Caramel reviews Penguin and Pinecone: A Friendship Story by Salina Yoon

Caramel is already reading some chapter books, but he still loves picture books (even though last week he just reviewed a book that has no pictures!) This week he reviews one of his favorites: Penguin and Pinecone: A Friendship Story by Salina Yoon. Sprinkles is taking notes and asking followup questions as usual.

Caramel reviews Penguin and Pinecone: A Friendship Story by Salina Yoon.
Caramel reviews Penguin and Pinecone: A Friendship Story by Salina Yoon.

Sprinkles: Caramel, what do you want to tell us about this book?

Caramel: It’s a friendship story and I really like it.

S: What is it about exactly?

C: There is a penguin who finds a pinecone, and asks his grandpa what is wrong with him. His grandpa says it’s too cold for the pinecone.

“It’s too cold here,” said Grandpa. “Pinecone belongs in the forest far, far away. He can’t grow big and strong on the ice.”

So then Penguin takes the pinecone to the forest. He sets off on a journey.

S: That sounds sophisticated Caramel! And very funny. You like to use such phrases! Ok, then what happens?

C: He leaves the pinecone in a special place in the forest, on a bed he makes.

Penguin made a cozy nest out of the softest pine needles he could find.

S: So where is the friendship?

C: At the beginning of the story where Penguin finds Pinecone, they become friends. They play together, so much!

S: He even knits a scarf for the pinecone, doesn’t he?

C: Yes. I’m going to look at that page again. Hmm, that’s cool! Penguin knits an orange scarf for Pinecone. He has an orange scarf himself.

S: So now both friends have matching scarves, that’s cool! Do you ever wear matching things with friends?

C: Let me think. Sometimes I wear matching things with Marshmallow!

S: That’s right! Ok, let’s get back to the book. So Penguin takes Pinecone to the forest but then the forest is too hot for him. So he has to go back home, right?

C: Yeah. But then he misses Pinecone. And then he goes back to find him.

S: Does he find him?

C: Yup, but I won’t tell you the big awesome surprise! At least a surprise for Penguin!

S: Yes, that part is really neat. I wonder if our readers can guess what happens in the end… But we can probably give away the main moral of the story, right? It’s all the way at the end…

C: Yes!

S: So what is the moral Caramel?

C: Ok, I will read it:

When you give love … it grows.

S: That is a sweet idea, isn’t it?

C: It is a sweet story! Actually it’s an awesome story!

S: I know. You have read it several times already, no?

C: I have no idea how many times I have read it really.

S: So you recommend this book?

C: If I were Marshmallow I’d give it 100%!

Caramel loves reading and rereading Penguin and Pinecone: A Friendship Story by Salina Yoon.
Caramel loves reading and rereading Penguin and Pinecone: A Friendship Story by Salina Yoon.

Marshmallow reviews Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Marshmallow enjoys reading stories that take familiar fairy tales and twist them in various ways to see what will happen. See her reviews of School for Good and Evil: Quests for Glory and School for Good and Evil: A Crystal of Time by Soman Chainani, and A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. Below she reviews another such book: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.

Marshmallow reviews Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.
Marshmallow reviews Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.

Marshmallow’s quick take:  If you like books that twist classic fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): Ella of Frell has a big secret. She has to do everything that everyone tells her to. Lucinda, the fairy, gave Ella the “gift” of obedience when she was a baby. The “gift” of obedience makes Ella do everything that anyone tells her to do. If someone told her to cut off her own head, she would have to do it.  

Anyone could control me with an order. It had to be a direct command, such as “Put on a shawl,” or “You must go to bed now”. A wish or a request had no effect. I was free to ignore “I wish you would put on a shawl,” or “Why don’t you go to bed now?” but against an order, I was powerless. If someone told me to hop on one foot for a day and a half, I’d have to do it. And hopping on one foot wasn’t the worst order I could be given. 

But soon her mother dies and she is left without a mother and with a father who she thoroughly dislikes. During her mother’s funeral, she meets a prince named Charmont. They become friends. Then Ella meets Dame Olga and her horrific daughters. And even worse her father marries Dame Olga whose two daughters, Hattie and Olive, start treating Ella badly. Hattie soon discovers that Ella needs to obey orders and so then Dame Olga, Olive, and Hattie start treating Ella like a slave. (Sounds like Cinder-Ella, with her evil stepmother and step-sisters, doesn’t it?) 

The rest of the story intertwines parts of the standard Cinderella fairy tale (she does lose her slipper at a palace ball) with some new ideas (the fairy who “gifted” her with obedience, for example). In the end there is love and happiness, so there it is quite like a fairy tale. But I won’t tell you how things get resolved. You just might have to read the book (or watch the movie, I guess…)

Marshmallow’s Review: This is a very good book that makes you think about how we are so lucky to be able to say no. If a fairy had given me the “gift” of obedience, it would be very bad if I could not say no to an order such as to cut off my head. It must have been scary to be in constant danger. If someone found out that you had to listen to any thing that anybody tells you to do. (Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe Ella could have asked someone to order her to not listen to commands unless she wanted to. I wonder if that would have worked.)

Ella Enchanted is a great book that makes you think about how we can just say no. Ella is a fifteen year old who acts normally and is not as flawless as in the fairy tale Cinderella. The characters, Lucinda, Hattie, and Olive are really quite despicable and are easily disliked. (I really disliked Hattie and Lucinda sometimes.)

Marshmallow’s rating: 95%

Marshmallow rates Ella Enchanted 95%.
Marshmallow rates Ella Enchanted 95%.

Caramel reviews The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

Caramel and Marshmallow have been reading The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak this past week, and they cannot put it down. Caramel explains why below. Sprinkles is taking notes and asking followup questions.

Caramel reviews The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.
Caramel reviews The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.

Sprinkles: What’s the deal with this book Caramel?

Caramel: It’s an awesome book!

S: What do you mean? First of all, what is it about?

C: It’s about a kid making their parent into a monkey. And other funny things.

S: What do you mean?

C: The kid is supposed to ask an adult to read the book out loud. The words of the book are so silly, and the adult has to say them all!

S: For example …?

C: Ok let me read to you a bit.

Yes, I am a monkey. Also I am a robot monkey.

And here is another one:

glug glug glug my face is a bug … I eat ants for breakfast right off the ruuuuuug!

And then there is this one:

My only friend in the whole wild world is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt!

Caramel is rereading one of his favorite pages in The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.
Caramel is rereading one of his favorite pages in The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.

S: And the adult is supposed to read all of this out loud?

C: Yep! It’s so funny! The whole book is full of such silly jokes.

S: And the adult is basically forced to make a fool of themselves… Right?

C: Yep.

S: Is it also fun to read on your own?

C: Yep. I laughed so much saying silly things out loud! It was so funny!

S: So why is the book titled The Book With No Pictures?

C: Because there are no pictures in the whole entire book! But the book doesn’t need any pictures. It’s awesome with or without any pictures.

S: So if you were to illustrate this book Caramel, what kinds of pictures would you add?

C: A robot monkey, ants on rugs, a monkey eating ants off the rug, a hippo named Boo Boo Butt, a robot monkey with a blueberry pizza for a head… Hmm. I want pizza now. I really want some pizza…

S: You want a blueberry pizza?

C: No. But I can also eat blueberries…?

S: Hmm. Let us get back to the book. This seems like a good transition book for kids, right? A parent who wants to encourage their kid to try and read books with not too many pictures might end up getting this for them. And then …

C: Then they would learn their lesson! Ha ha ha!

S: They would pay the price — not only of the book but also of the deed! They would need to read it out loud for their kids and then I bet the kids would be rolling on the ground laughing, listening to their adult saying things like “my best friend is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt!”

C: Ha ha ha! Boo Boo Butt! Why don’t you read this book to me Sprinkles?

S: Hmm… I’m detecting a setup here…

Caramel loves reading and having adults read The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.
Caramel loves reading and having adults read The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.

Marshmallow reviews Funville Adventures by A.O. Fradkin and A.B. Bishop

Marshmallow reviews a recent book published by the good folks at Natural Math: Funville Adventures by A.O. Fradkin and A.B. Bishop.

Marhsmallow reviews Funville Adventures by by A.O. Fradkin and A.B. Bishop.
Marhsmallow reviews Funville Adventures by by A.O. Fradkin and A.B. Bishop.

Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like books that are secretly about math, then Funville Adventures might be the book for you. It is basically an adventure book about a sister and a brother, so that, too, might be of interest to some readers. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): When an evil slide (yes, an evil slide) kidnaps the fourth grader Emmy and her five-year-old little brother Leo, they find themselves in a world full of what I will call Mathamagic.

The evil slide and Marshmallow stare at each other! Marshmallow is thinking of trying not to fall down the slide...
The evil slide and Marshmallow stare at each other! Marshmallow is thinking of trying not to fall down the slide…

In this world, called Funville, they first meet two people named Harvey and Doug. Together they play Hide-And-Go-Seek in a very unusual way. While playing, they find out that the people in this world have super powers. Harvey’s power is to halve objects in size and Doug’s power is to double objects in size. Then they go and eat lunch with Harvey and Doug’s friend Blake. Blake’s power is to erase and clean stuff. Blake applies his power on Emmy’s notebook and the outcome is not very good. 

Emmy and Leo travel through Funville and come across problems. They make new friends and are invited to a birthday party. At the birthday party they recognize some familiar faces that they have met before in the time they have spent at Funville. At the birthday party, they have a good time playing Hot Potato and Musical Chairs, and eating ice cream. As you can expect the games are not the same as they are in our world. Musical Chairs needs a referee because everyone tries to cheat by using their powers. Hot Potato also is a game in which everyone attempts to cheat by either making the potato heavier or doubling the potato and ending up with two potatoes. 

There is a lot more happening in Funville Adventures, but I don’t want to spoil it all for you. Why not just read it yourselves?

Marshmallow’s Review: Funville Adventures is an easy book that you can read quite quickly. It’s a chapter book, more or less, about one hundred pages long, and it is a fun book to read. 

Marshmallow, intently reading Funville Adventures...
Marshmallow, intently reading Funville Adventures

There are no big conflicts, no bad characters trying to hurt the people involved, and once Emmy and Leo find each other, the main story consists of the two of them exploring this new place. As the reader, it is also amusing to try and figure out the math going on. 

Marshmallow’s rating: 90%

Marshmallow rates Funville Adventures by A.O. Fradkin and A.B. Bishop 90%.
Marshmallow rates Funville Adventures by A.O. Fradkin and A.B. Bishop 90%.