Marshmallow reviews Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Both Marshmallow and Caramel are keen readers of graphic novels and they have both reviewed a handful of them for this blog. In particular Marshmallow has reviewed two books by Raina Telgemeier in 2020; you can check out her reviews of Ghost (2016) and the graphic novel version of Ann N. Martin’s Kristy’s Great Idea (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #1) (2006). Today she decided to talk about another book by Telgemeier, the 2012 book Drama.

Marshmallow reviews Drama by Raina Telgemeier.
Marshmallow reviews Drama by Raina Telgemeier.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about school, or you like to think about theatre and plays and performances in school, or if you like graphic novels and have especially enjoyed books by Raina Telgemeier, like Ghosts, for example, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Seventh grader Callie is on the stage crew as set designer for this year’s production of Moon over Mississippi, with her best friend, Liz, who is in charge of the costumes. However, she is having issues with her friendships. Also, the school has a limited budget for the performance, so she is restricted in terms of the set pieces she can make. She wants to have a cannon for example, but their budget will allow for only two sets. 

Callie loves theater and she would try out, but she is unable to sing. However, she makes friends with a pair of twins, Jesse and Justin, one of whom, Justin, is trying out for the leading man. The other twin, Jesse, can sing but wants to give his brother a chance to shine. Unfortunately, when the results come out, Justin does not get the leading role. He gets one of the other roles, Colonel Scrimshaw; Justin is very disappointed. Also, Bonnie, a girl Callie does not like, gets the leading woman role. This creates some issues in terms of the cast and the stage crew. 

Also the cannon Callie wanted so much is not working out, as the confetti poppers they are using fails the first time. Callie has to deal with complicated sets, and complications in her social life. Can Callie get Moon over Mississippi up and running?

Marshmallow is reading Drama by Raina Telgemeier.
Marshmallow is reading Drama by Raina Telgemeier.

Marshmallow’s Review: This book is written in a different way than is usual. The characters are actually in a play, themselves. The book is written as if we are seeing the scenes of the play; only in between them, we see the author and the audience. I thought it was interesting that the characters were creating a play, as they performed in one themselves, and it worked really well for me.

According to the Wikipedia article for it, Drama was the seventh most banned book of the 2010-2019 decade in the United States. This seems to be due to the fact that two of Callie’s good friends are gay and they are portrayed in a positive way, which some parents believe children should not be exposed to. However I thought the gay characters were portrayed just as all the others were, and things flowed naturally and realistically. Just like To Night Owl From Dogfish, which also had some gay characters without making the whole story about gender identity or sexual orientation (which might make things more contentious for some), Drama tells a good, compelling story about a bunch of middle schoolers, who are diverse in many ways, and is worth the read.

As the story is about middle school, Drama might be more appropriate for bunnies older than 9. Also there is some falling in love and having crushes stuff going on, and younger bunnies will most likely not find that too exciting.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Drama by Raina Telgemeier 95%.
Marshmallow rates Drama by Raina Telgemeier 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Today Marshmallow chose to review Save Me A Seat, a 2016 novel by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan.

Marshmallow reviews Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan.
Marshmallow reviews Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan.

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

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Joey’s friends move away at the same time that a new kid moves into town. The new kid Ravi has just moved to America from India. Joey hopes that the school bully Dillon (who calls Joey Puddy Tat and whom Joey suspects to be a kleptomaniac) will pick on the new kid. However, Dillon is also of Indian heritage, so Ravi wants to be friends with him.

Ravi does not know that Dillon is a bully. After Ravi answers a math problem on the board, Dillon trips Ravi, but pegs it on Joey. Also, when Ravi’s school materials fall to the ground, Joey and Ravi hit their heads when trying to pick them up. Joey considers befriending Ravi, but Ravi thinks that Joey has it in for him, and believes that Dillon is his friend. 

Ravi has an accent so his teacher, Mrs. Beam, thinks that he should go visit a special education teacher named Miss Frost. Joey has also been seeing Miss Frost, as he has Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). Ravi is angry that he is being sent to Miss Frost. He was top of his class in his previous school, and he has an IQ of 135, according to him. He believes that he is “not like” Joey. 

However, Ravi soon learns that Dillon is a bully when Dillon tricks him into trying meat, even though Ravi is a vegetarian. Dillon starts calling Ravi “Curryhead”. When this starts happening, Ravi realizes that at his school in India, he was like Dillon. He had bullied a student who had issues with reading. Ravi realizes that he is getting a taste of his own medicine.

Marshmallow is reading Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan.
Marshmallow is reading Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that an interesting feature of Save Me A Seat is that it is written in the perspective of two people. The chapters alternate between Ravi’s perspective and Joey’s. I believe that Sarah Weeks wrote the chapters for Joey, and Gita Varadarajan wrote the chapters for Ravi. This is similar to another book that I read, To Night Owl From Dogfish, where one author wrote the emails for one character, and the other author wrote the emails for the other. 

I think that the author for Ravi made an interesting choice. In Ravi’s chapter, the author tends to write lists like: 

“I want to say:
1. My English is fine.
2. I don’t need Miss Frost.
3. I was top of my class at Vidya Mandir.
But here is what I do instead:
1. Push up my glasses.
2. Rub my nose.
3. Sit down and fold my hands.”

(Vidya Mandir was his school in India.) It is interesting to see the events from the perspectives of both characters. For example, when Dillon trips Ravi, both Joey and Ravi retell the event differently.

Another interesting feature of the book is that all events take place in the course of one school week. The authors split the book into sections, one for every school day in the first week of school. The section titles tell the reader the day of the week and the school lunch that day (like Wednesday, Chili and Friday, Pizza). It gets you in the mood for school!

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan 95%.
Marshmallow rates Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Every year the book bunnies have been taking July off. In her last review before this year’s summer break, Marshmallow decided to review Starfish by Lisa Fipps.

Marshmallow reviews Starfish by Lisa Fipps.
Marshmallow reviews Starfish by Lisa Fipps.

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

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Eliana Elizabeth Montgomery-Hofstein hasn’t been called by her real name since she was five. The only people who call her by her real name are her parents, her best friend Viv, and her teachers. At school and at home, she is called Splash. This is because at her fifth birthday party, she jumped into her pool wearing a whale swimsuit and she made a large splash. Since then her classmates and even her siblings have been treating her terribly because she is larger than other kids. Her mother keeps trying to make her go on diets and even tries to make Ellie have bariatric surgery.

Sadly, Viv, Ellie’s best friend, has moved away. However, Ellie has found a new friend, Catalina, a girl who lives next to her but doesn’t go to her school. Ellie likes spending time with her new friend. She swims while Catalina plays her guitar. But her time at school is not so pleasant. When she walks in the hallways, everyone presses themselves against the wall because they are pretending that she is so big that she is squashing them against the wall. At home, her brother says mean things to her and her mother keeps telling her that she is too big.

Ellie tries to live by her “Fat Girl Rules”. Her “Fat Girl Rules” are stuff like, “You need to bully yourself as much as, if not more than, everyone bullies you.”, “You don’t deserve to be seen or heard, to take up room, to be noticed. Make yourself small.”, “When someone is laughing, they’re laughing at you.”, and “No making waves.”

Recently, Ellie has started to go to a therapist. Her therapist helps her deal with her emotions and process the events of her day. With her therapist, her father, and her friend, Ellie manages to brave through her life, even though it sometimes seems like everything is against her.

Marshmallow is reading Starfish by Lisa Fipps.
Marshmallow is reading Starfish by Lisa Fipps.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that Starfish is a very moving book. It reminded me of another book I reviewed before: Blubber by Judy Blume. There, too, there was a girl who was bullied because of her size, though Starfish is narrated by the person being bullied.

Starfish is written like a poem, but it is free verse. I have not read too many books written in verse like this, but I think that it worked really well for Starfish. The poetry reminded me of the book I reviewed two weeks ago: Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson.

After reading this book, I read the author’s note, which says that everything in Starfish happened to her in some version or another. Since the author went through these experiences, she did a great job making the characters realistic and relatable. My favorite character is Catalina because she is a great friend and she is wise. But not only did the author make likable characters, she also made characters who are very unlikable. Everyone at school is mean to Ellie, but the main people who bully her are two girls and one boy. Ellie and Viv called them, Enemy Number 1, Enemy Number 2, and Enemy Number 3 (not in front of them though).

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%

Marshmallow rates Starfish by Lisa Fipps 100%.
Marshmallow rates Starfish by Lisa Fipps 100%.

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.