Caramel reviews Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Caramel’s class has been reading E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Quite reasonably, they have been pacing their way through the book, but Caramel just could not wait and is already done with the reading. Today he shares his thoughts on this 1952 classic. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews Charlotte's Web, a classic from 1952, written by E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams.
Caramel reviews Charlotte’s Web, a classic from 1952, written by E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, tell me about this book.

Caramel: This book is about animals living in a farm. The main character is Wilbur, he is a pig. In the first chapter he is just born, and the farmer is getting ready to kill Wilbur because he is the smallest one in the litter. That’s called a runt. That’s very mean, right?

S: Why do you say that?

C: The pig is born and they should not kill him.

S: I see. I agree. But I am guessing the farmer is thinking more like how things are in nature, where the weakest and the smallest in a litter will not usually survive.

C: Yes, but later in the book Wilbur does grow and get much bigger.

S: So the farmer decides not to kill him after all?

C: Yes, the farmer’s daughter Fern stops him.

S: So tell me more. The book title involves someone named Charlotte. Who is that?

C: She is a spider.

S: Is she Wilbur’s friend?

C: Yes, she becomes Wilbur’s friend when he moves into the Zuckerman barn. Zuckerman is Fern’s uncle but he is not very nice. Zucker means sugar in German, you told me, but this Zuckerman is not very sweet.

S: I see. Maybe that is why the author chose that name. But why is the book titled Charlotte’s Web if the main character is the pig?

C: Charlotte does save Wilbur’s life multiple times, and she is very important to him. They are best friends and Wilbur learns a lot from her.

Caramel is pointing to the page where Wilbur the pig meets Charlotte the spider in Charlotte's Web, written by E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams.
Caramel is pointing to the page where Wilbur the pig meets Charlotte the spider in Charlotte’s Web, written by E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams.

S: As you know, I did not grow up in this country, and so this book was not on my reading list at school. When I learned about it, I was already an adult. But I also learned that the book was rather sad, so I never read it.

C: That’s an understatement. It is really really sad.

S: Okay, I won’t ask you why it is sad because I think I actually know. But I also know that you don’t usually like sad books. Did you like Charlotte’s Web?

C: Yes! It might be the only sad book I actually liked.

S: Oh? Why did you like it?

C: The story is really interesting, and I liked Wilbur. He is funny and very likeable. And I also liked Charlotte. She is wise and also very nice.

S: I know you like fiction involving animal characters. You already reviewed a whole lot of them, like Poppy about a mouse and her adventures, The Mouse and the Motorcycle about another mouse and his adventures, and Verdi about a snake. Do Wilbur and Charlotte have some interesting adventures too?

C: Oh yes! They go to the fair, and Charlotte makes an egg sack at the fair. She puts a lot of eggs in it. Let me check. 514 spider eggs.

S: That is a lot of eggs! So the book is fun and joyful to read except the sad parts?

C: Yes.

S: So which three words would you use to describe the book?

C: Sweet, happy and sad. Because it is really sweet and happy until it is sad. But then it is happy again, sort of.

S: Hmm, maybe I should read it after all. Would you recommend it?

C: Yep. But you will have to wait for Marshmallow to finish it first.

S: Hmm, I see I have competition. Okay, I guess I will wait. But at least now, after all these years, I know I should read Charlotte’s Web. In the meantime, let us wrap up our review. What do you want to tell our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel has enjoyed reading Charlotte's Web, written by E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams, and recommends it strongly. He already convinced both Marshmallow and Sprinkles to read the book.
Caramel has enjoyed reading Charlotte’s Web, written by E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams, and recommends it strongly. He already convinced both Marshmallow and Sprinkles to read the book.

Marshmallow reviews The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow has already reviewed Over Sea, Under StoneThe Dark is Rising, and Greenwitch by Susan Cooper. Today she reviews the fourth book in The Dark is Rising series: The Grey King.

Marshmallow reviews The Grey King by Susan Cooper
Marshmallow reviews The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you enjoyed reading the previous books in The Dark Is Rising series, then this might be the book for you.

There is a Welsh legend about a harp of gold, hidden within a certain hill, that will be found by a boy and a white dog with silver eyes–a dog that can see the wind. Will Stanton knows nothing of this when he comes to Wales to recover from a severe illness.

from the back cover of The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Will Stanton, an Old One, has lost his memory. He is sent to Wales, to live with his mother’s cousin for a little bit, because he is supposed to be healed by the sea air. When he gets to Wales, he meets a lot of people. One of the people he meets is not a nice person. Caradog Prichard is a cruel man who dislikes everyone. But on the brighter side, Will also meets Bran. Bran is very pale as he is an albino. His skin and hair are white, but his eyes are gold. Caradog Prichard is blaming Bran’s dog, Cafall, constantly, because Caradog Prichard thinks that Cafall is killing his sheep. When Will meets Bran and starts to talk to him, Will starts to get his memory back. He remembers that he is an Old One, and he remembers his previous quests. And he realizes that Bran is “the raven boy” from this prophecy:

“On the day of the dead, when the year too dies, 
Must the youngest open the oldest hills 
Through the door of the birds, where the wind breaks.  
There fire shall fly from the raven boy, 
And the silver eyes that see the wind, 
And the Light shall have the harp of gold.”

The prophecy continues, but I won’t write all of it. But even when Will recognizes Bran in the prophecy, there is more about Bran than what he can know: Bran’s past is not what it seems. As Will discovers more about Bran, he uncovers a shocking truth. Do Bran’s roots come from the Light or from the Dark?

Marshmallow is reading The Grey King by Susan Cooper
Marshmallow is reading The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that this was a very interesting book because the plot is very surprising. I wasn’t able to guess Bran’s background; it was so surprising.

I think that this would be a good book for 8 and up. This is not because it is scary, but because the plot might confuse younger readers.

I think that if you want to read this book alone, that’s fine, but I would suggest reading the previous books too. Also you might want to know a little bit about King Arthur, just a vague idea of his life. I should add that Sprinkles says The Grey King is her favorite from this series so far.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates The Grey King by Susan Cooper 95%.
Marshmallow rates The Grey King by Susan Cooper 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Greenwitch by Susan Cooper

Marshmallow has already reviewed Over Sea, Under Stone and The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. Today she reviews Greenwitch, Susan Cooper’s next book in The Dark Is Rising series. At 158 pages, this book from 1974 is the shortest of this five-book series.

Marshmallow reviews Greenwitch by Susan Cooper.
Marshmallow reviews Greenwitch by Susan Cooper.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you enjoyed  Over Sea, Under Stone and The Dark is Rising, the first two books of the The Dark Is Rising series, or you like books about good fighting against evil, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Will Stanton, an Old One we have met in The Dark is Rising, is being introduced to the three Drew children, Jane, Barney, and Simon, from Over Sea, Under Stone. Barney and Simon think quite lowly of Will, because they don’t know that Will is there to help them fight against the Dark, and they also don’t know that Will is an Old One.

The four children are all together to find a priceless golden grail stolen from a museum. The three Drew children had found the grail in Over Sea, Under Stone, and then they had given it to a museum, but now the grail has been stolen by the Dark.

The Drew children’s adventure from the first book is part of the reason why they think lowly of Will. They think that since he wasn’t there, he will be a drag. They are once again in Trewissick, the same fishing village as they had been in that first book. (Trewissick is supposed to be in Cornwall but it is fictional; the author made it up.)

In Trewissick there is a ritual that the women take part in every year that is supposed to bring the village fishermen good luck. The women make a figure of the Greenwitch, an enormous figure made out of leaves and branches. Only women can help make the figure, but then men take over from them and throw it in the sea. Thus, among the four children, only Jane can watch the ritual construction of the Greenwitch. At the ritual, she learns that there is a belief among the people of Trewissick that you get to make a wish if you touch the Greenwitch figure. Jane selflessly wishes that the Greenwitch could be happy.

The next night, Jane has a dream in which the Greenwitch tells her that she has a secret. Jane learns also that the Dark wants the Greenwitch’s secret. But the Greenwitch is neutral, she does not have an alliance with the Light or the Dark, and so they need to convince the Greenwitch to give them her secret, before it’s too late. 

Marshmallow is reading Greenwitch by Susan Cooper.

Marshmallow’s Review: Greenwitch is a great book. I like that in this book Jane is kind of more important than in the first book, the first time we see her. I thought that the author did a good job with the plot and she certainly ends the book in a way that makes you want to read the next book.

Though this time Jane got a bigger role, it was still kind of frustrating for me that Barney and Simon were being dismissive of Will throughout most of the book. Sprinkles says that a good author will make you feel strong emotions. 

The book was kind of dreamlike and sometimes a little confusing for me. Reading the parts about the construction of the Greenwitch, I found it difficult to imagine what she looked like, and then later when she showed up in Jane’s dream, I was not sure what to think of. But otherwise, I enjoyed reading Greenwitch and I’m looking forward to reading the next book.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Greenwitch by Susan Cooper 95%.
Marshmallow rates Greenwitch by Susan Cooper 95%.

Marshmallow reviews The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

A few weeks ago Marshmallow reviewed Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. Today she is talking with Sprinkles about The Dark Is Rising, Susan Cooper’s next book in The Dark Is Rising series, the book that gave the series its name.

Marshmallow reviews The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper.
Marshmallow reviews The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper.

Sprinkles: Marshmallow let us start with you telling us what this book is about.

Marshmallow: This book is about a boy named Will. On his eleventh birthday, he discovers that he is one of the Old Ones. That means he has some special kind of magic powers.

S: Hmm, that reminds me of another eleven-year old boy who discovers he has magic powers…

M: Yes, Harry Potter also learns about his magic powers when he turns eleven.

S: Why do you think these two authors took this age to be the time for these boys to discover their hidden powers?

M: Probably because that is the average age of the readers they are targeting.

S: That is a very good reason Marshmallow. Can you think of any others?

M: I guess that is when children go to a new school, like finishing primary school?

S: I think that might be related. Eleven is also the age when many children start going through puberty. So it is naturally a time of change and discovery.

M: I guess that makes sense.

S: So now tell me what these Old Ones are about.

M: They are godlike, powerful beings, with magical powers. I think they might be immortal. They are on the side of the Light, which is always fighting the Dark.

S: Hmm, tell me more. What is the Light? Is the Dark the dark that is rising in the title of the book?

M: The Light stands for good and the Dark is evil.

S: So if the Light is represented or protected by immortal beings, are the protectors and defenders of the Dark also immortal?

M: Not sure. I think so. The Dark seems to find helpers at any era though, and the story of the book is about the twentieth century when a new battle is being fought.

S: Is this related to any of the wars of the twentieth century?

M: I think they might be related, but the fight between the Light and the Dark Will is pulled into involves him finding the Six Signs.

S: Hmm, what are the Six Signs?

M: They are six symbols made of wood, bronze, iron, water, fire, and stone. The fire and water ones are not really made of fire or water of course. But they represent them.

S: So Will is supposed to find these objects to help the Light, right?

M: Yes.

Marshmallow is reading The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper.
Marshmallow is reading The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper.

S: So this book is supposed to be in a five-book series that started with Over Sea, Under Stone. How are the two books related? Will was not in that first book, nor have we heard about the signs in that one.

M: True. Will was not in that book. And this book seems pretty unrelated to that book. But there is a character in this one that we know from the first book: Merriman Lyon in this book is Uncle Merry from the first book. And the events of the first book are mentioned in passing in this one.

S: That is interesting. And it seems from the description of the third book in the series that Barney, Simon and Jane, the three children from that first book, will meet Will eventually.

M: Oh, that’s intriguing!

S: We are going to have to read that third book soon then, I suppose.

M: Yes, I guess so.

S: Then did you enjoy reading this one?

M: Yes, I liked it! I rate it 1o0%.

S: Cool! Let us wrap up this review then. You always want to end our chats the way Caramel ends his reviews. Right? So go ahead!

M: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Marshmallow rates The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper 100%.
Marshmallow rates The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper 100%.