Caramel reviews Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

This past month, Sprinkles was excited to introduce Caramel to one of her favorite series from her childhood, the Famous Five, the classic children’s adventure book series written by the prolific British author Enid Blyton about four children and their dog Timothy. Today, Caramel shares his thoughts on Five on a Treasure Island, the first book about these five characters, published first in 1942, exactly eighty years ago. The book bunnies read the beautiful color edition from 2015 with illustrations by Babette Cole and Quentin Blake.

Caramel reviews Five on a Treasure Island, written by Enid Blyton and illustrated by Babette Cole and Quentin Blake.
Caramel reviews Five on a Treasure Island, written by Enid Blyton and illustrated by Babette Cole and Quentin Blake.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, I was so happy to read this book together with you!

Caramel: Yes. We read a chapter a night, more or less, and it was sometimes not easy to wait the whole day for the next chapter.

S: I know, right? Some of the events get you nervous and make you want to know what will happen next, and quickly.

C: I thought you had read this book before Sprinkles? Didn’t you remember what would happen?

S: Well, yes, I did read it, but many many years ago, and I knew of course that the kids would come out of their adventures safe and sound, but I did not remember at all how that would come to be.

C: Especially when they got locked up in the dungeon —

S: Wait! Let us not give away too many details. But maybe it would be a good idea to start from the beginning with the plot of the book so our readers can get a good idea abut what it is all about.

C: Okay. So there are three kids, Julian, Dick, and Anne, and they are siblings. They go visit their cousin George. Actually she is named Georgina, but she wants to be called George.

S: I see. This reminds me that a couple years ago, Marshmallow reviewed a book titled George, about a transgender child and her struggle to be accepted as who she is. People called her George but she wanted to be called Melissa. And it is important to call people by the name they would prefer, right?

C: Obviously. It is only the kind thing to do. And if you don’t they will be upset.

S: So yes, let us call the fourth character in our book George. But the book title promises us five characters. Who is the fifth one?

C: Tim, who is a dog. He is George’s dog, pretty much, though her family does not want her to keep Tim, so she has another boy take care of him most of the time.

S: Okay, these five remind me of Scooby Doo and the five characters there. Did you know that some folks think that people who created Scooby Doo were inspired by the Famous Five?

C: I had not thought about that! But that is kind of neat! I like Scooby Doo! So this is really interesting. I can even see some resemblances…

S: Hmm, we can speculate, of course. But let us get back to the book. Alright, so we now know who the famous five are. What is the treasure island about? Tell us more about the story.

C: George does not seem too nice at the beginning, but eventually, they become close. The three siblings learn about the nearby Kirrin Island, George says it is hers, and then the kids think that there may be some treasure hidden somewhere on the island. They figure out that there are supposed to be many “ingots of gold” there, according to a very old map.

S: And so the four kids and Tim the dog go and try to find the treasure, right?

C: Yes. And of course they get into trouble. There is someone who wants to buy the island and get the treasure for himself.

S: Yes, so there is some tension about this guy, who does not seem to be an exceptionally nice person.

C: Yes, he locks them up in the dungeon of the dilapidated castle.

S: Wow Caramel, that is a big word! But you are also giving away some of the major plot twists! So maybe it is time to stop talking about the plot.

C: Okay.

Caramel is reading Five on a Treasure Island, written by Enid Blyton and illustrated by Babette Cole and Quentin Blake.
Caramel is reading Five on a Treasure Island, written by Enid Blyton and illustrated by Babette Cole and Quentin Blake.

S: How about talking about the main themes of the book next? Do you remember what is a theme in a book?

C: It is a main idea, or it can be a moral of the story sometimes.

S: Yes, that is right, Caramel. So what ideas or themes do you think would be the main themes of Five on a Treasure Island?

C: I think friendship is one. George is not used to having friends, she is used to being alone, on her own all the time. But then she becomes good friends with the three kids, and she realizes how much better life is with friends.

S: Right! You would agree, right?

C: Yes, of course. Life is much better with friends!

S: Okay, other than friendship, can you think of another theme?

C: Maybe cooperation and team work? Because the children solve the mystery together and then save one another.

S: I think that makes sense! Those are two good themes for this book. Hmm, let me ask you a couple other questions before we wrap things up, Caramel. First of all, I told you this is a pretty old book. It might be the oldest book you have read before now.

C: Not quite. I read The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper and that was from 1930. But you are right, this is one of the older books I have read.

S: You are right, that book was older. But this one is pretty old too. And I wanted to ask you if you could tell. Did you think the book aged well? Or did you think it was very dated?

C: Well, I think the boy name Dick is not as common these days. And the kids sometimes use words strangely. For example Dick says “Rather!” and “Blow!” when he is excited and they say George’s mom is a “brick” and they mean she is awesome! So those were some interesting words, and made me think the book is from a different time. Or different place. Because different versions of English seem to have different idioms and slang words.

S: That’s right Caramel, that is a very good observation. Those words were unfamiliar in those uses for me too. But perhaps they used to be more common in 1940s in Britain. They did feel strange to us in the 2020s of course!

C: Right. And Anne was a bit too much of a crybaby, and seemed like what girls were supposed to be like and so George did not want to be a girl like that. She wanted to run and swim and do all the things that were supposed to be boy things. But today boys and girls can do all sorts of things. So that is also a bit different.

S: I agree Caramel. Those are good observations. Would you say that the book was fun to read though?

C: Yes, it was a lot of fun to read. And I think even younger bunnies, much younger than myself, could enjoy it if their grownups read it to them.

S: Again, I agree Caramel. And I am so happy you read this book and enjoyed it. Okay, one last question: What did you think about the illustrations? This was a special color illustration edition. And the illustrators are pretty established in their craft. Did you find them engaging?

C: Yes. They were very colorful. And there is one picture where they had a lot of bunnies watching the kids. That is my favorite. It is drawn almost from the bunnies’ point of view.

S: So it is perfect for us book bunnies.

C: Yep. That is why I posed for my photo above with that page open.

S: I love that Caramel! Okay, time to wrap this up then. What will you tell our readers now?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny adventures!

Caramel enjoyed reading Five on a Treasure Island, written by Enid Blyton and illustrated by Babette Cole and Quentin Blake, and is curious to learn more about the five friends and their other adventures.
Caramel enjoyed reading Five on a Treasure Island, written by Enid Blyton and illustrated by Babette Cole and Quentin Blake, and is curious to learn more about the five friends and their other adventures.

Marshmallow reviews Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Marshmallow found a copy of a Charles Dickens novel, Great Expectations, in her classroom library and decided to check it out. Just like many other novels by Dickens, Great Expectations was first published as a serial, weekly from 1860 to 1861, and then came out as a single three-volume book in 1861. Below Marshmallow shares her thoughts on this classic.

Marshmallow reviews Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
Marshmallow reviews Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books that are set in past time periods or if you enjoy coming-of-age stories, and if you are up for a really long read, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Philip Pirrip (nicknamed Pip) is an orphan in the mid-early 19th century in Kent, England. His parents are dead but his much older sister (Georgiana Maria, though she is always referred to as Mrs. Joe) takes care of him. Unfortunately, she disciplines him very harshly, which was the norm back then. She is married to a blacksmith, Joe Gargery, who is kind and whom Pip views as a father figure. The story starts when Pip is around seven and he is visiting the graves of his parents and other siblings. There he unexpectedly meets an escaped convict who threatens to kill him unless he brings food and tools. Pip does so, but then soldiers arrive and ask Joe to mend some shackles. Pip comes with the soldiers and they find the convict fighting with another convict. The first one says that he stole the things that he ordered Pip to steal.

After this bizarre event, the narration moves on and we skip ahead a few years. In a couple years, a rich elderly woman is looking for a young boy to come visit her. Pip is chosen and so he starts going to her house every now and then. This woman is Miss Havisham who has an adopted daughter named Estella. Miss Havisham is a strange woman: she was supposed to be married, but when her fiancé left her at the altar, she froze everything where it was. She was still wearing her wedding dress and the clocks were all stopped to the time she learned she was abandoned. Miss Havisham raised Estella to be her revenge on the male part of the human species. Estella was raised to be heartless and break mens’ hearts. And Pip was to be her first victim. Pip falls in love with Estelle, leading to a great heartbreak throughout Pip’s life. 

Many years later, when Pip has been training to be a blacksmith, like Joe, he is given money to allow him to become a gentleman and he travels to London. It is presumed that Miss Havisham was the one who gave him the money. Pip’s life transforms many times into different things. This book follows his life through most of it from a young age to his older years. 

Marshmallow is reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
Marshmallow is reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Marshmallow’s Review: Great Expectations is a highly regarded book by the famous author Charles Dickens. I found it fascinating. I thought it was remarkable how it covered almost the entire life of one person. I also appreciated that there were so many twists and turns. I honestly did not expect what happened at the end. 

However, I would say that it is very difficult to read since it was written in a different time period where people wrote differently. Secondly, it is very complicated because there are so many characters and so many things happen to them at different times. I understood most of the book when I read it, but I missed some things because of the confusing language. I had to go back and reread and think things through a bit.

All in all I am glad to have read Great Expectations. It was my first Dickens book, and it is amazing to me that he wrote it and published it weekly first. It is such a big project! And there are so many things to keep track of because it is Pip’s entire life!

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 95%.
Marshmallow rates Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Last week while talking about Flowers for Algernon, Marshmallow and Sprinkles touched upon a book by George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, first published in 1949. This week, Marshmallow thought it might be a good idea if they picked up this book on its own and chatted a bit about it together.

Marshmallow reviews Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.
Marshmallow reviews Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow let us start with a quick recap of the book.

Marshmallow: Okay. Winston Smith, the main character of the book, lives in this weird futuristic world. The year is 1984, but even though 1984 is a long time ago for us today, it was a long time in the future when the book was written. The world Smith lives in is controlled by a government, run by the Party, which has several departments with contradictory names. For example there is the Ministry of Peace which deals with war. The Ministry of Truth deals with information and basically propaganda and the brainwashing of the population. And there is a Ministry of Love and a Ministry of Plenty.

S: I remember the Ministry of Truth and the Ministry of Peace, but I did not remember the Ministry of Plenty and the Ministry of Love. What do they do?

M: Ministry of Plenty deals with economic affairs, and the Ministry of Love deals with law and order.

S: Oh, yes, now I remember the Ministry of Love, of course. It involves the citizens’ love of Big Brother.

M: Yes, it seems that is the main goal of all punishment. It is creepy; everywhere the people are reminded that the Big Brother is watching them.

S: That phrase has now taken on a life of its own; people use the Big Brother to talk about government surveillance, and sometimes even corporate surveillance.

M: Yes, you even have a poster that says “Big Brother Is Watching You” in your office.

S: I think it is a good reminder. Even though we are not living in Winston Smith’s world of Oceania, I think it is always a good idea to remember that everything you do can be tracked, especially these days, especially if you are doing anything online.

M: Sounds a bit paranoid, no?

S: Well, I don’t really mean it quite that way. I mean it is always a good idea to think about what bread crumbs you leave for people out there. And it can always be worse, of course. There are many places in the world today, and there have been many societies throughout the world in all its history, where saying things and doing things that the governing people did not approve of would be met with harsh retaliation. We are quite lucky that we are not living in such a system, but it is always good to keep in mind what could have been or what could eventually come to happen.

M: I guess that is why George Orwell wrote this book, right? To warn us?

S: I think so. He was very concerned about the rise of the totalitarian Soviet regime and wanted to describe what could be its ultimate end point.

Marshmallow is reading Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.
Marshmallow is reading Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

M: In that way, this book does relate to Orwell’s other book that I reviewed for the blog, Animal Farm. That book, too, was a warning in some ways.

S: I agree. But would you want to open that up a bit?

M: That book was about how power corrupts and how governments can fail to represent their constituents’ needs when they are overtaken by ambitious individuals who manipulate the public to their own advantage. Here, too, power shows up. The Party is very much interested in staying in power. In fact that is part of Winston Smith’s job. At the beginning of the book, he is working at the Ministry of Truth and his job is to change the history and the complete record of things when the Party decides to support an alternative interpretation of the facts or sometimes even alternative facts.

S: That phrase has become quite famous these days too. Right?

M: That’s true! But I am also intrigued by the Party. We don’t ever really know what the Party is. And it is not even clear if there is a rebellious faction or if there is any other country out there, or anything else, any other possibility for the people in this world.

S: The Party’s rule is so complete, isn’t it? When I read this book for the first time, I was flabbergasted by the very end. It shook me, and I could not get over it for a while. I guess the total in totalitarian is real.

M: The thing that really got to me is that everything all goes back to the Party, even the illegal activities seem to be led and facilitated and controlled and crushed by the Party as the Party finds fit. It is so weird.

S: No way out. That is how I felt.

M: Yes, it was pretty hopeless. The overwhelming feeling I got was that if you find yourself in this situation, there is no way of getting out.

S: I guess Orwell wanted to warn us that such a future could happen, and once it did, there would be no way out, so we’d better not get ourselves to that point.

M: Makes sense to me.

S: So having read two of his most famous books, which of Orwell’s two books do you like more?

M: I still like Animal Farm more. I especially liked the fable nature of it. It seems to be about these farm animals, but it is so clearly about humans! And it also showed how even though the animals had good intentions at the beginning, they slowly went astray, in small steps. You could see the development, and it was very depressing, too, but you could see the steps that led them astray and you could see the end result would be pretty terrible. Having read Nineteen Eighty-Four, I think it is basically the end result of Animal Farm.

S: It is also a lot shorter and perhaps a bit easier, right? So would you recommend other bunnies to read either of the books?

M: I think both of them are books everyone should read. They are both heavy, but they point to very important issues. So I’d say to all bunnies that they should read both of the books. Not to depress yourself, but to start seeing possibilities and to try and avoid them. There is some sexual relation stuff in Nineteen Eighty-Four, as we spoke about in my review of Flowers for Algernon (though not as much as there was in that book), so perhaps Animal Farm is more appropriate for younger bunnies. And as you say, that book is shorter than this one, so it would be easier to read for that reason, too.

S: I tend to agree with you Marshmallow. I think we have said enough for one review today. As we wrap it up, tell us how you would rate this book.

M: I’d rate it 95%. Very good book, left me quite disturbed in the end.

S: And what else would you like to say to our readers?

M: Stay tuned for more amazing reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow rates Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

In the last few weeks, Marshmallow and her English class have been reading a version of the classic novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, first published as a short story in 1959 and then expanded by its author to be published as a full novel in 1966. Sprinkles was excited to see Marshmallow getting into the story because she remembers it fondly from her own time reading the same book in school decades ago. In the blog post below, the two bunnies discuss the full book.

Marshmallow reviews Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.
Marshmallow reviews Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, why don’t we start with your usual short overview of the book?

Marshmallow: Why not? If you like books about growing up or living through a big change, this might be the book for you.

S: I think that is a good way to describe the book. The main character is originally a mentally challenged adult, so he is not really growing up, but he undergoes an experimental treatment which enhances his mental capabilities immensely, and so he is going through a big change.

M: Yes. The main character is Charlie Gordon, and he is the one narrating the story. The book is written as a series of progress reports, all through his perspective.

S: Yes, the entries are like diary entries, right?

M: Yes, most of them. And at the beginning he is using very simple sentences and basic words and sometimes has very poor spelling. As the treatment takes effect, he begins to write more complex sentences and use bigger words. He also starts to write about more personal and complicated things and has to confront some past emotional trauma. So, for example, I should warn all bunnies that the book does have some explicit descriptions of certain sexual feelings and acts. As Charlie gets more and more mentally capable, he begins to notice his attraction to women.

S: Even before the operation, he might have felt some such feelings, but would perhaps not write about them?

M: I’m not sure. It seems to me that Charlie had the mind of a three year old before the operation, and so he did not have any sexual impulses.

S: Hmm, that sounds somewhat unrealistic to me, given that he has the body of a full-grown man; his hormones and related needs and desires would probably be quite typical.

M: Well, I don’t know, but he seems to become more interested in things like that, and that was quite a bit different from the version we have been reading at school. In that version, we do not see any of this stuff. Which is in some ways easier to read.

S: I can understand that. Perhaps that is why a lot of school districts have had discussions about this book, and apparently some have even removed it from their libraries. The sexual content might be a lot for some younger bunnies to handle, even though I was not bothered by them when I was a young bunny reading the book. Then again, I might have been a little older than you… Or who knows? Maybe I read an abridged version, too, and I do not recall very well.

M: Maybe. I don’t know. But the full book is a bit more adult than my usual reading fare. The only other book I have read that is kind of like this one is 1984 by George Orwell, which also had some explicit scenes.

S: I understand. I’d say that both books have very serious messages, and the sexually explicit scenes in both books play significant roles in clarifying those messages. So for example in 1984, the sexual scenes show us the main character’s difficulties with intimacy and the oppressiveness of the general climate. In this book, I think the sexual scenes are a part of Charlie becoming more aware of his body, his personality, his needs and desires, as well as how the outside world views him.

M: I can see that.

Marshmallow is reading Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.
Marshmallow is reading Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

S: So who or what is Algernon? Why is the book titled Flowers for Algernon?

M: Algernon is a mouse. He has gone through the same operation that Charlie has, and in some ways, the changes he goes through are similar to what happens to Charlie. So Charlie begins to really like and care for Algernon, because Algernon is more or less the only other creature in the world who is going through the same thing that Charlie is. And then —

S: Wait, don’t give everything away!

M: Okay, no more spoilers. But things do get pretty sad, and the title of the book is in the very last sentence of the book.

S: Yes, that is true. What did you think of Charlie? Did you like him or sympathize with him?

M: I liked him, more at some times and less at others. He is a childlike and kind person at the beginning, and that I really liked. But then as the operation takes effect and he begins to get more and more intelligent, he becomes more arrogant and he does not even realize that. I did not like him that much then. But eventually he does begin to understand other people better, and he remembers and tries to process some of the emotional trauma from his childhood. He justifiably gets angry at some people who mistreated him when he did not know they were being mean. And there I could of course sympathize with him. And he wants to be accepted most of all.

S: I guess that is a very understandable need. We are social creatures and we want to belong.

M: Yes. I think so. So when he becomes too intelligent, that is also isolating. Certain people used to feel better about themselves by putting him down, but now they feel inferior to him and begin to fear and avoid him. In some ways, those people were not good people to have as friends anyways, but Charlie did not know. In any case, in the end —

S: Wait, remember, we don’t want to be giving away too much…

M: Hmm, okay, I guess I should stop here.

S: Alright. Let us do that. Would you recommend this book to other young bunnies? Or perhaps, you’d recommend the abridged version?

M: I think young bunnies might really like the abridged version. Charlie’s story is a lot simpler in it and it is a lot easier to read. And you get to really like him and feel for him, and and the story is still sad but beautiful.

S: Okay. That makes sense to me. Full-blown people are all pretty complex, and I think the original book captures that really well. Charlie is a complex person with a complex story, and the book does give us a lot more to chew on. But the main message can come through quite clearly in the abridged version, too, without the distractions of the sex dimension and the emotional trauma. So how do you want to end this review?

M: I can say my usual: Stay tuned for more amazing reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow appreciated reading Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and recommends it to her peers but emphasizes that perhaps some might prefer an abridged version.
Marshmallow appreciated reading Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and recommends it to her peers but emphasizes that perhaps some might prefer an abridged version.