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.

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%.