Caramel reviews A Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher

Over the summer Caramel got into keeping a notebook where he doodles sketches and writes stories. Today he reviews the book that inspired it all: A Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews A Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher.
Caramel reviews A Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, tell us a bit about this book.

Caramel: This book is about keeping a writer’s notebook.

S: What is a writer’s notebook?

C: A notebook where writers put writing about their everyday lives. Things they see, think of, and read about. They use it to capture interesting points in the past, so that they can remember them.

S: So it is like a journal, in some ways. They write notes on what is going on and what they think about those things. So how is a writer’s notebook different from a journal? What makes a writer’s notebook a writer’s notebook?

C: Hmm, I am not sure.

S: Maybe it has something to do with the person being a writer?

C: Yes, because if you are a writer, you come back to what you wrote and think about it and maybe you can use it in your stories or poems and so on.

S: So a writer’s notebook is basically a journal, but the person keeping it uses it for their writing purposes.

C: Yes.

Caramel is reading A Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher.
Caramel is reading A Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher.

S: So what is in the book exactly?

C: There are chapters about how different people use their writer’s notebooks. For example, there is a chapter about writing down memories of events that were important to you. Then there is a chapter where you learn that you can also write about really small things, things that might be interesting but not really important. But then somehow those might be useful later if you are writing a story or something.

S: I see.

C: There is a chapter called Fierce Wonderings, which is about how you can also write in your notebook about things that you want to know more about. There is a chapter about listening in on other people’s conversations and taking notes if they sound interesting.

S: I guess that teaches you about interesting dialogue.

C: I guess so. You can also have seed ideas.

S: What are those?

C: A seed idea is an idea that you can build on, so for example the author writes about someone who kept collecting facts about spiders.

S: That reminds me of your notebook, where you keep drawing different robot models.

C: Yes.

S: I think yours is not only a writer’s notebook, but rather, an artist’s notebook. Because you are drawing more than writing.

C: I guess so. But I think the idea is the same.

S: Yes, I can see that. You also keep drawing similar things and try to improve on the details. I think sometimes writers do that in their notebooks too.

C: Writers also put other people’s sentences and ideas in their notebooks too, if they like it.

S: And that is kind of similar to when you were trying to draw Eve in your notebook, inspired by the female robot in the movie Wall-E. You like how she is drawn and want to see if you can draw something similar.

C: Yes.

S: So do you also write stories or even shorter things in your notebook?

C: Yes. I have a few sentences here and there.

S: Do you like keeping a notebook?

C: Yes. Because then I can draw things whenever I want.

S: I can see how that is appealing. So let us get back to this book. What three words would you use to describe this book?

C: Many voices because the author shares writings of many other people, many of them are kids like me. Good ideas to get started with your own notebook… And … quick. It is a short book so I read it quickly.

S: That was definitely more than three words, but you did provide us with three distinct features of the book. Thank you. So let us wrap things up. What do you want to tell our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading A Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher, and will probably continue to doodle and write in his notebook in the coming months and years. .
Caramel enjoyed reading A Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher, and will probably continue to doodle and write in his notebook in the coming months and years.

Marshmallow reviews Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper

This year Marshmallow has reviewed the first four books of Susan Cooper’s classic The Dark Is Rising series. Today she is finally ready to discuss the fifth and last book, Silver on the Tree, for the book bunnies blog. Sprinkles, who has also read the series recently, is taking notes and asking questions.

You can see Marshmallow’s reviews of the first four books here:  Over Sea, Under StoneThe Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, and The Grey King.

Marshmallow reviews Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper.
Marshmallow reviews Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, tell me about this book.

Marshmallow: Silver on the Tree is the fifth and the last book in the series The Dark Is Rising. The series is about the ultimate battle between the Light and the Dark. The Light represents good and the Dark is evil.

S: So what happens in this fifth book?

M: Bran and Will, two of the characters we met in some of the earlier books, go to a different realm, the Lost Land, to obtain the last magic item the Light needs in its war against the Dark. The magical item is a sword made by the king of the Lost Land, and after some challenges, they manage to get it. Eventually though, the Dark does rise, and things look pretty bad for a while. There is an unexpected villain, someone we trust who turns out to be one of the Dark Lords. Pretty strange turn of events, and kind of confusing at times…

S: I know you had some difficulty following some of the plot at times, and you did not always enjoy the book.

M: Yes, I found it a little difficult sometimes, but overall the plot is actually quite interesting. One of the main issues I had with this book was that the style of writing felt unfamiliar to me.

S: What do you mean? Do you think the language was a bit old fashioned?

M: No, not that, but somehow the story-telling was very fluid, going from one location and time to another, and it was not always clear who was doing what. Some of the plot occasionally went over my head until a bit later, when something else happened and I had to go back to reread.

S: You are a very good and experienced reader, so this is interesting to hear. So I can say for myself that I really enjoyed reading each of the books in this series, but I can also see how sometimes things got a bit confusing. There were spots where the transitions between different times and actors were hinted at and not made very explicit, and the actual extent and implications of the threat of the Dark rising were vague, to say the least.

M: Yes, that is exactly what I think. It was not always clear what the Dark rising actually meant because the Dark was evil, but evil in humans was not always caused by the Dark. But I think it meant that once the Dark rose, there would be no more hope of good. Though they could never destroy the other side, so there would always be the Light, and some chance of good, but if the Dark did rise and win it all, humanity would be lost. They would be all slaves to evil. Which sounds kind of vague, honestly, but definitely also pretty terrifying.

S: But you were not really scared reading the books themselves right?

M: No, that was not what I meant. I was only really a bit scared while reading the first book Over Sea, Under Stone. But the Dark rising is a serious threat, I could get that.

S: I see.

Marshmallow is reading Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper.
Marshmallow is reading Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper.

S: So overall, now that you are done with the whole series, what would you like to say to our readers about it?

M: I would recommend this book to people who like myths, because it blends Welsh mythology with King Arthur stories, and then adds some. There is magic, there is a big scary war between good and evil, and some quite ordinary kids having a role to play.

S: That sounds about right to me. If you could talk to the author, what would you say?

M: Well, I would say that the plots of all the books were very interesting though a bit confusing. I did love how she brought together different mythologies. But I really wished that she would have added some more female characters. The ones in the books were alright, I mean, Jane turned out to be useful in Greenwitch. And the Lady was one of the most powerful among those who fought for the Light, but more women and more girls could have made this story more captivating for me as a female bunny.

S: I cannot disagree with that! And I think you were quite disappointed by what happened to the main characters at the very end.

M: I think that is fair to say.

S: I know. But it also makes sense, no? That humans now have to make their own decisions, they cannot depend on the Light to save them nor can they blame the Dark for things that go wrong?

M: Hmm, I think you are now in spoiler territory!

S: You are right, I’m sorry. Let us stop here then. But in the end, I’d say that these are interesting books and this last one wraps things up in an overall satisfactory way…

M: Sure, I am happy to agree with that.

S: Okay, then how would you like to end the review?

M: I’ll adapt Caramel’s famous closing line to myself and say: “Stay tuned for more amazing reviews from the book bunnies!”

Marshmallow enjoyed reading Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper, and though she found it a bit confusing at times, she is happy to recommend the books in the series to readers who enjoy stories that blend fantasy, magic, and ancient myths.
Marshmallow enjoyed reading Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper, and though she found it a bit confusing at times, she is happy to recommend the books in the series to readers who enjoy stories that blend fantasy, magic, and ancient myths.

Caramel reviews Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman and Loren Long

Today Caramel reviews the new book Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, written by poet Amanda Gorman and illustrated by Loren Long. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews Change Sings: A Children's Anthem, written by poet Amanda Gorman and illustrated by Loren Long.
Caramel reviews Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, written by poet Amanda Gorman and illustrated by Loren Long.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, tell me a bit about this book.

Caramel: This book is about change, and how children can change the world.

S: That sounds inspiring! Tell me, how can children change the world?

C: Well, let me tell you what happens in the book. There is a girl in the beginning, who I think might be Amanda Gorman herself, and she has a guitar and is calling people to join her to try and make the world a better place. She helps another person recycle, then the two of them go and help others by giving them food, and deliver groceries to an elderly woman, and then they invite another boy to join their little band, each of them has an instrument. And the three of them go and build a ramp for a disabled kid’s home. Then that kid joins them too, and the group grows, and they keep cleaning up, planting flowers, and they fix up their community buildings and so on.

S: So they all help, and they all work together to make their community a more welcoming place, a good place to live.

C: Yes. And they are making music all along.

S: Well, the book is called A Children’s Anthem, and according to my dictionary, an anthem is a “a rousing or uplifting song identified with a particular group, body, or cause”, so it makes sense that there is music in there, right?

C: Yeah. And it makes it livelier and more fun.

Caramel is reading Change Sings: A Children's Anthem, written by poet Amanda Gorman and illustrated by Loren Long.
Caramel is reading Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, written by poet Amanda Gorman and illustrated by Loren Long.

S: Amanda Gorman is a poet. Is there poetry in this book too?

C: Yes, the whole book is one long poem. All of it rhymes, and it is fun to read out loud.

S: Yeah, I enjoyed reading it out loud with you. We saw Gorman read her poem “The Hill We Climb” in the inauguration of President Joe Biden this January. Do you remember?

C: Yes I do. Can we put a video of her poem here?

S: Yes, of course. Okay, here it is:

Amanda Gorman reads inauguration poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’ (January 20, 2021, PBS).

S: So what do you think about the poem that is the main text of the book?

C: There are so many different types of people, and the poem brings them all together. And even though they are all very different, they all work together and make their community better.

S: So you also like the illustrations.

C: Yes. They are very colorful. And the children really look like they are dancing and making music and having lots of fun. But this one boy looks like he is dancing but I don’t think that the position he is in is possible, his feet would break!

S: Yes, but think of it not as standing but while jumping up and down or turning around, in some instant, you might look like you are doing something impossible.

C: I guess he could be jumping up. And there is a kid who is playing basketball and that is cool too.

S: Yes, the children when they join are just doing standard kid things and they just join in to help. And that seems to be the message, right? That we can all help.

C: And even us kids can help too, and if we do, we can change the world.

S: That is inspiring. Okay Caramel, we wrote long enough. Tell me your three words to describe this book, and we can wrap it up.

C: Colorful, inspiring, poetic.

S: I like those words Caramel. And what do you want to say to finish the review?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading Change Sings: A Children's Anthem, written by poet Amanda Gorman and illustrated by Loren Long, and recommends it to little bunnies who enjoy the sound of words and like to think about how they can make the world a better place.
Caramel enjoyed reading Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, written by poet Amanda Gorman and illustrated by Loren Long, and recommends it to little bunnies who enjoy the sound of words and like to think about how they can make the world a better place.

Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

This week, Marshmallow continues her repeat journey through the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, and reviews the fourth book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The version she is writing about below is the gloriously illustrated edition, with illustrations by Jim Kay.

For Marshmallow’s reviews of the earlier books see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Marshmallow also reviewed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, written as a sequel to the whole series.

Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.
Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about magic and school, or enjoyed the earlier books or any of the movies in the Harry Potter series, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Harry Potter is a fourteen-year-old boy who discovered his wizard identity on his eleventh birthday and has ever since been attending Hogwarts, a school for young wizards. This fourth book about Harry’s adventures in and around Hogwarts starts with the murder of an old Muggle, which is the word wizards use for people who don’t have magic. The Muggle is murdered by Harry’s archnemesis, Lord Voldemort, and Harry sees the whole event in a dream. Lord Voldemort is in a large house that Harry does not recognize, but he does recognize one of Lord Voldemort’s accomplices: Peter Pettigrew, who, as we all learned in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, was the traitor who betrayed his parents. 

On a happier note, Harry is going to be visiting his friend, Ronald Weasley, and watching a Quidditch game with Ron’s whole family and their friend Hermione. However, after the game, Death Eaters, servants of Lord Voldemort, attack the camping grounds for the game and set the Dark Mark, the symbol of Lord Voldemort, in the sky. 

Marshmallow is reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.
Marshmallow is reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.

When Harry returns to Hogwarts for the new school year, he learns that the Triwizard Tournament is being held. The Triwizard Tournament, which had not been held for a while due to it being extremely dangerous, is a tournament in which three students, one from Hogwarts, one from a wizarding school in France named Beauxbatons Academy, and one from another wizard school in northern Europe named Durmstrang Institute. These students compete in trials and the winner receives the Triwizard Cup and a lot of money. Students who are eligible (they need to be seventeen or older) put their names in to the Goblet of Fire, and the Goblet will select the champions.

In the end, Cedric Diggory from Hufflepuff, one of the houses at Hogwarts, is selected, along with Fleur Delacour from Beauxbatons, and Viktor Krum from Durmstrang. (Viktor is also a famous Quidditch player and we had heard about him before when watching the quidditch game when the Dark Mark had appeared.) Surprisingly, the Goblet also selects Harry, who did not put his name in, nor is eligible because he is too young. However, the judges decide that he will have to compete.

The Triwizard Tournament has always been extremely dangerous, and now, given the impending return of Lord Voldemort, Harry faces more danger than he can imagine. 

Marshmallow is still reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.
Marshmallow is still reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a great book and makes a great fourth book to the Harry Potter series. The author J. K. Rowling created an amazing world and we continue to learn more about it in this book. Something that really adds to the pleasure of reading these books is all the details that she adds. 

The particular version that I chose to read for this review is the illustrated one, by Jim Kay. The drawings are amazing! There are almost no pages that don’t have a special background related to the story, or a drawing or two in the corner. Sometimes there are pages that are all pictures, beautiful, eerie, haunting, whatever is needed at that point of the story. 

Some of the illustrations reminded me of the movie, which too was pretty awesome. Here is the trailer for it in case you are interested in checking it out:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Original Theatrical Trailer (2005).

The plot is very well written. There are some twists and turns that one would not expect, but the evidence is all in the story. Sprinkles tells me that this was the most moving book in the series for her. It is also one of the longest (only the fifth book is longer). But it is definitely worth the read.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay 100%.
Marshmallow rates Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay 100%.