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Barakah Beats

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For fans of The First Rule of Punk and Save Me a Seat, Barakah Beats is a sweet, powerful, and joyous novel about a Muslim girl who finds her voice on her own terms... by joining her school's most popular boy band.

Twelve-year-old Nimra Sharif has spent her whole life in Islamic school, but now it's time to go to "real school."

Nimra's nervous, but as long as she has Jenna, her best friend who already goes to the public school, she figures she can take on just about anything.

Unfortunately, middle school is hard. The teachers are mean, the schedule is confusing, and Jenna starts giving hijab-wearing Nimra the cold shoulder around the other kids.

Desperate to fit in and get back in Jenna's good graces, Nimra accepts an unlikely invitation to join the school's popular 8th grade boy band, Barakah Beats. The only problem is, Nimra was taught that music isn't allowed in Islam, and she knows her parents would be disappointed if they found out. So she devises a simple plan: join the band, win Jenna back, then quietly drop out before her parents find out.

But dropping out of the band proves harder than expected. Not only is her plan to get Jenna back working, but Nimra really likes hanging out with the band-they value her contributions and respect how important her faith is to her. Then Barakah Beats signs up for a talent show to benefit refugees, and Nimra's lies start to unravel. With the show only a few weeks away and Jenna's friendship hanging in the balance, Nimra has to decide whether to betray her bandmates-or herself.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published October 19, 2021

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About the author

Maleeha Siddiqui

4 books72 followers
Maleeha Siddiqui is an American writer of Pakistani descent who loves to tell unapologetically Muslim stories for all ages. By day, Maleeha works as a regulatory affairs professional in the biotech industry. She grew up and continues to reside with her family in Virginia. "Barakah Beats" (Scholastic 2021) is her debut novel.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 150 reviews
June 20, 2021

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I snatched this one right up because the premise sounded so cute. It's about a young girl named Nimra who ends up switching from a religious school to a public school, where she gets involved in a school band (Barakah Beats). It's middle grade but deals with a lot of grown-up issues, like changing friendships, staying true to yourself, finding your passions, practicing faith (and different interpretations of faith), and, of course, the feeling of finding something you're really good at and enjoy.

BARAKAH BEATS was just as cute as the cover made it look but as with other middle grade novels I have read, the narrator sometimes felt more like an adult writing what they thought a preteen should sound like and less like a preteen. I think it's hard to capture that mindset perfectly and it might not be something as many younger readers would pick up on. Overall, this was a light, enjoyable read.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

3 stars
Profile Image for Maleeha Siddiqui.
Author 4 books72 followers
March 14, 2021
Being the author, I'm obviously biased. That aside, I'm both excited and terrified to share this book with the world in the fall. At its core, BARAKAH BEATS is a joyful story about a proud young Muslim girl navigating friendships, family drama, and her beliefs, just like any other middle school kid. I hope some part of Nimra’s journey resonates with you <3 I'm proud that this is my debut.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,252 reviews488 followers
October 15, 2021
Five singing stars for this musical #ownvoices book about a Nimra Sharif and her first year in middle school. Her unexpected encounter after midday prayer with a boy band gives her an idea for fixing her relationship with her bestie Jenna. Although Nimra's family abstains from music and dancing, her Quran memorization is in itself very musical -- causing the band (Barakah Beats) to pursue Nimra as their fourth member. The gorgeous cover promises an uplifting narrative and while there is conflict, ultimately the resolution of the problem is achieved in a healthy and godly manner. Maleeha Siddiqui has given us a lovely new middle grade book that will function well as a window for those who are not a part of the Muslim faith and a door for those who are.

Thank you to Scholastic for a paperback ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Fanna.
987 reviews498 followers
Want to read
March 14, 2021
March 13, 2021: "about a Muslim girl who joins a boy band in an effort to find her place at a new school"
faith + friendship + courage = excellence
Profile Image for CW ✨.
631 reviews1,689 followers
December 25, 2021
Lovely, fun, and nuanced! I actually really enjoyed this, and particularly enjoyed how affirming and empowering this story is, where a young Muslim girl decides what she wants and who she wants to be on her own terms.

- Follows Nimra, a young Pakistani-American girl who transfers from her Islamic school to middle school, and has to navigate her changing friendship, inadvertently joining a boy band despite her religious views that music is not allowed.
- I loved that this story shows how middle school and change can be scary - but Nimra navigates everything with courage, even if she is daunted and afraid at times.
- The story explores Islam and music. What I liked is that the author shows that being Muslim is not a monolith, and that different Muslim people will have different views about music.
- Furthermore, I liked that Nimra makes her own decisions. At times, she loses her way and she questions and explores her own views and how that fits in her family's perspective of music and her beliefs, but the story is firmly about her and her own journey.
- It has a neat subplot about friendships too, exploring how good friends are those who support you for who you are, especially when you are being true to yourself.
Profile Image for Mid-Continent Public Library.
581 reviews174 followers
May 13, 2022
Five singing stars for this musical #ownvoices book about a Nimra Sharif and her first year in middle school. Her unexpected encounter after midday prayer with a boy band gives her an idea for fixing her relationship with her bestie Jenna. Although Nimra's family abstains from music and dancing, her Quran memorization is in itself very musical -- causing the band (Barakah Beats) to pursue Nimra as their fourth member. The gorgeous cover promises an uplifting narrative and while there is conflict, ultimately the resolution of the problem is achieved in a healthy and godly manner. Maleeha Siddiqui has given us a lovely new middle grade book that will function well as a window for those who are not a part of the Muslim faith and a door for those who are. *Review by Darla from Red Bridge*
Profile Image for Kirin.
428 reviews26 followers
September 1, 2021
I have been waiting for this book for a really long time: a girl leaves an Islamic school for a public middle school and is not just unapologetic, but proud of who she is and of her religion, all while navigating such a huge life change and the day-to-day stresses of school, family, friends, and life. This is it right, the middle grade 288 page book that holds up the mirror to our own experience as a typical Muslim family in the west, that so many of us have been waiting for? Except, sigh, for me it was just ok. Don't get me wrong, if you are new to seeing mainstream (Scholastic) Muslim protagonists shining and making their salat on time, this book is revolutionary and amazing. But, I've been doing this a long time, and I guess I wanted more than a tweak on Aminah's Voice. I wanted to relate. I'm not a hafiza, nor do I know many 12 year olds that are. I enjoy boy bands, but have never been asked to join one. Sure the details and her decision to follow Islam the way she understands it is a great message, but it doesn't clearly appear til nearly the end of the book, and until I got there my brain was constantly finding holes in the narrative, to the point I got out a notebook and started taking notes. There is absolutely no reason you shouldn't read the book, and I know I am clearly in the minority here, so brace yourself this is a long review. If you see this at your child's book fair and you think it looks cute, grab it, it is. I am cynical and jaded and I'm owning it, so perhaps we can agree to disagree, I'm just sad that I didn't absolutely love it, so hold on, because I'm going to get it all out so that I can move on, inshaAllah.

The book opens with Nimra at her Ameen, a celebration to acknowledge her completion of not just reading the entire Quran, but of memorizing it. Her best friend Jenna, her non Muslim neighbor, is there and as everything is explained to her, the readers learn about Surah Yaseen, becoming a hafiza, and the schooling differences that Nimra and Jenna have had. That night when Jenna is sleeping over and the girls are watching Marvel's Infiniti War, Nimra's parents inform Nimra that she will be starting public school and that the two girls will finally be together. The news is big, but Jenna shrugs it off, and Nimra senses that something is off between them. When school starts, Jenna is surprised that Nimra is planning to wear her hijab to school, and this is before they have even left in the morning. The rest of the day: comments by Jenna's friends, purposefully being excluded at lunch by Jenna, and being overwhelmed with a big school and so many teachers, makes Nimra miss her small three person Islamic school. Additionally she loves art, and is always tucked away in a corner with a sketch pad, her parents, however, have made her take Spanish instead of art class, and the frustration is painful. When she asks the principal for a quiet place to pray, another girl Khadijah pipes up that she can pray in the band room where she does. Khadija and her immediately hit it off, but she has already prayed, so Nimra sets off on her own to find the room. As she is about to start, some music starts, so to tune it out and focus on her salat, she recites aloud. When she exits, three boys are in awe at her vocal abilities: Bilal, Waleed, and Matthew, three Muslim boys. Better known as the middle school celebrity boy band, Barakah Beats, the boys beg her to join them. Nimra says she'll think about it, but as the days show her and Jenna drifting further apart, being in the band might just be the way to get Jenna to pay attention. Unfortunately, Nimra's family doesn't believe Islam allows for musical instruments. She acknowledges that it is controversial, but that her family doesn't play any instruments, attend concerts, or get up and dance. She figures she can join the band, just long enough to get Jenna's friendship back on track and then dump the band without having to tell her parents. There is just one giant hiccup, they are planning to perform at a refugee fundraiser, oh and she really likes hanging out with the boys and Bilal's sister Khadijah.


Had I read this book five maybe seven years ago, I'd be gushing, swooning, but when the author says in the forward that she is showing a girl proudly owning her religion, and essentially daring to be her authentic self, I expect something almost radical, revolutionary even. We are all settling in to seeing our Muslim selves in fiction and acknowledging that we are not a monolith, that we are diverse and flawed and valuable, but this premise felt different somehow, and I really wanted to connect with Nimra and her family, so when I didn't, it hurt. It isn't just a main character Muslim POV, or an OWN voice book, it is portrayed as being authentic to those of us that love our faith and don't feel like we need to tone it down to be American. We are second or third generation American Muslim, we know our deen and this is our country, there is no going back to a homeland or assimilating. The book is about her being true to her self, but I don't know that I know what she wants or what she believes, aside from her parents. The book addresses intergenerational conflict of power and expectation between her parents and grandparents, but other than for Spanish vs Art class, it seems to skim by the music issue, the main issue of the book. The book expects readers to acknowledge the maturity and voice of a 12 year old girl, but that same expectation isn't given to the readers of nearly the same age. It glosses over any articulate arguments for why musical instruments are or are not allowed. It mentions that some people feel it is ok if the lyrics are not bad, some say it isn't ok, that there are disagreements, that there are controversies, but it never explicitly answers, why? And readers are going to notice. I found it incredibly odd, that the music controversy is at the heart of this book, but the safe alternative is art and drawing. Drawing faces is a HUGE point of differing opinions among Muslims, perhaps as big, if not bigger than music. Nimra is always sketching and it mentions that she often is drawing super heroes: people, with faces, and possibly (magic) powers! The whole book she is in the band, and she regrets that she is using it to get back at her friend, but there isn't a whole lot of internal debate if she thinks music is haram like her parents or it is ok, she just stays in the band, and plots how she will leave it so her parents don't find out. SPOILER: I like that she ultimately makes the decision that is best for her and leaves the band after fulfilling her commitment, but we never see that, that is what her heart is telling her. There is no self exploration or critical thinking, it is just justifying why she is doing it, and then not doing it.

In terms of character development, only Nimra is really explored, the side characters are all pretty flat. Jenna gets some depth, but not much. I mean, how does Nimra's best friend and neighbor who comes over every day after school not know that she has been working on memorizing the Quran? Not know how to dress at a religious themed celebration, a halter dress, really? Jenna is never shown to be a good friend, or even a nice person, the tone around her is negative from the start. We are told she is a good friend, but we never see it. The conversation about Nimra wearing hijab to school is like two lines, but is made to be a much bigger issue in Nimra's head as she feels things haven't been right since then. But, I'm not buying it. The girls go to movies, they go shopping, and she wears hijab, so why would school be so different? All of Jenna's friends know about Nimra, so she can't really be that embarrassed by Nimra's scarf if they go out when she is wearing it and none of the other classmates seem surprised. I also felt off with the portrayal of the character because we so fervently believe that often the best dawah or even method to break down stereotypes and bigotry is to get to know some one personally. Jenna knows all of Nimra's family and has for nearly her whole life, and she is so hateful and clueless to everything Islam? It is a stretch, the family prays, fasts, dresses Islamically, cares for her, feeds her cultural food, yet she is oblivious to it all. I get that her hate or lack of interest is probably reflective of how a lot of our neighbors are, but there aren't many non Muslims in this book, and that portrayal is going to linger heavily for young readers.

Nimra is likeable enough on the surface, but the more you think about her, she isn't really any different than those she is hurt by. She is mad when Julie assumes she doesn't speak English, but she assumes Matthew isn't Muslim because he is white. She checks her self in other ways, but this one seems to slip by. Other inconsistencies I noticed are when the first day of school teachers are really mean to her, but then it is never mentioned again. I wanted to know did they keep at it, did she prove them wrong? It was built up and then just abandoned. At her old school there were two other girls doing hifz, but when she meets up with one at Saturday school it seems they both are no longer at the school either. Did they graduate? Did they abandon it? Her Quran teacher comes to see her perform a song, perhaps a little understanding about her point of view in addition to the other Muslim's in the band would have helped explain the why music is controversial in Islam. Also, does and would ADAMS allow music at an event? I'm genuinely curious. I even tried to Google it. Most masjids probably wouldn't, but maybe a community center would. Readers are going to be so confused why Nimra is so stressed when the religious teacher and the place of worship are fine with it.The friends as boys thing is sweet, but a little surprising, having three boys come over to hang out and watch a movie, high fiving them, sure it isn't shocking, but its a bit inconsistent given the narrative. Plus, Nimra trying to help hook Waleed and Julie up? For as much as the book doesn't want to sell itself out, little acts like this without a little hesitation or comment or introspection, kind of make it seem like its trying to normalize non Islamic acts as being ok.

I love the pop culture Marvel references, The Greatest Showman songs and the shoutout to Amal Unbound. I even loved the Deen Squad remixes getting acknowledged, but it made me wonder if all the songs of Barakah Beats are Islamic themed. Perhaps it doesn't matter, but it would be interesting to know since the entire school adores the band, even asking for autographs at one point.

Nothing a third grader and up couldn't handle: music, art, lying, bullying, talking about crushes, family fights.

Profile Image for Siraj.
82 reviews17 followers
April 28, 2021
Okay so this is like one of my favorite books like... ever??? It has so much in it that means so much to me and I am just thankful for its existence. More coherent review incoming hopefully. Thank you to the author for the giveaway thru which I received an ARC!!!
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,166 reviews2,239 followers
March 19, 2023
DNFed. This is the second book by the author I have tried to read. I just can’t enjoy the writing.
Profile Image for Renata.
2,476 reviews334 followers
December 2, 2021
weirdly GoodReads doesn't have the audiobook edition listed here but I listened to this on audio and thought the reader was great!

I think there's a lot to like about this book and I love Nimra as a main character. I kind of couldn't get over how overly-complicated and sweaty I found the central conflict to be here, though.

STILL despite my grumpy misgivings, a fun contemporary story that will inform some tweens and make others feel represented.
Profile Image for Aya Khalil.
Author 6 books76 followers
April 28, 2021
I received an advance reader copy of this and couldn’t put it down! Nimra is excited about attending public school with her best friend Jenna (I don’t like her one bit), who starts giving her the cold shoulder at school. But then there’s an opportunity for Nimra to join a popular boy band at school! But she’s conflicted. Should she join the band so Jenna can think she’s cool again although she’s afraid her parents will find out?

I love this middle grade novel and Maleeha does such a great job creating an unapologetic Muslim character. I mean the struggle of trying to find a place to pray during the school day— been there done that (in college and not high school because I went to an islamic school). Absolutely love it and must have for all!
Profile Image for xxursolovelyxx.
46 reviews
January 25, 2022
This book was pretty good I supposee... I liked all the relatable parts as a Muslim girl but I must admit the fact they're in middle school makes me cringe a little, even though I'm just barely out of that age group-
I don't know, I guess I can't really imagine a group of puberty-experiencing middle school boys being good at singing and would probably burst into laughter if I was there ;-; (sorry to any middle schoolers). I know its possible but eh.
There were a few parts that didn't sit right with me (but if you read the author's note you might feel a little bit better) like I kept cringing everytime they "sung" the Quran ;-;. There was a point where they used reciting ayatul kursi as a vocal warm up and then transitioned into singing their song right after and my jaw dropped like "WHAT" - I don't know if that's allowed but it sure sounded odd to me. There are also a lot of pop culture references like a bunch of Marvel stuff (which I loved) and then some singers like Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato (which was aight I guess). So my detailed rating is closer to a 3.5 because I didn't LOVE it like I thought I might but I didn't hate it. The central message was good (staying true to your beliefs) but I also can't imagine joining a musical band when you're not a big music person for your trash friend. But its middle school, crazy stuff happens I guess? I wouldn't know, I was homeschooled.
Profile Image for anamiez_.
8 reviews
February 18, 2023
I LOVE IT SOO MUCHHHHHHH its such a nice book great job👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽🫶🏽🫶🏽
29 reviews4 followers
October 2, 2022
I loved this book! Nimra is a great young lady, who learns and grows quite a bit when she transitions from her smaller religious private school to the "Wild West" of public school, and discovers who her friends really are. And though I didn't grow up in a faith, I understand, and applaud, Nimra's connection to hers, and her willingness to fight for it. She doesn't get it perfect every time, but she gets it right when it really matters.

I also love this book because it portrays children at the age they're supposed to be; sometimes, as adults, we can read "all the signs" in a book that point to what the likely result of things might be (i.e., which friends are actually "friends", how to approach speaking independently to our family members about what we want or need in life, etc.). Someone behaves a certain way, and we can see what their likely motives are easily, because we had something similar happen before. But in this novel, we're put into Nimra's shoes, without that experience. We "learn" as she learns. I like that because that means the book meets a 12 year old on their level, and a 12 year old can relate. Middle school is really hard. You're growing up, you're in a new environment, you want to find that place in the world that will make you feel happy. You're trying to figure out who you are. By being so close to that level, this novel will connect with young readers, and teach them how to grow.

I would strongly recommend this, not just to those who practice Islam, but anyone faithful in any religion. It's a great growing up story that many could learn from!
Profile Image for Hana.
447 reviews13 followers
December 18, 2022
3.75 stars

Some plot inconsistencies and some moments that felt slightly off from a religious perspective

And I’m not fully convinced about the way the music issue was handled - though I’m not sure what I wanted either. It’s a massively controversial issue and the actual scriptural evidences for the different opinions would be way too complicated to properly handle in a middle grade novel, so I get why the book didn’t go beyond ‘different people have different opinions, but they’re all valid ways to practice’. But at the same time, I’m not sure ‘just follow your heart and do what feels right to you’ is quite the right message to be leaving readers with either?

But, overall this was sweet. I liked Nimra and how strong her connection to her faith was, and the discussion of intergenerational family conflict felt extremely familiar and real.
Profile Image for Katie Reilley.
775 reviews27 followers
October 11, 2021
Thank you to the author and publisher for sharing an early copy with #bookexpedition.

For the first time, seventh grader Nimra is headed to public school. Nervous as she is, she’s excited to have her best friend Jenna by her side. But as Nimra begins to navigate the overwhelming classes, teachers, and schedule, Jenna ignores her, causing Nimra to make a desperate choice to win back her friend’s approval.

Nimra receives an invitation to join Barakah Beats, a band made up of popular eighth grade boys. Though Nimra’s been taught that music isn’t allowed in Islam, she’s willing to do anything for Jenna’s friendship and approval. So she decides on a plan: join the band just until things are good with Jenna again, and then quit before her parents find out what she’s up to.

Unfortunately, there’s a major roadblock in her plan: she comes to care about her band mates, and they grow close as friends. So now Nimra’s got to decide who to betray - her friends or her beliefs.

A delightful middle grade read with themes of navigating friendships, family, faith, your passion, and staying true to who you are. Publishing 10/19/21.
374 reviews2 followers
October 26, 2021
Nimra Sharif is an only child with two loving parents. She’s twelve years old and has just become an accomplished Hafiza or memorizer of the Qur’an. It’s a big deal for Muslims and her whole family is very proud. Her parents have decided now is the right time for her to enroll in public school, and she’s excited to be going to the very same school as Jenna. They’ve been the best of friends since they were four, so she’s bewildered when Jenna practically gives her the cold-shoulder. Nimra will do almost anything to win back her friend.
Nimra’s a very likable character. She’s smart, good-hearted, and talented. She has a dilemma to solve, and it’s good to see how she works through it. It also shows her determination in pursuing her dreams. She never gives up. A dynamic novel for middle-grade readers about friendship and fitting in, about being true to yourself and your beliefs.
Profile Image for Jessica Vitalis.
Author 4 books144 followers
October 28, 2021
12 year old Nimra is thrilled when her parents suggest she transfer to public school, which means she'll finally be with her best friend, Jenna. When Jenna acts strangely about Nimra's hijab on their first day, Nimra is desperate to prove she can fit in. Even though her family doesn't approve of music, Nimra joins a boy band, hoping their popularity will help repair her friendship with Jenna. She doesn't intend to remain in the band after she wins Jenna back, but the boys enter them in a fundraising benefit. Nimra's web of lies grows until she finally has to face what she's done––and figure out who she is at home and at school. A lovely story about a girl torn between her religion and the trials of middle school, this book is a recommended read.
Profile Image for Lindsey.
181 reviews3 followers
November 14, 2021
Twelve year old Nimra is about to start public school for the first time. Going into 7th grade is daunting enough, but Nimra is sure with her best friend Jenna by her side she’ll be able to survive

I love this book. It is well written and the characters are well developed. I know very little of Islam or the Muslim culture, but it felt to me that this book was a good representation of the diversity that exists within ones own religion. This book is about Nimra growing up, deciding who she is, what makes a good friend, and how she interprets her faith and can stay true to herself and her beliefs.
224 reviews
March 17, 2022
Popsugar Reading Challenge 2022 - A book about a band or musical group.

This book is a solid 4.5 stars.. I saw the colours on the cover and picked it up. I then looked at the description of the story and saw it had a band and thought, Perfect!!!!!
I enjoyed every bit of this book, the main character (Nimra), her bandmates and all the lessons she learned. I will definitely be recommending this book to everyone at the library, colleagues, young adults...EVERYONE!!! So glad I picked up this book.
Profile Image for Tuscany Bernier.
Author 1 book105 followers
February 1, 2023
I thought it was a cute read. I know I’m not the key audience at my age, so I kept thinking back to what I often looked for in novels in middle school. I feel people might read this and expect her to be this perfect Muslim, but it’s setup in a way that makes a lot of sense for the age range.

She’s struggling with her values and being true to herself while not entirely being sure what her values are to begin with. I thought it was well-written.
Profile Image for Cara (Wilde Book Garden).
1,000 reviews57 followers
March 22, 2022
4.5 stars

This was so lovely! I loved seeing how actively engaged Nimra is in Islam and how important it is to her, and I loved seeing the new friendships she develops. I do think part of the band plot should have been telegraphed a little more? Like, I feel like I wasn't supposed to be as surprised about something as I was, but maybe that's just me!

Definitely recommend!

CW: Islamophobia, microaggressions, references to post-partum depression
Profile Image for Laura Gardner.
1,669 reviews108 followers
April 12, 2022
Loved this book! Forgot to write a review. It’s a very cute MG book about a young Muslim girl going to public school for the first time. Interesting take on musical expression and Muslim faith—I had no idea some Muslims don’t sing or perform music in public. Barakah wears hijab and is treated badly by her “best friend” for doing so at school. Great book about friendship issues…
Profile Image for Debbi Florence.
Author 31 books171 followers
April 16, 2022
A fabulous middle grade book starring a Muslim girl who is struggling to find her voice both in the world and at her new middle school where the BFF she's had forever is acting differently now that they go to the same school. Love the friendships formed in the band SO much! And I love how Nimra learns to find her own path and stay true to herself!
Profile Image for kate.
1,111 reviews922 followers
October 18, 2021
an uplifting and adorable story of friendship, faith and the daunting journey of being true to yourself and your beliefs as a child. this book is full of much heart and was an utter delight from start to finish and one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

TW: bullying, Islamophobia
Displaying 1 - 30 of 150 reviews

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