Marshmallow reviews Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

Today Marshmallow reviews Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson, published in 2017.

Marshmallow reviews Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson.
Marshmallow reviews Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson.

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

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Jade Butler has been taught that she needs to take every opportunity she is offered, which is why she is still going to St. Francis High School. St. Francis is a private school, and when Jade was accepted with a scholarship, she knew that it was an opportunity, so as her mother taught her, she took it. When the book starts, she has been at St. Francis for two years. But being at St. Francis also means being away from her old friends and almost everyone she knows. Jade has few friends at school and her art is one thing she takes strength from.

This year, Jade is hoping that she will be chosen to be one of the group of people who will get to go to Costa Rica, to study abroad. But she is told that she has, instead, been selected to participate in a program called Woman to Woman. In Woman to Woman, Jade is assigned a mentor, like all of the other girls in the program. The program is supposed to help girls with issues. However, Jade’s mentor, a woman named Maxine, does not show up to the first meeting of the Woman to Woman program. Jade finds herself wondering, will this new Woman to Woman program actually help?

Marshmallow is reading Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson.
Marshmallow is reading Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson.

Marshmallow’s Review: I really enjoyed reading Piecing Me Together, but I want to say that I would recommend that younger bunnies wait until they are a little older before reading this book. It has some mature topics, and parents might want to wait until the bunnies are older. I think that the age group I would recommend Piecing Me Together the most to would to 12-year-old bunnies and up. But if course, if a parent has read it and thinks that their child should read it, Piecing Me Together is a great book.

I think that the author, Renée Watson, is very successful in creating realistic characters. Even if you haven’t been in all of the situations that the characters are in, you can identify or relate with them. Not only are the characters realistic, the book shows some issues in realistic ways. For example at some point, a salesclerk asks if she can take Jade’s purse, so she can make sure that Jade is not stealing anything. The salesclerk claims it is store policy, but Jade sees that several white women in the store still have their bags. The salesclerk claims it is because her bag is larger than theirs, but her bag is not actually that much larger. Through Jade’s eyes, the reader witnesses several such instances of racism.

The book is written in 76 short chapters. Each starts with a word in Spanish and its English translation. Jade is learning Spanish at school, and the words connect to the themes of the chapters well.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow is reading Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson.
Marshmallow rates Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Today Marshmallow reviews Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park. Sprinkles is asking questions and taking notes.

Marshmallow reviews Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park.
Marshmallow reviews Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, tell us about this book. What is it about?

Marshmallow: Well, this book is about a girl named Hanna who dreams of becoming a dressmaker. But the thing is that she is part Chinese: her father is white and her mother was Chinese-Korean, and she is living in a very white place in the Dakota territory.

S: It sounds like something happened to her mother.

M: Yes, sadly Hanna’s mother died when she was a little younger.

S: That is very sad.

M: But before that happened, she taught Hanna a lot about sewing and stuff. So now Hanna is really good at making clothes. But this book is placed in, I think, 1880. She can sense that the people at the town she just moved into wouldn’t treat her well if they knew she was part Chinese, so she hides her face. But once they discover her heritage, they start being mean to her.

S: Today too, we see anti-Asian hate, and in fact we have been seeing it get stronger this last year. But the book is about a time that is quite a few years earlier, you mentioned the Dakota Territory, in 1880. Racism and this kind of bigotry might have been even more common.

M: Yes. Hanna’s father came to open a store in the town, and she is worried people might not want to go to their store. And people call her mean names sometimes, and even the kids at her new school are cruel to her.

S: This sounds like a pretty bleak story. Do good things happen to Hanna ever?

M: Well, she does have some friends and some people treat her well. So it is not always that sad. But I do think this might be a book appropriate for older bunnies. Younger ones might find it too sad or scary.

S: Scary? Why do you say that?

M: At some point people try to hurt Hanna physically because she is Asian. It can be scary, especially for little bunnies.

S: I see.

Marshmallow is reading Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park.
Marshmallow is reading Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park.

M: But don’t worry. It is not a completely depressing book.

S: Oh?

M: You can read about how Hanna enjoys dressmaking and the ending is happy.

S: Well, so one has to wait till the end to get a sweet flavor?

M: No no no. It is a good story and you learn about that time in American history a bit, through the eyes of a young person who does not quite “fit in”.

S: As you are telling me the plot, I am realizing I do not know too much about that part of the history of the United States. Maybe we should read up on it together?

M: Yes, maybe. I am also reading other books in school that are about people living during that period of early American history. Maybe I can review some of them for the blog some time?

S: That would be awesome Marshmallow! So let us wrap this up then. Would you recommend this book to other bunnies?

M: Yes! But as I said, not the really young bunnies, but those who are a little older. And a parent bunny might want to read it too before to see if they think their little ones might appreciate the book.

S: That sounds good to me. So how do you rate this book?

M: I rate it 95%. You really get to feel for Hanna and have a good sense of life back then for people of different backgrounds.

Marshmallow enjoyed reading Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park and rates it 95%.
Marshmallow enjoyed reading Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park and rates it 95%.

Caramel reviews A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory

Caramel has already reviewed two books from the A Kids Book About ... series: A Kids Book About Change by David Kim and A Kids Book About Empathy by Daron K Roberts. (You can read more about the series here.) Today he is reviewing the first book in the series: A Kids Book About Racism, written by Jelani Memory. Sprinkles is asking questions and taking notes, as usual.

Caramel reviews A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory.
Caramel reviews A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, we just read the book together. Can you tell our readers what this book is about?

Caramel: It’s about racism. That’s what it says on the cover too.

S: That’s true. So what does it tell you about racism?

C: It tells you what racism is.

S: So what is racism?

C: Someone may be mean to someone else because of the color of their skin. Here is the definition the book gives:

“Racism means to hate someone, exclude them or treat them badly because of their race or because of the color of their skin.”

Caramel is rereading the definition of racism in A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory.
Caramel is rereading the definition of racism in A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory.

S: The book makes it clear that racism is about treating people badly because they are different. But it also says that being different is actually good. Right?

C: Yes. Because if we are different we can offer other people more. Like.. let me read from the book: “help, ideas, strengths, skills, creativity..”

S: So what does that mean? Is being different better, like if you are different from others, then are you better than others?

C: No, that’s not what this means. This means if people are different from one another, then they have more ideas, they can help one another, and they can share.

S: Yes! I agree. I too interpreted that part the same way. Being different allows you to see things differently. And then you can bring a new perspective to a problem, you can share experiences that others may not have had, so they will be able to learn from you. And similarly you can learn from them. But the book also tells us how it makes someone feel to face racism, how people are sometimes made to feel so small just because they are different. How can you try and help people who are being treated badly because of racism?

C: You can try to include friends who look different when you are playing. Or when someone is mean to them, or exclude them from their game. You can invite them to join yours.

S: I like those ideas Caramel. A while back, we read a book by Sonya Sotomayor called Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You which was also about how being different can be a valuable thing, right?

C: And Marshmallow reviewed a book called Wonder about a kid who looked very different and so his friends did not treat him too nicely. A lot of people are different in different ways. And it is not nice to treat them differently just because they are different. Why can’t you just treat everyone nicely?

S: Good question Caramel. It seems like people are a bit scared of others who are different.

C: I guess so. But it is not a good thing to do that!

S: Agreed. So let us wrap up our review with your three words for this book.

C: Helpful. Because it makes me think about different people. And let me see. Other words… Hmm. Black and white and red and orange and brown.

S: Hmm, that makes more than three words, but those are the main colors that show up in the book. You are right. I’d also say it could be a good starting point for little bunnies and their adults to talk about some difficult topics. Because racism is still around us —

C: Yes, there is that one page where there are a lot of “racism”s copied and pasted all over the place.

S: That’s true. That is a good way to show visually that racism is everywhere, pretty visible to many people who have to face it every day. But then there is also a page with 242 “really”s, and that page was fun, right?

C: Yes. It was fun to count! We counted them together!

S: Well, we did some basic arithmetic, so hopefully we got it right. But anyways, I do think this book could be a good conversation starter. So what do you say to end this review?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel appreciated reading A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory and thinks he has a better sense of what racism means now.
Caramel appreciated reading A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory and thinks he has a better sense of what racism means now.

Caramel reviews Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille by Russell Freedman

Today Caramel wanted to talk about Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille, written by Russell Freedman and illustrated by Kate Kiesler. As usual Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille, written by Russell Freedman and illustrated by Kate Kiesler.
Caramel reviews Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille, written by Russell Freedman and illustrated by Kate Kiesler.

Sprinkles: Caramel, tell me a bit about this book.

Caramel: This book is about the life of Louis Braille. Braille is the person who invented the Braille alphabet. The Braille alphabet is used by people who cannot see to read and write.

S: Did you know about him before reading the book?

C: No. I had heard of the Braille alphabet, and I thought it was probably invented by someone named Braille, but I did not know anything else about Braille.

S: So you learned about his life from this book. Tell us about him a bit.

C: Louis Braille was not born blind. He could see at some point but when he was four, one of his eyes got poked out and his other eye got infected and he lost both.

S: Yes, I read that part too. It is a sad accident that leads to the loss of one eye and the infection on the other eye. It is really sad.

C: Yes very sad. And also because the infection could probably be cured today.

S: Yes. It is possible. But he was living in the first half of the nineteenth century, and they did not have antibiotics or anything else to fight infections with.

C: Yes. They did use leeches for some medical purposes, which is weird.

S: Yes, I think so too. But apparently they still use leeches for some medical purposes!

C: I did not know that! That is so strange. I learn something new every day!

Caramel is reading Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille, written by Russell Freedman and illustrated by Kate Kiesler He is on the page where the Braille alphabet is being described. .
Caramel is reading Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille, written by Russell Freedman and illustrated by Kate Kiesler He is on the page where the Braille alphabet is being described. .

S: Tell me more about the book.

C: If you like biographies, you would probably like this book. It is about a young person doing some really big and important things. Like inventing an entirely new alphabet! And he was also blind!

S: Yes, but maybe being blind, he knew what would help him better than seeing people who assumed that everybody should use the same alphabet. In the book we learn that Louis as a student learns about a writing system devised by an army captain and then modifies it in novel ways that would make it practical and easy to learn and use.

C: Yes. The government and the school do not want to use his system at first.

S: Yes, first his school has a headmaster who likes his ideas but once he is replaced, the new director bans its use.

C: The students already had been using it, but the new headmaster bans it. So they still use it, but in secret.

S: Yes, it is a very interesting story, isn’t it?

C: Yes, it definitely is. But it is also very sad.

S: Why do you say that?

C: Because he works so hard to develop this alphabet, he works when everybody is sleeping. But then people do not want to use it.

S: But in the end things work out, don’t they?

C: Yes. But he also dies.

S: Yes, people do die, but you are right that his death is sad too.

C: He dies from tuberculosis, and we can cure it today, right?

S: Yes, that is true and it is indeed sad. But at least he knew his alphabet was being used and was much appreciated by then. So what three words would you use to describe this book?

C: Fascinating, biography, black-and-white illustrations.

S: Hmm, that is a few more words than three, but I’ll let it be. What do you want to tell our readers as we wrap up this review?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel has appreciated reading Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille, written by Russell Freedman and illustrated by Kate Kiesler, and recommends it to other little bunnies who might like to learn about a young person who overcame big obstacles and achieved great things.
Caramel has appreciated reading Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille, written by Russell Freedman and illustrated by Kate Kiesler, and recommends it to other little bunnies who might like to learn about a young person who overcame big obstacles and achieved great things.