Marshmallow reviews The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Today Marshmallow reviews a classic: The Hobbit: or There and Back Again, by J.R.R. Tolkien, first published in 1937.

Marshmallow reviews The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Marshmallow reviews The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like fantasy, magic, or quests that take place in a fantastic alternative world, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Bilbo Baggins is a respectable hobbit who never goes on any adventures, until now. One day, an elderly traveler comes to Bilbo’s hobbit hole, and says that he is looking for someone to share an adventure with. Bilbo thinks lowly of adventures, saying that they are “Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

Bilbo at the time does not know that this man is Gandalf, who is a family friend, so he says that he doesn’t want any adventures, trying to imply that their conversation is at an end. Gandalf says that he won’t leave, and so Bilbo asks him his name. When Bilbo learns that he is Gandalf, he invites him to tea. Then he rushes in to his home, and closes his door. Gandalf scratches a sign on Bilbo’s door, and leaves.

The next day, a little before tea time, someone rings the door bell. Bilbo, thinking it is Gandalf, opens the door and finds a dwarf. The dwarf says his name is Dwalin. Soon more dwarves start arriving, until there is a total of thirteen dwarves. Their leader is Thorin Oakenshield, the heir of the King Under the Mountain. The dwarves are on a quest to reclaim their mountain home of Erebor. Of course, now we know that this is the quest Gandalf was talking about

Erebor was the most successful dwarf kingdom. The dwarves of Erebor mined many treasures, which is where their wealth was from. The human city next to it was prosperous and rich, as well.. Unfortunately, Erebor’s wealth attracted the attention of a dragon, Smaug, who took over Erebor and killed almost all of the dwarves (and destroyed the human city nearby, too). Now Thorin and his company are trying to take back their home. And they want Bilbo to be their burglar, though in the beginning it is not obvious why they require a burglar.

Bilbo finds the idea of himself joining the quest as a hired burglar distasteful but eventually agrees. So the company of fourteen (Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves together) sets out to defeat Smaug and reclaim Erebor.

Marshmallow is reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Marshmallow is reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that this is a great book! It is not only a classic but really is in its own world. In this world of Middle Earth, there are different races of creatures: dwarves, elves, Hobbits, and humans (as well as wizards and orcs and goblins, too). J.R.R. Tolkien came up with songs and whole language systems for this book, which is really impressive. The characters’ names also make the book a lot more realistic, as they are not typical names; each name fits the particular race of its character.

Tolkien writes with long sentences and gives a lot of descriptions, but I found the story interesting enough to read the whole book easily. The plot of The Hobbit is very well written and the characters are all very interesting. It is unusual to read about a character like Bilbo, who is not necessarily the typical hero. Early on, Bilbo has a nervous breakdown, or panic attack, when the dwarves tell him there is a chance of him dying in this quest. So Bilbo seems to be nothing like a hero going on a quest: he is scared, he is not given to action and adventure, and he prefers to simply have his tea in a calm and relaxed manner. But he takes on this quest and we see him being brave and most honorable in his own way through the voyage.

I watched the 2012-2014 Hobbit movie series before I read the book, and I think that the book goes very well with the movies even though there are some differences between the two.

The trailer of the 2012 movie: An Unexpected Journey.

You can definitely watch the movies first and then read the book (like I did), or vice versa.

The trailer of the 2013 movie: The Desolation of Smaug.

The original is the one book, but Peter Jackson, the director of the movies, wanted to make the Hobbit story into a trilogy.

The trailer of the 2014 movie: The Battle of the Five Armies.

As you can probably already tell from the trailers, the movies can get scary at times and there are some violent scenes, so younger bunnies should definitely not watch them unsupervised. Caramel and I often covered our eyes when we were watching those types of scenes. They are really good movies for sure, but it might be a good idea for adult bunnies to watch them before showing them to a younger bunny.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 97%.

Marshmallow rates The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 97%.
Marshmallow rates The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 97%.

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%.