Marshmallow reviews The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

Marshmallow has reviewed two books by Kate DiCamillo before: Flora and Ulysses and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Today she reviews a third book of hers, The Magician’s Elephant.

Marshmallow reviews The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo.
Marshmallow reviews The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about family, animals, or magic, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Peter Augustus Duchene lives in Baltese with his guardian, an elderly soldier named Vilna Lutz. Vilna Lutz is not particularly bad, but he is extremely obsessed with making Peter into a good soldier. Thus, Vilna Lutz is extremely strict. One day, when Vilna Lutz sends Peter to buy fish and bread, Peter meets a fortune teller. Instead of buying the fish and bread he was supposed to, he uses the money to ask the fortune teller a single question. (Since he is honorable, he decides that he will tell Vilna what he has done, which is very honorable.) Peter knows exactly what he will ask. His little sister, Adele, according to Vilna, was stillborn but Peter has his doubts. When he starts to ask the fortune teller his question, the fortune teller tells him that his sister is still alive. Extremely excited, Peter asks how to find her. The fortune teller mysteriously says, “Follow the elephant.” Puzzled over these words, Peter realizes that this means that Vilna or the fortune teller is lying, which shakes his foundations, because Lutz is a soldier, “good and true”. 

Not very far away, a magician is performing at the Bliffendorf Opera House. He intends to summon a bouquet of lilies. Instead, this magician performs his greatest trick yet: he summons an elephant that crashes through the ceiling. This elephant lands on the legs of the woman the magician was trying to present the lilies to. She is crippled from that and the magician is arrested. The elephant is placed in a cage and then later bought by a rich noble woman to be displayed at her house. 

The elephant is the talk of the town, and Peter hears about it and believes that it will lead him to his sister, Adele. When Peter questions Vilna about his sister’s supposed death, Vilna admits that she didn’t die. Vilna was a good friend of Peter’s father. Adele was not placed in his care because she was just a newborn when she was orphaned. This makes Peter more determined to find her. 

Marshmallow is reading The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo.
Marshmallow is reading The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that The Magician’s Elephant is an amazing book. I always enjoy reading Kate DiCamillo’s books; all of her books are touching and elegant. And this one is especially good. I specifically like how DiCamillo goes into the backstories of all the characters and ties them all together at the end.

The Magician’s Elephant is also a great family book. The main message is simple and perhaps not surprising: even during hard times, family should stick together. But the way DiCamillo tells the story makes all the difference. I listened to this book with my family as an audiobook, besides reading the paper version, too. In both versions, I really enjoyed reading this book. All in all, I think it is a necessary addition to the library of anyone who likes reading children’s literature.

Kate DiCamillo also inserts a bit of a magical touch into this book. The summoning of the elephant and the fortuneteller’s ability to see are both interesting additions of inserting magic into an otherwise realistic storyline, and they make up a major part of this book. All together these make The Magician’s Elephant a touching book that is both realistic and magical, somewhere between fairy tales and realistic fiction.

The version of the book I read was illustrated by Yoko Tanaka. Tanaka’s full-page illustrations were black and white and simple, but contributed to the general magical atmosphere of the story.

I will read this book again.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo 100%.
Marshmallow rates The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo 100%.

Marshmallow reviews Clarice the Brave by Lisa McMann

Today Marshmallow reviews Clarice the Brave, a 2021 novel by Lisa McMann.

Marshmallow reviews Clarice the Brave by Lisa McMann.
Marshmallow reviews Clarice the Brave by Lisa McMann.

Marshmallow’ Quick Take: If you like books about animals, friendship, or family, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Clarice and her brother Charles Sebastian are ship mice. Their mother was born on land, but all Clarice has known is the vicious ocean. She doesn’t understand why her mother chose to live at sea, especially since it is so dangerous; Clarice’s mother drowned in the ocean during a storm. And that’s just the beginning of Clarice’s problems. The crew of the ship she lives on recently had a mutiny. The Captain and those loyal to him were shipped off to die on the open ocean. Unfortunately, Clarice and the Captain’s cat were also put on that boat, while her brother is stuck on the ship with the mutineers. The Captain’s cat, named Special Lady, killed and ate Clarice’s older sister. However, Clarice soon realizes that she and Special Lady must cooperate to survive. Eventually, Clarice and Special Lady start to sneak each other food, in a sort of trade. This leads, slowly, to their eventual friendship.

Meanwhile, on the ship with the mutineers, Charles Sebastian is left alone without his family. Charles Sebastian was always an unusual mouse, and so Clarice is very worried about whether he will be able to take care of himself. Charles Sebastian starts to hang out with a young girl named Benjelloun who is imprisoned by the mutineers, because she heard about their mutiny, which is illegal. Benjelloun is mistreated by the crew, left outside in the storm, and such. Eventually, Charles Sebastian learns that not all humans are bad.

Clarice has one goal: to find her brother again. But the odds seem impossible. Perhaps, with the help of Special Lady, she can see him once more. And the big question is: will they survive and live happily ever after?

Marshmallow is reading Clarice the Brave by Lisa McMann.
Marshmallow is reading Clarice the Brave by Lisa McMann.

Marshmallow’s Review: Clarice the Brave tells a very touching tale. I think that the book is also interesting because the story is told from the perspective of two mice. In some ways the book reminded me of Poppy and Rye and the rest of the stories of the mice of Dimwood Forest that Caramel has reviewed. But unlike in those books, each chapter in this book is actually narrated by one of the mice, either Clarice or her brother Charles Sebastian. Chapters narrated by each can be identified easily; at the start of each chapter, there is a small portrait of the specific mouse narrating that chapter.

There are also a few full-page illustrations throughout the book. They are done by Antonio Caparo, and they help the reader visualize some of the events going on.

It was really interesting to see how the characters develop through the book. For example, Charles Sebastian grows up into a braver version of himself as he needs to take care of himself all by himself. Charles Sebastian’s friendship with Benjelloun and the friendship between Clarice and Special Lady were both well developed.

This sweet story could be enjoyed by bunnies of all ages; I think bunnies seven and up could appreciate the tale of Clarice the Brave and her friends.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Clarice the Brave by Lisa McMann 95%.

Caramel reviews Somewhere, Right Now by Kerry Docherty

Today Caramel reviews Somewhere, Right Now, a 2022 picture book written by Kerry Docherty and illustrated by Suzie Mason. As usual Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

The book bunnies received this book as a review copy.

Caramel reviews Somewhere, Right Now, written by Kerry Docherty and illustrated by Suzie Mason.
Caramel reviews Somewhere, Right Now, written by Kerry Docherty and illustrated by Suzie Mason.

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

Caramel: This book is about a girl named Alma who is scared and then her mom helps her by making her think of some nice thing happening somewhere right now. Then her brother gets mad, and then Alma helps him the same way. Then the father is sad and then the mom is overwhelmed, and they all help one another, all the same way.

S: So it is about a family who has a lot of small disappointments through their day and they support each other through it all?

C: Yes, pretty much. And I really like how they do it. They think about how somewhere there is something nice going on.

S: So having some perspective about things, that life might be upsetting in some ways for you right now, but look at the big picture: somewhere something good is happening. It’s like that?

C: Yes. For example there is a happy giraffe and a mommy whale and a baby whale and so on.

S: So it is almost like a game, right? If you are not feeling good about your life right now, say you are sad or angry, or disappointed or something, you can think about something nice. I like the idea. Almost like Pollyanna and her glad game. So let us think about something happening somewhere right now that could help us smile.

C: In the book there is a baby horse learning to walk. That made me smile.

S: Yes, me too! But I want you to come up with something yourself. Can you imagine something like that that could help you feel better?

C: Okay, so I’ll “close my eyes and imagine that somewhere, right now” … a bunny is getting sleepy and snuggling near his mommy.

S: Hmm, I think I know exactly where that bunny is!

C: Yes you do. Sitting right next to you.

S: Okay. I think that our readers might find that smile-worthy. I do. Let me try too. I’ll “close my eyes and imagine that somewhere, right now” … there is a beautiful sunrise over a green bay.

C: I like that!

Caramel is reading Somewhere, Right Now, written by Kerry Docherty and illustrated by Suzie Mason.
Caramel is reading Somewhere, Right Now, written by Kerry Docherty and illustrated by Suzie Mason.

S: So what did you think about the illustrations in the book?

C: I think they are cute. I especially like the baby horse learning to walk.

S: True. This is a really sweet book all around. I also thought the family members looked like one another, but not completely. So they could really be a family, don’t you think?

C: Yes. I agree. And the girl Alma has a little brother Jack. Like Marshmallow has me.

S: Yes, that is true too. Did you know there is a song to accompany this book?

C: No! Can we listen to it?

S: Sure. I will also embed it here:

Somewhere, Right Now Song | Kindergarten and Preschool Songs – YouTube (posted by the publisher Penguin Kids).

S: The song makes me think of the times we have been stuck at home and got really bored and frustrated. At such times, we could have played the “somewhere, right now” game and imagine something good happening somewhere.

C: Now we can. Hey, I have another one! Somewhere, right now, I think a baby polar bear might be playing with his mommy. Or maybe sleeping next to her because it is actually kind of late.

S: I see you are trying to send me a signal Caramel.

C: Yes.

S: This book made me want to snuggle too. I think it is a very good book for snuggling with one’s favorite little bunny and reading together.

C: Yes. I think so too. How about we do just that?

S: I think we might. But before that, tell me three words to describe the book.

C: Colorful, happy, and sweet.

S: I agree with all three of your words Caramel! So let us wrap up this review then. What do you want to tell our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews! Oh and May the Fourth be with you!

Caramel enjoyed reading Somewhere, Right Now, written by Kerry Docherty and illustrated by Suzie Mason, and recommends it to all the little bunnies (and the big bunnies they read together with) for snuggle time.
Caramel enjoyed reading Somewhere, Right Now, written by Kerry Docherty and illustrated by Suzie Mason, and recommends it to all the little bunnies (and the big bunnies they read together with) for snuggle time.

Marshmallow reviews Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Today Marshmallow reviews Paint the Wind, a 2007 novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Marshmallow reviews Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan.
Marshmallow reviews Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about horses and family, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): Maya has been living in Southern California with her paternal grandmother Agnes Menetti since her parents’ death. Maya doesn’t remember too much about her parents, especially her mother Ellie. But she does know that her grandmother hated her mother and that she blamed her for the death of Maya’s dad. Agnes has destroyed everything about Ellie, cutting her out of pictures and throwing away her belongings. The only thing in the house remaining which belonged to Ellie are her toy horses, and only because Maya has kept them a secret.

Maya’s grandmother Agnes likes to control everything: people, things, lives. For example she has never had a housekeeper for very long because she’s always been dissatisfied; she believes everything in the house must be kept a certain way and it is hard for people to live up to her expectations. Of course it’s not always the housekeepers’ fault. Maya seems to have a habit of sabotaging the housekeepers’ jobs. For example one time Maya put a blue sweater in the white laundry to get one of the housekeepers fired.

Maya also has a habit of lying. When the new housekeeper discovers her playing with the toy horses, she lies about how her parents died and why she’s hiding the horses. But the housekeeper tells the grandmother anyways. So Maya sabotages her job, too. After that housekeeper is fired and a new one is hired, Agnes starts acting differently and showing signs of memory loss. Eventually, one morning, she collapses into her breakfast, and soon we learn that she has passed away from a stroke.

Afterwards, Maya is sent off to live with her mother’s family. Her mother‘s family lives in the open fields in Wyoming and rides horses. Maya has never met these people before except for when she was a baby and so she’s very nervous. Living with her new family will lead to some changes. She will have to adapt to survive.

A second thread of the book develops around a wild horse named Artemisia. Several chapters, including the first one, have the reader follow Artemisia and the other mustangs as they go through their lives in the wilderness of Wyoming.

As you can expect, the two storylines eventually do merge together and we see Maya and Artemisia forge a strong bond. But not all is fun and games. There is serious trouble ahead.

Marshmallow is reading Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan.
Marshmallow is reading Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that Paint the Wind is a neat book. The plot line is very intriguing and the whole book is overall very informative. I learned a lot of new things about horses which I didn’t know before. I can see how this would be a great book for bunnies who love horses. I am not especially interested in horses, not more than any other four-legged creature, but I too found the book compelling.

I also found the characters interesting and unique. Though Maya starts out as a lying and inconsiderate person, the book does show us how she transforms into a person who cares about people and living creatures other than herself.

I found the repeated theme about ghost horses interesting: Maya remembers a story about them told by her mom Ellie, and this comes up a few times throughout the book. However I was a little confused about the ending. I wanted to know more about the ghost horses.

The author Pam Muñoz Ryan also wrote Esperanza Rising, which I recently reviewed. The two books have a similar writing style, and they both involve a young girl being forced to leave the life she was used to, though the plots and the characters are very different. I do have to admit that I found Esperanza Rising a lot more touching.

Marshmallow’s rating: 90%.

Marshmallow rates Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan 90%.
Marshmallow rates Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan 90%.