’t have her selected yet. We need to read one biography and study one document about each of these people. Do any of you have any suggestions?

Any suggestions for my adult group? I have an eensy-weensy amount of time to get all twelve books selected for next year and I want them to be powerful, inspiring, though-provoking reads.

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back-to-school book extravaganza

Sep 3, 2013 by

I have been buying and selling Usborne books for the past ten years or so. I love them to pieces and my children thoroughly enjoy them. They form a big part of our homeschooling adventures and are wonderful springboards to draw my children in to a topic and then launch them onto deeper study.

It is back-to-school time and I have a gift for you!

Ten of our favorite books at deep discounts!

Orders are due by Monday night at midnight and you must Paypal me at when you place your order. If we don’t reach our minimums, I will refund your pennies back to you pronto. When you email me your book order at, please include the title of the book, how many copies you want, and your snail mail address if you are not local.


See Inside Your Body has long been my children’s go-to book for all things body related. I would recommend it for children from 4-10. Each two-page spread details a different body system and has oodles of sturdy flaps to lift and find out more about that bone, cilia, muscle, or sphincter. Retail: $13.99, Back-to-School Special: $8.50



art treasuryArt Treasury is chock full of delicious art ideas. Each artist spotlighted has four pages devoted to them. The first two-page spread gives a biography of the artist and presents one of their most famous works of art. The next two pages give detailed instructions for how to create a similar type of art project with your own children. We love this book! Retails for 19.99, Back-to-School Special: $12.00


art treasury - plate


The Big Book of Things To Draw is 96 pages of step-by-step drawing instructions perfect for anyone ten and up. We have used this to break down the process of drawing and have created some pretty remarkable works of art! Retail: $16.99, Back-to-School Special: $10.50.

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Oh my heavens, I love these things! I always have at least one set in the car and in my purse so my little ones can use them whenever we are out and about, stuck waiting for big kids to be done with lessons, at doctor’s appointments, etc. You can choose any of the fabulous card sets…our favorites for the 9 and younger set are 100 Things For Little Children To Do On A Journey, Animal Doodles, and Animal Stencil Cards. For the 8 and older set we love Math Puzzles, Number Puzzles, 50 Brain Games, 50 Secret Codes, Tricky Words To Spell, and Grammar & Punctuation. Retail: $9.99, Back-to-School Special: $6.50.

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The Patterns Coloring Book is a huge hit with everyone who sees it! It is full of intricately designed pages ready to be colored in (we like colored pencils best for this) in whatever color scheme your little artist selects. On many some of the two-page spread there are several sections of the same design so your artist can color one section in all warm tones, one in all cool, one in bold/contrasting, and one in soothing/similar tones. It is so powerful for children to see the difference effects of their color choices. This is one of our favorite books to give as birthday presents to our childrens friends. I would say it is perfect for anyone from 6 – 100! Retail: $5.99, Back-to-School Special: $4.00





Fisher and Annes LOVE the Sticker books. Sticker Dolly Dressing Around The World is one of Annesley’s favorite books. She loves all the sticker books and they actually last her several months, so it is a great investment of $$$ on my part too. Each page has a background scene with different characters and then your our little one dresses up the characters from around with stickers organized in the back by page number for each sticker set. Fisher’s favorite is Sticker Dressing Knights. Retail: $8.99, Back-to-School Special: $6.00.


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The Phonics Workbooks are super fun for anyone four and up and learning to read. They are full of coloring, drawing, copying, and sticker activities to learn all about the sounds the letters make. Set of Four Books Retail: $31.96, Back-to-School Special: $20.00.



The World Wars is a beautiful, 256 page book that allow youth to learn all about the leaders, battles, political issues, countries involved, treaties, weapons, victims, and survivors of the two biggest wars of the 20th century. The photographs are simply stunning and the text is informative while not being too graphic for youth to digest. This is my a favorite of Fisher and Blythe’s and will always be in our home as a reference book. Recommended for 10 and up, but Fisher is 8 and pours over the pictures for hours and asks us questions about what he is seeing. Retail: $25.99, Back-to-School Special: $16.00


Castles was Blythe’s favorite book for a long time and now Fisher loves it. You learn about all sorts of different types of castles from various parts of the world and different eras of time. The inside, outside, weaponry, staff, gardens, toileting, and much more are presented for each castle type in somewhat of a Where’s Waldo style combined with National Geographic type photos. This is a must-have book for anyone remotely interested in medieval history, weapons, or knights. Retail: $14.95, Back-to-School Special: $9.50.



I Love Words is such a delightful book! it is part writing, part art, and 100% hilarious creativity. Each page has a different writing prompt that draws children in to creating new words, making a talking cake, creating characters for stories, and becoming a fully-engaged writer. Retail: $14.95, Back-to-School Special: $9.50.

If these rock-bottom price selections aren’t your favorite, you can get anything in this catalog for 30% off.

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june’s book gems

Jun 11, 2013 by

Ack! I still haven’t posted about Annesley’s first lost tooth, our hike at Cress Creek, or our swimming adventure and now it is time for me to be off again. Tomorrow I am taking Blythe to Present Yourself, a class on learning impactful public speaking and mastering one’s body language. She earned a free ticket back in November by writing an awesome essay about her mission in life.

Before I go though, I wanted to share a few of our newest book finds!

The Serpent Came To Gloucester is so fun! The entire book is written as a poem and reading it out loud to Fisher this morning was a treat. I could read it all day! It is a long, meandering poem told from the perspective of a little boy who wants the sea serpent to live and frolic while his fellow townsfolk hunted it across the sea. Fisher identified immediately with the little boy and kept hoping the sea serpent would escape.

By the way, after his itsy-bitsy snake he adopted at Swim Camp escaped, he found a new one in our yard a few days ago. It is about five times as big and he loves it with all his bug-loving heart. We even found him sleeping with it in his sleeping bag! Thank goodness he was outside! I don’t think this boy is scared of any creature out there. He is sure he can tame them and make them his friend.

We are huge Anno fans over here and Anno’s Alphabet is one of our latest delights. If you are looking for a new spin on the old alphabet book, here are some we are reading with Annes right now. The City ABC Book is full of pictures of big city objects that have letter shapes in them. It is super fun to see my little one’s eyes light up when they spot the elusive letters. ABC Bunny is a treasure from 1933! It looks just like a vintage book should and is written in a sing-songy prose that is quite lovely. My children love the nature pictures and I love the unique story they tell.

Last but not least, 13 Words by Lemony Snicket is a gem. I am not a Series of Unfortunate Events fan, but The Conductor is Dead and now 13 Words has made me rethink my first impression of this author. This book is built on the foundation of thirteen words (bird, despondent, cake, dog, busy, convertible, goat, hat, haberdashy, scarlet, baby, panache, and mezzo-soprano) and the magic is in how they are brought together to develop an entire story. The vocabulary and humor are simply delectable!

As for our family read-aloud we are still plugging away on Freckles. Papa, Mama, Blythe, and Fisher are loving it. Keziah and Annes, not so much. I am on the lookout for our next read-aloud. Please share your suggestions for a great story sure to be loved by children from 17 – 5.

Richard and I are on a World War II kick. I am reading The Longest Day and have to force myself to stop reading and get some sleep each night. The story of D-Day has always fascinated me and this collection of eyewitness accounts is superb. If you have any interest in WWII, pick this one up! Richard is reading Unexplained Mysteries of World War II and is always surprising me with amazing anecdotes and little-known facts.

I think I need to hook up a hammock so I can spend the hot afternoons lazing around in the shade of my yard reading a book and napping. That, my friends, is something I dream of often – I think it is time to make it happen.

Happy Reading!

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narration with peter spier

May 14, 2013 by

My Annesley cracks me up. She is so stinkin’ hilarious. Yesterday I had to make a DI run to dump off the stuff from the garage clean-out on Saturday (Did I tell you I cleaned the garage out? Well, yes, I did. It was a long, filthy day, but now we can walk through there without breaking a leg.) Since I was going into town, I decided I might as well return the huge pile of library books that were due last Friday and pay my $26 fine so our renewal and checkout privileges would be restored.

I was tempted by a few books and just had to bring them home for my children. One of them was Rain by Peter Sprier. I llllooovvveee Peter Sprier’s other books, Noah’s Ark and People and decided Annesley would love Rain. Peter’s books are illustrations only – there are no words. Last night I showed it to Annesley and asked her if she would like to tell me the story. She was so excited and pored over the book until bedtime. This morning she asked me if I was ready for her story. I quickly hit record on the iPad (she didn’t know what I was doing) and she proceeded to tell me her creation for the next ten minutes. She told her story in a rhyming, sing-songy voice, but her words didn’t rhyme at all. She repeated the phrase “Oh, No! What will we do?” on almost every page. She talked about all the animals and the umbrella and the brother and sister and how the sister had to protect her brother because she was six and he was four. Her whole story cracked me up, but I was able to keep a straight face and listen while she turned the pages. When she finished her adventurous narration, I hit play and her face lit up as she realized she had been recorded. She listened to her story and giggled the whole time saying things like “Did I really say that?” and “That was FUNNY!”

I love learning with my children. I love being part of their discoveries and creations. I especially love sharing books with them while we snuggle up together.

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book bonanza: bear feels sick

Mar 12, 2013 by


We love the entire Karma Wilson line-up of books, especially the Bear books. Today we read Bear Feels Sick for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Karma writes in a wonderful, rhyming cadence that has children shouting out the last word of each line as soon as they figure out the rhyming pattern. In Bear Feels Sick, the story of Bear and his friends continues, this time with all of his forest playmates taking care of him while he has the sniffles and chills. They gather herbs, stoke the fire, wrap him up, and pat him down. Finally Bear feels better and is ready to play, but wouldn’t you know it, his faithful nurses start sneezing and now it is his turn to nurse them back to health. If you haven’t already read Bear Snores On and Bear Feels Scared make sure you check them all out as the whole set of books is adorable.

Other Karma Wilson favorites are A Frog In The Bog and Mortimer’s First Garden.

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freckles – a new read aloud

Mar 6, 2013 by

I have been wanting to read Freckles as a family for many years, so on Sunday night when I asked for suggestions from everyone on what our next read-aloud should be and Kez shouted out Freckles, I jumped at the chance.

It is so lovely. We are only a few chapters into it, but I am already in love. Gene Stratton-Porter is a wonderful author who paints vivid pictures of human nature, good vs. evil, the natural world – especially the forests and swamps of Indiana, courage to do hard things, and family life. I love her books because they make me think and consider my own choices ever more carefully.

Our last read-aloud, a forgotten classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Land of The Blue Flower, should be on everyone’s shelf. I can’t wait to buy a used copy of the beautifully illustrated version by Judith A. Griffith to put in my family’s library. I want to read it to my children again and again. The king is so wise and his lesson of teaching people to tend a plant with its resultant action of healing their angry hearts is one I need to plant deep in my soul.

I never have a plan in place for read-alouds. I hardly ever know what the next book on our list is going to be. I prefer to be open to inspiration and to jump on opportunities as they arise. God keeps leading me to the next book our family needs to read together and I keep learning to trust His quiet whisperings.

Our read-alouds have really suffered over the past year, not in terms of quality, but in terms of getting through a lot of books. We used to read about a book a month, or sometimes two months if it was overly long. Since my hip injury and even more now with ballet three nights a week, we are reading in slllllloooowww motion. Since last February we have only read The Last Battle, Summer of the Monkeys, The Hobbit, Mama’s Bank Account, and The Land of The Blue Flower. But we are still doing it – still enjoying our reading time and still learning from these great stories – and that is what is really important.

What is your current read-aloud? Or are you still trying to figure out how to make it work for your family?

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Feb 18, 2013 by

Fisher has been asking me to read him Winnie-The-Pooh for quite a while now. I have never read Winnie-The-Pooh and know very little about it, but he has been looking at our big, blue, beautiful treasury and has decided he must know all about this little bear.

We started it last week and while I still don’t quite understand the fascination with this story, I will keep reading it to him because he is loving it. It has sat on our shelf for years and years and this is the first time one of our children have been interested in it. What about you? Are you a Pooh fan? If so, why?

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2013 Colloquia Books

Jan 7, 2013 by

I hold a book discussion group in my home every month and have done so for the past ten years. It is one of my favorite things. I learn so, so much from the men and women who join me to discuss human nature, philosophy, principles of freedom, and classic works of literature. I have people ask me for a book list all the time and sometimes I remember to send one to them and sometimes I don’t, so I decided to post it here so anyone who is interested can find our books easily.


Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes is the story of a Norwegian family and their assimilation into American life in San Francisco. Mama is strong, nurturing, hilarious, and stubborn. We are reading this one aloud as a family and everyone is loving it.


Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead is a fabulous book by Brene Brown. I love her TED talk and can’t wait to dig into this book and learn more about being an authentic human being.


Two Old Women by Velma Wallis is a quick read. I just finished it today during my new hour long study time…started it a few days ago…it probably took me two or two and a half hours to read. It is a simple story, but it has me thinking about courage, forgiveness, peace, whining, community, determination, and hard work.


The Jew In The Lotus: A Poet’s Rediscovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India sounds fascinating! An Amazon reviewer says:

The author writes well, so well in fact that he took me deeper into concepts than I have ever been before. There are a lot of facts in this book and a lot of theology. I have no background in philosophy, theology, mysticism, meditation or any spiritual practices. And yet I was able to follow most of it.

The Jews and Tibetan Buddhists have some things in common. Their monks study sacred texts and practice debate. There are some ancient words that are common to both religions. And on a deep spiritual level, they both practice meditation and visualization.

The differences are vast though. The Jewish tradition is rooted in the family. The Tibetan in a monastic tradition. The Jews believe there is one lifetime. The Tibetans believe in reincarnation.

When the question of the holocaust came up, the Tibetan answer was that it was karma for something bad they did in their past lives when they might or might not have necessarily been Jews. The Jews were shocked by this. They felt it was blaming the victim.

The big issue in the book was about spirituality, however. Modern Judaism is based on customs and traditions and ethnic identity. It is not based on the essence of spirituality which is reached in prayer, meditation, chanting and communication with something much deeper than self, and — ultimately — results in enlightenment.

I read this book slowly, each paragraph bringing up ideas I had never even knew existed before. It was an experience in itself to share the journey with the author who did painstaking research to pull this little gem of a book together.

Recommended for someone who wants to do some deep thinking about spirituality and its place in the modern world.


Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is our read for my birthday month. This has been on my book list ever since my friend Kate recommended it several years ago. She said it made her ponder the issue of creation and stewardship and who is responsible for the creations of one’s hands. I can’t wait to read this and have a powerful discussion on it.


June 6th marks the 68th anniversary of D-Day and to commemorate it, we are reading The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day by Cornelius Ryan. I am a huge World War II junkie, but I have never read this book and it is high time I did. I want to understand every aspect of D-Day and to come face to face with the courage and sacrifice of all involved.


Granville Toogood’s classic book on leadership has been republished with additional information to help anyone become more effective in sharing their ideas with others. We are reading The New Articulate Executive and will practice our public speaking skills as part of our discussion.


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a short fable that has been on my to-do list for awhile. Here is what one Amazon reviewer says:

I checked this book out from the library, but I’m going to buy a copy and re-read it at regular intervals.

I read it over the course of one day, thought “nice fable” & began reading another book as soon as I finished this one. But I found that the lessons contained in this simple story of a shepherd boy seeking treasure, won’t be dismissed so easily. They must have taken up residence in my subconscious and kicked up some dust, because my mind keeps returning to the lessons of the story to find new and more subtle insights having formed.

These are lessons that we all know in our hearts, but that we forget as we get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of our material lives. Lessons about listening to our hearts and following our dreams. Lessons about living in the moment, the transient nature of possessions and the illusion that we can even “possess” something to begin with. Lessons about freeing ourselves from fear and about understanding our lives as part of the energy of the Universe and understanding that everything will work out the way it was intended to. Lessons about trusting in signs, knowing that our lives have a grand purpose and that the forces of the Universe will conspire to help us fulfill that purpose. And the lesson that all of the fortunes and misfortunes we encounter in life are part of our spiritual education, and that it’s not the earthly “treasure” we seek that’s important but the lessons learned while in pursuit of it.

If you like to ponder the meaning of life, then let your mind and spirit mull over the lessons in this book. It’s a quick and enjoyable read that will provide some new insights, or remind you of some old one’s that you’ve forgotten.


We are reading another C.S. Lewis (because I love Jack to pieces and learn so much from him each time I read one of his works) book this year…actually three of them – the entire Space Trilogy! I have wanted to read these for years and can’t wait to spend my summer reading Out Of The Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. Has anyone read these to their family? I am wondering how they would be as a read aloud.


Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea has been recommended by Becky, a long-time colloquia member, for the past couple of years. I am interested in learning about the struggle for survival, the courage to live, and the heartbreak that is ever-present in the totalitarian regime of North Korea.


Do you feel overwhelmed or inundated by the plethora of choices we have available to us today? I know I do. If there are fifty different toothpastes on the shelves, one of them must be the best in terms of effectiveness and what is the best value in terms of price vs. working well. Barry Schwartz delves into the psychological effects of having too many choices in today’s modern world in The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.


Emma. Yes, we are delving in to Jane Austen’s world of relationships once again. There are a hundred (thousand?) different versions out there, but I highly recommend this one because not only is it breathtaking, it is chock-full of annotations that explain the culture and time period for those of us who aren’t experts on the Regency Era and will greatly deepen our understanding of the characters and their experiences.

I am excited about our reads for this year and especially for our discussions. If you would like to read along with us, but cannot join us for the discussions, feel free to post your thoughts here or email me and we can talk back and forth about your insights!

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while there’s life

Dec 8, 2012 by

While there’s life there’s hope.

This line from The Hobbit jumped out at me and spurred all sorts of thoughts in my brain. Bear with me while I try to sort them out and share them with you in some semblance of coherency.

I think this theme of keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep working, keep trying, keep doing, keep becoming, keep on keeping on, no matter what the odds are against you, has become my take home message from Tolkien’s writings. It doesn’t matter how hopeless it looks. It doesn’t matter how absolutely impossible it appears. Our job is to keep trying…and to believe in some small recess of our soul (or our whole soul if we can muster it) that there is hope. Our task is to let God do what He will and to keep on working so He can do what He will. I must need to hear that lesson because it continues to jump out at me whenever I read his works.

There is not much hope that Bilbo and the dwarves will succeed in killing Smaug and reclaiming their treasure. There isn’t even much hope they will ever even get to Smaug alive in the first place. Despite the odds against them, they feel called to redeem their land, their home, their treasure, and their family’s honor. Time and time again it seems there is no way out of their predicaments and time and time again they are rescued or shown a new way or provided a solution to their obstacle.

Every single time.

In The Lord of The Rings, the task is even more impossible. It is completely ridiculous for anyone to believe for a moment that the nine members of the Fellowship have any chance of success in their quest to destroy the ring.

And yet, they set out with determination to do their best. They keep trying. And God works miracles. He delivers them. He sends help. He gives them small pieces of encouragement. He gives them ideas. He places people in their path at just the right time.

Just like He does for us.

They keep moving forward even when injured. They keep trying even when members of their fellowship are kidnapped and killed. They keep their faith alive even when darkness and evil appear to be winning. They keep doing their part even when Frodo is bitten by the spider and wrapped up for her to eat. In a last-ditch effort to give Frodo a little more time to reach Mt. Doom they mount a distraction effort at the Black Gate where they “know” they will be killed.

Galadriel tells Frodo “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” I believe that. I want my children to believe that. I want each and every child of God to know they have power and influence and capability to change the world. This saying hangs on the wall of our school room and I read it almost every day. It inspires me to live truer to my ideals and to keep hope alive in my heart that each of can bless and serve and love and that those things CAN and DO make a difference.

The key to this, I think, is Bilbo’s father’s advice, “While there’s life there’s hope.” There is always hope. Even when it doesn’t look like we should have any hope, we can still have hope because we are alive and can keep doing small and simple things (or big and wonderful things) to change the course of the future. There is hope because other people are alive and doing small and simple things in their lives and those things change the course of our future and the future. Most of all, there is hope because Jesus is alive and His life is the source of all hope. His life provides the way to peace and joy in our lives. His life is the roadmap for our return to God. His life and his atoning sacrifice provide the only hope we have.

What gives you hope?

p.s. I took this quiz the other day to see which character I am most like in Tolkien’s writings…pretty funny results:

YOU ARE MOST LIKE A: WIZARD. You’re a peacemaker, a do-gooder, a leader in a land fraught with peril. Like a wizard, you’re a bad*** cloaked in the body of an average joe. You never turn your back on a friend or a crisis. You’re selfless, intelligent, and you enjoy a well-lived life on the road.

I love that…a leader in a land fraught with peril. Exactly what I want to be!

If you take the quiz, I would love to know what your results are!

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