Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about friends, friendship, and school, or if you enjoyed any of Raina Telgemeier’s other graphic novels, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): When Raina Telgemeier fell after her Girl Scouts meeting, her front teeth fell too. Unfortunately, they were her adult teeth and they weren’t going to grow back. This leads to a long process that continues for years. Her teeth must be fixed through braces, headgear (only during the night), and more. Raina is extremely self conscious of her image at school, and fears that her braces will make her look like a “dork” or a “nerd”; her friend group doesn’t help at all. In fact, several of her friends tell her that, “cool just isn’t the word to describe you.” In addition to all this, Raina has, what the book cover calls, “boy confusion”. ’nuff said.
Raina feels overwhelmed by middle school, and eventually high school. She is frustrated by the teeth issue, and struggling to find out what real, true friendship really is. I can’t spoil too much, but I can say that by the end, Raina can finally smile.
Marshmallow’s Review: I thought that this was a very interesting insight into the author’s childhood, and her experiences with middle and high school. This book is about the author, Raina Telgemeier, herself, and spans several years of her teenage experience.
Though I couldn’t associate myself with all of the feelings the main character had, I can still sympathize with her problems, because the character is shown in such a real way. She is almost like a real person. (Oh, wait, she is.)
This is a graphic novel, and one of a series. However, despite the fact that there are two other books, this can definitely be read as a stand-alone book. But it doesn’t take too long to read, so you can probably read the books all at once and it makes a nice story all together. (I might even review the other books for the blog some day.) However, as I said, this could be a stand-alone, because the story ends at a satisfactory point. (Furthermore, the story arcs of the other two books are all different and the plots are all unconnected. I would of course say more if I do end up reviewing them, too.)
All in all, Smile is a good book that can be enjoyed by all. But I would say that probably a middle school / middle grades reader would find it more exciting than younger or older bunnies.
Marshmallow loved Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series, and reviewed three of the six books for the book bunnies blog, way back in our first year: Quests for Glory, the fourth book, A Crystal of Time, the fifth book, and One True King, the sixth book. Then a couple weeks ago, she got her paws on a prequel Chainani wrote this year, Rise of the School for Good and Evil, and reviewed it for the blog. After reading it, she decided to reread the very first book, School for Good and Evil, to see how it would hold up. She was not disappointed.
Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about magic, friendship, love, and fairy tales, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Sophie has waited all her life to be kidnapped by the School Master and be whisked away from her boring, plain life. Sophie lives in the quaint town of Gavaldon, where nothing is magical. Perhaps the only out-of-the-ordinary thing in Gavaldon is the kidnappings. Every four years, two children are kidnapped. One child is beautiful and virtuous; the other, cruel and ugly.
For hundreds of years, no one knew what happened to them, until the children realized something strange. The kids who were taken seemed to find their way into the storybooks. They just showed up years later in the fairy tales, but as fierce witches, beautiful princesses, brave princes, or violent villains.
We learn, as events unfold for the main characters of the book, that these children go to a school, specifically the School for Good and Evil. The kidnapper is the School Master. Villains, witches, warlords, and other Evil creatures are trained at the School for Evil, while princes, princesses, and other Good people are trained at the School for Good.
So in this backdrop, Sophie knows that one day she will be taken to the School for Good. She makes sure to do Good Deeds to show the School Master how good she is and why she should be taken to the School for Good. Sophie knows she will be the perfect princess. On the other hand, everyone in Gavaldon knows that Agatha will be taken as the Evil child. Agatha lives in a house in the middle of a graveyard, with her mother (whom everyone believes to be a witch), wears only black, and dislikes almost everyone.
Almost everyone. Sophie visits Agatha (as a Good Deed) every day, until the two become friends. Agatha slowly becomes more than just a pawn used to ensure Sophie’s place in the School for Good. While Sophie wishes for grandeur and eternal adoration, Agatha just wants one person who likes her, one person who could care about her “measly soul”.
Then the girls are both kidnapped, and Sophie’s dreams are realized… until she is dropped into the School for Evil, while Agatha is placed in the School for Good. Sophie struggles to get herself into the School for Good, while Agatha struggles to try to get them back to Gavaldon.
Eventually, the School Master tells them that if Sophie proves that she is not a witch, and if Agatha proves that she is not a princess, they can go home. He asks them: what is the one thing that a witch can never have, and a princess cannot live without? The answer: Love. If Sophie can find love, and Agatha can’t, they can go home. Given who they are, their roles seem easy to play.
Only one complication stands in their way: Sophie doesn’t want to go home; she doesn’t want to at all.
Marshmallow’s Review: The first thing I should say is that I have read and reread this book so many times, my original copy of the book totally fell apart. For this review, I ended up getting a new copy so I could take pictures with it.
One of the reasons why I like this book so much and find it so interesting that School for Good and Evil isn’t just a different retelling of the familiar fairytales, but a whole new one. I think that this tale does fit into the world of other fairytales, and I really enjoyed reading about the world that Soman Chainani created.
School for Good and Evil, as probably everyone who has heard of it knows, is the first of a series of six. It is more or less self-contained, you could technically stop at the end and be done with it, but why would you? Chainani’s world is fascinating, and the stories get even better as you go deeper into the series.
The series is fantastical, magic, witches, fairytales, all are quite extraordinary. That said, the characters are very realistic. And some of them are very annoying (cough, Sophie,cough). I really enjoyed the way the characters developed throughout the series however. And I really liked how all of the characters had very big flaws in addition to their strengths. It was interesting to see that even fairy tale heroes have problems.
Rereading the book after having just finished Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, all I can say is that if you just read the Rise and are about to embark upon the rest of the series, you are in for an amazing ride. The prequel does not spoil the fun of this first book, though of course it does spoil a little bit of the surprise. It is not a big deal however, either case, you learn about the School, one way or another, and the story works either way.
I am excited that Netflix is developing a series version of the books! Here is the trailer / teaser:
Caramel has been reviewing book after book of the Wings of Fire series. Today he takes a break from the dragons and talks about a book about gaming: Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao, published in 2021. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.
Sprinkles: So Caramel this book just appeared one day in your paws.
Caramel: Yes, I got it from my classroom library.
S: That is cool, that you have a classroom library and that there are books there that you find interesting.
C: Yep. I often find books there that I like to read.
S: Okay, so why did you pick up this one?
C: Because it looked interesting.
S: And did it turn out to be interesting?
C: Yes, why else would I be reviewing it?
S: Well, that is good. Tell us about it then.
C: This book is about Reyna Cheng, who is a Chinese-American gamer.
S: What does that mean?
C: She plays virtual reality video games.
S: What kinds of games?
C: The one she is playing is called Dayhold and she is very good at it.
S: Does Dayhold exist? Did you ever play it?
C: No, this is supposed to be in the future, it is 2064 or 2067 or something like that, and the video game is in virtual reality. And she is competing against other people as well as some artificial intelligence players. And people who are very good at gaming are like celebrities and there is a lot of money in gaming. So Reyna is not just playing, she wants to become a professional gamer.
S: I see. So she is young though, right?
C: Yes, she is twelve and just finished sixth grade. But most of the other people in the game don’t know who she is and she wants to keep it that way.
C: Because most gamers are boys or men and Reyna knows from experience that as a girl gamer, she will not be treated well.
S: Oh, that’s so not fair!
C: You’re right, and she is so much better than the other players.
S: Well, even if she weren’t, it would be better if people did not mistreat her just because she is a girl.
C: I agree.
C: She is very good though. She beats one of the best players and he was cheating and she still beat him.
S: Wait, I am worried you might be going into spoiler territory.
C: Possibly. but there is a lot more that happens in the book. So there is a troll for example who wants to dox her. And doxing we looked that up, it means that people make your identity public despite your wishes to remain anonymous. And a troll is “a person who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content” according to a dictionary.
S: Oh that can be very dangerous!
C: Yes she could be in real danger, but she tries to save herself and the book is about that too.
S: I see. Does it also describe the game itself?
C: Yes a little. It seems interesting; you fight people with swords, spears and so on.
S: You did finish the book rather quickly. Was it an easy read for you?
C: Not always. I did not know about doxing and so I had to figure that out. By asking you, my very trustable source. But the book is written in Reyna’s voice and in first person, so that was good, it made it easier to read.
S: I see. If you were to try and find three words to describe the book, what would they be?
C: Descriptive, because there are a lot of descriptions of the game, funny sometimes, and exciting because I wanted to know what would happen to Reyna so I kept reading. It is attention-snatching, it kept my attention.
S: I can see that! Would you recommend the book to other bunnies like yourself?
C: Yup. Some boys think girls can’t be good gamers, so maybe it would be good for them to read this book. Because Reyna is a very good gamer but also it is not nice to mistreat people just because they are a girl.
S: Thank you Caramel, I totally agree. So let us wrap up this review then. What do you want to tell our readers?
Today Marshmallow reviews Willodeen, a 2021 novel by Katherine Applegate.
Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about friendship, magic, or animals, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Willodeen loves all animals. Every single one, no matter how gross, or scary, or smelly, Willodeen adores them all. Especially the screechers. Screechers are scary animals, beasts that release a disgusting smell when frightened.
Screechers are about the polar opposites of hummingbears, which are the main claim to fame of Perchance, Willodeen’s village. Hummingbears are small with wings and they nest every year in Perchance because of the trees there. Tourists flock to Perchance to see the adorable creatures. Unfortunately, over the years, fewer and fewer hummingbears have graced Perchance, and the townspeople find it harder and harder to make a living. However, no one wants to see screechers, so the city councilors of Perchance put a bounty on screechers. Hunters immediately start to kill screechers, because no one is very rich.
Willodeen loves screechers: she observes them, names them, and likes to watch them. But slowly, the number of screechers dwindles, until the last one is killed by a hunter with a bow and arrow. That’s when something miraculous happens. Willodeen receives a hand-made model of a screecher from her new friend Connor, and the model seems to become a real baby screecher. Willodeen suddenly finds herself with the challenge of feeding, living with, and raising a baby screecher, which is no easy task, especially with the bounty.
Eventually Willodeen finds that the lessening of hummingbears is related to the screechers. Can Willodeen bring the hummingbears back to Perchance?
Marshmallow’s Review: Willodeen is set in a fantastic setting, with the people using bows and arrows instead of guns. The story is set in a small town called Perchance where magical animals roam. However, despite Perchance’s magical beasts, the author speaks about how the world and nature is changing, and not always for the better. So in some ways, I thought the author was thinking of our world where a lot has been changing.
I found it interesting that the main character and narrator, Willodeen, is very antisocial. After suffering from a terrible tragedy, she interacts very little with other people. Slowly however, she opens up towards new friends. It was neat to witness her opening up and finding other people to trust and love. I kind of wished to know more about her family, too, but that part kind of went too fast.
I liked the magical animals in this book. In the edition I have read, there were illustrations (by Charles Santoso) of some of the events in the book, which I really liked. The small creatures reminded me a bit of Newt Scamander and his love of all magical beasts in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Willodeen was written by Katherine Applegate, who also wrote The One and Only Ivan. I liked that both books showed animals as creatures that think, feel, and need love, as much as humans do. The One and Only Ivan was written completely in the voice of Ivan the gorilla. In Willodeen, there are some chapters where we see events from, I believe, the perspective of the baby screecher. I found that those chapters were interesting to read, because we could see the main human characters from the perspective of an animal.