Marshmallow reviews Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender

Today Marshmallow reviews Hurricane Child, a novel by Kacen Callender published in 2018.

Marshmallow reviews Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.
Marshmallow reviews Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.

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

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Caroline Murphy was born during a hurricane in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This means that she is a hurricane child. But hurricane children are supposed to be unlucky and Caroline has many reasons to feel unlucky. Her mother has disappeared, the children in her school all dislike her, and a woman in black whom no one else is able to see has been following her, ever since she almost drowned on her father’s boat. This woman is everywhere, watching her in school and at home.

Caroline’s life takes an unexpected turn when a new student starts attending her Catholic school. The new student, Kalinda, immediately becomes someone who everyone wants to be friends with. Another popular girl in the school, named Anise who bullies Caroline, asks Kalinda to sit with her group at lunch. Eventually, it seems that Kalinda is now Anise’s friend. However, when Caroline asks Kalinda to sit with her at lunch, Kalinda agrees and they become good friends. In fact, Caroline starts to develop deeper feelings for Kalinda. Unfortunately, Kalinda believes that two women cannot be in love and Caroline hides her feelings. 

Eventually Caroline figures out that Kalinda can see the woman in black, too. Caroline believes that the woman in black is related to her mother’s disappearance. When Caroline confides her suspicions with her friend, Kalinda explains that the woman is black is likely a spirit from the spirit world. Caroline begins to worry that the woman in black has stolen her mother and taken her to the spirit world forever. 

Marshmallow is reading Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.
Marshmallow is reading Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that Hurricane Child is a beautiful book that was written very well. The author’s writing style is detailed and poetic. The author presented Caroline’s feelings, her hate, her love, and her sadness, very well. The characters are well written, are realistic, and are relatable. 

On the other hand, the plot had so many elements that I found it slightly hard to keep up. I had trouble occasionally following all the plotlines and I did not understand everything during my first reading. However, all loose threads of the plot were eventually tied up with satisfying endings. 

Trying to think about genre while writing my review, I came upon the description of magical realism from Wikipedia:

As a literary fiction style, magic realism paints a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements, often dealing with the blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality. Magical realism, perhaps the most common term, often refers to literature in particular, with magical or supernatural phenomena presented in an otherwise real-world or mundane setting, commonly found in novels and dramatic performances. Despite including certain magic elements, it is generally considered to be a different genre from fantasy because magical realism uses a substantial amount of realistic detail and employs magical elements to make a point about reality, while fantasy stories are often separated from reality. Magical realism is often seen as an amalgamation of real and magical elements that produces a more inclusive writing form than either literary realism or fantasy.

Reading this, I think Hurricane Child is definitely magic realism, as the woman in black somehow blends into the realist plotlines of the story. (Ikenga, the book I reviewed last week, is probably also in this genre.) Maybe this aspect of the book was a reason why I had some difficulty first understanding what was real and what was actually going on.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 90%

Marshmallow rates Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender 90%.

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 George by Alex Gino

This week Marshmallow reviews a book by Alex Gino, George. about a transgender child and her struggle to be accepted as who she is. The novel has won several awards and was both highly praised and significantly criticized for various reasons.

Marshmallow reviews George by Alex Gino.
Marshmallow reviews George by Alex Gino.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about finding one’s identity, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): George is seen by everyone around her as a boy but she feels like she is a girl. She wants to be called a she and she wants to wear skirts and make-up. She keeps magazines for teenage girls hidden in her room, and imagines that she is there with other girls in the pictures. When she looks in the mirror, she calls herself Melissa.

George’s class is reading Charlotte’s Web. She cries at the end when Charlotte dies. The boys in the class laugh and say that she is not a “real” boy. But she doesn’t want to be a boy. When her class decides to put on play for Charlotte’s Web, George really, really wants to be Charlotte, the brave, kind heroine of the story. But when she auditions for the part, her teacher thinks that she is joking. George is devastated. The teacher says that she can be Wilbur or some other character because she was very good, but she couldn’t be Charlotte because there are too many girls that want to be Charlotte.

One day when George gets home, she sees that her mother has found her magazines. Her mother does not understand it when George tells her she is a girl. George feels that her mother does not see who she is.

When George’s best friend Kelly gets the Charlotte role, she tries to be supportive, but she is actually very jealous. Seeing that her friend is sad, Kelly hatches a plan. There are two showings of Charlotte’s Web. Kelly will perform in one and George will perform in the other. George knows that she can perform Charlotte’s part very well but she is worried about what her mother and other people will think of her.

(In this summary I used the name George for the main character as the author does themselves all the way until page 181, but also please remember that deadnaming is not ok.)

Marshmallow is reading George by Alex Gino.
Marshmallow is reading George by Alex Gino.

Marshmallow’s Review: This is a very moving book in which the main character looks like a boy but she feels like a girl. It is very sad when she is not able to be Charlotte in the play because she had her heart set on it. It is very interesting how she calls the magazines her “friends”.

George is a very good book that moves the reader and it is very sad how the main character really wants to be a girl and everyone keeps on telling her that “he” acts like a girl. It is also very sad how her mother tells her that she shouldn’t be dressing up like a girl and that “it’s not cute anymore.”

George is very well-written and it has a lot of interesting and different characters. It is really good for those who themselves don’t feel like the gender that they look like to other people. But all bunnies can appreciate the story because everyone feels different in some ways.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates George by Alex Gino 95%.
Marshmallow rates George by Alex Gino 95%.

Marshmallow reviews To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

Marshmallow reviews To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer.

Marshmallow has begun to read To Night Owl From Dogfish a few weeks ago and finally today she is ready to share her thoughts about it with the readers of the Book Bunnies blog. Sprinkles is taking notes and asking followup questions.

Marshmallow reviews To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer.
Marshmallow reviews To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer.

Sprinkles: Can you tell us a bit about this book Marshmallow?

Marshmallow: Sure, let me give you a brief summary first.

One day, Avery Allenberry Bloom gets an email from a girl named Bett Garcia Devlin. The email says that she has a gay dad just like Avery and that their fathers are now in love.

Avery does not believe Bett at first and thinks that she is lying. Then Bett says that they are both supposed to be going to a sleepover camp called CIGI. And while they are at the camp, the fathers will be in China. Avery knows that she is going to that camp, and so she starts to believe Bett.

The girls are both alarmed because they do not want to one day be sisters. But at camp they meet face to face for the first time and they start to become friends and they actually start wanting their parents to get married. But then the two fathers break up and things get messy.

S: This sounds a lot like The Parent Trap, an old movie by Hayley Mills. You probably have not seen that movie, but in that movie too, there are two girls who want to get their parents together. Actually it turns out that the two girls are actually twins and the parents are both their parents. Bett and Avery aren’t twins though, of course, right?

M: No they’re not.

Marshmallow is reading To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer.
Marshmallow is reading To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer.

S: So what else happens in the book? Are the girls at the camp for the rest of the book?

M: No. Actually they get kicked out of the camp, and they go stay with Avery’s biological mom. Then Avery’s father gets mad at the mother and then decides to come back from China early.

S: Is that when the two fathers break up?

M: Yes. And the rest of the book is more or less all about the girls trying to set things right.

S: That sounds interesting.

M: They do go to a lot of other places in the book.

S: The whole book seems like it is a collection of letters and emails, right? There seem to be no standard narrative segments.

M: Yes, that’s true. It is an interesting feature of the book. The whole story is written as a series of letters, emails, and text messages.

S: That sounds unusual, right? Those kinds of novels are called epistolary. How did it work for you?

M: It was very interesting to read a book written like this.

S: Did it ever get confusing? Were you always aware of who was writing?

M: Yes because on the top corner of each letter, there was the sender and recipient information, and the subject line, like in an email.

S: That is neat! So who is the Night Owl and who is Dogfish?

M: Night Owl is Avery and Dogfish is Bett.

S: Why?

M: In one text, Bett asks Avery what animal she would be if she were an animal. Avery says she’d be a night owl because she reads a lot at night. And Bett responds that she would be Dogfish, because she loves swimming and she loves her dog.

S: So would you recommend this book to other bunnies?

M: Yes, this is a very good read. This would be a good book for people who like reading about friendship. An interesting thread in the book is about how the two girls don’t want their fathers to be a couple at first but eventually they start enjoying each other’s company and their opinions change.

S: This looks to me like a good place to wrap up this review. Is there anything you want to say to finish things off Marshmallow?

M: Yes! Happy reading! And stay tuned for more book bunnies adventures!

Marshmallow rates To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer 95%.
Marshmallow rates To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer 95%.