Marshmallow reviews The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

Marshmallow has reviewed two books by Kate DiCamillo before: Flora and Ulysses and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Today she reviews a third book of hers, The Magician’s Elephant.

Marshmallow reviews The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo.
Marshmallow reviews The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo.

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

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Peter Augustus Duchene lives in Baltese with his guardian, an elderly soldier named Vilna Lutz. Vilna Lutz is not particularly bad, but he is extremely obsessed with making Peter into a good soldier. Thus, Vilna Lutz is extremely strict. One day, when Vilna Lutz sends Peter to buy fish and bread, Peter meets a fortune teller. Instead of buying the fish and bread he was supposed to, he uses the money to ask the fortune teller a single question. (Since he is honorable, he decides that he will tell Vilna what he has done, which is very honorable.) Peter knows exactly what he will ask. His little sister, Adele, according to Vilna, was stillborn but Peter has his doubts. When he starts to ask the fortune teller his question, the fortune teller tells him that his sister is still alive. Extremely excited, Peter asks how to find her. The fortune teller mysteriously says, “Follow the elephant.” Puzzled over these words, Peter realizes that this means that Vilna or the fortune teller is lying, which shakes his foundations, because Lutz is a soldier, “good and true”. 

Not very far away, a magician is performing at the Bliffendorf Opera House. He intends to summon a bouquet of lilies. Instead, this magician performs his greatest trick yet: he summons an elephant that crashes through the ceiling. This elephant lands on the legs of the woman the magician was trying to present the lilies to. She is crippled from that and the magician is arrested. The elephant is placed in a cage and then later bought by a rich noble woman to be displayed at her house. 

The elephant is the talk of the town, and Peter hears about it and believes that it will lead him to his sister, Adele. When Peter questions Vilna about his sister’s supposed death, Vilna admits that she didn’t die. Vilna was a good friend of Peter’s father. Adele was not placed in his care because she was just a newborn when she was orphaned. This makes Peter more determined to find her. 

Marshmallow is reading The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo.
Marshmallow is reading The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that The Magician’s Elephant is an amazing book. I always enjoy reading Kate DiCamillo’s books; all of her books are touching and elegant. And this one is especially good. I specifically like how DiCamillo goes into the backstories of all the characters and ties them all together at the end.

The Magician’s Elephant is also a great family book. The main message is simple and perhaps not surprising: even during hard times, family should stick together. But the way DiCamillo tells the story makes all the difference. I listened to this book with my family as an audiobook, besides reading the paper version, too. In both versions, I really enjoyed reading this book. All in all, I think it is a necessary addition to the library of anyone who likes reading children’s literature.

Kate DiCamillo also inserts a bit of a magical touch into this book. The summoning of the elephant and the fortuneteller’s ability to see are both interesting additions of inserting magic into an otherwise realistic storyline, and they make up a major part of this book. All together these make The Magician’s Elephant a touching book that is both realistic and magical, somewhere between fairy tales and realistic fiction.

The version of the book I read was illustrated by Yoko Tanaka. Tanaka’s full-page illustrations were black and white and simple, but contributed to the general magical atmosphere of the story.

I will read this book again.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo 100%.
Marshmallow rates The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo 100%.

Marshmallow reviews Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander by J.K. Rowling

Marshmallow’s first review for this blog was a review of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling. In her last review for 2021, she revisits the Harry Potter universe and writes about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander written by J.K. Rowling.

Marshmallow reviews Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander by J.K. Rowling.
Marshmallow reviews Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander by J.K. Rowling.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you liked some of J.K. Rowling’s other books, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary: This is a book about all of the fantastic beasts that inhabit the world of Harry Potter. There is an A-Z list of a lot of the amazing creatures in the Harry Potter world, though not all of them were mentioned in the original series. The A-Z list has a paragraph about each creature. There is a rating of how dangerous the creature is, with X meaning “boring” and XXXXX meaning “a known wizard killer / impossible to train or domesticate”. Each creature’s paragraph describes what they look like, where they live, and then some more. Sometimes there is a sketch of the animal.

The purported author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Newt Scamander, is a wizard who appeared in several movies based in the American Wizarding World. Newt Scamander is a wizard from the 1920s, so the book is written from the perspective of a wizard. We first hear about this book in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, where it is a textbook Harry needs. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them also contains an About The Author segment where we learn more about Scamander.

The foreword is written as if it were meant for wizards, and at the beginning Scamander writes, “To appear only in ‘For Wizards’ version” and at the end, there is another handwritten note: “Editor’s note: for Muggles edition, usual guff: ‘obvious fiction—all good fun—nothing to worry about—hope you enjoy it’”

The foreword and the introduction are not something to skip; they are funny and explain the definition and origin of the label of beast. They explain the format of the book too. The author’s note also explains how wizards have kept the magical creatures in the Harry Potter world hidden. The book itself divulges the truth about the Yeti, the Loch Ness monster, and more. 

Marshmallow is reading Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander by J.K. Rowling.
Marshmallow is reading Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander by J.K. Rowling.

Marshmallow’s Review: This book is a must-read for every Harry Potter fan. It is a light read, and doesn’t have a plot, so bunnies of all ages can read it. The author, Newt Scamander/J.K. Rowling, is humorous all throughout, which makes the book fun to read.

On the back of the edition I have it reads: 

“Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Comic Relief and Lumos, which means that the dollars you exchange for it will do magic beyond the powers of any wizard. If you feel that this is insufficient reason to part with your money, one can only hope that passing wizards feel more charitable if they see you being attacked by a Manticore.”

I really enjoyed reading this book. It made watching the movies a lot more fun. Here is the trailer of the first movie in the Fantastic Beasts franchise:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Official Teaser Trailer #1 (2016) – from YouTube.

Here is the trailer for the second movie:

FANTASTIC BEASTS 2 Trailer 2 (2018) – from YouTube.

The third movie will come out in April 2022, but I will be back here in February. Till then, enjoy the holidays and the new year, and read lots of books! I know I will!

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander by J.K. Rowling 100%.
Marshmallow rates Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander by J.K. Rowling 100%.

Marshmallow reviews The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

This week Marshmallow reviews The Girl Who Drank the Moon, the 2016 novel by Kelly Barnhill that won the 2017 Newberry Award. Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Marshmallow reviews The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.
Marshmallow reviews The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

Sprinkles: This looks like an interesting book Marshmallow. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Marshmallow: This book is about a girl named Luna and a witch named Xan. Luna comes from a village that sacrifices one baby per year. The baby is left in the woods, supposedly to be taken by an evil witch who lives in the woods. But it turns out that the witch is actually Xan, and she is very kind-hearted. She travels every year to pick up the sacrificed baby, and takes it to a loving family in a different village. The children brought by Xan are called Star Children in that village because Xan feeds them starlight before their journey through the forest.

However, one year, Xan accidentally feeds one of the children moonlight. Moonlight is more powerful than starlight and it enmagicks her. In other words, she ends up with extraordinary magical powers. Xan decides to name her Luna and raise her as her own.

S: That is a very interesting premise. And I can see why the book is titled The Girl Who Drank the Moon. I’m guessing that is Luna. So does Luna know any of this?

M: Not really. Not for a long time. And she cannot hear the word “magic”.

S: That is weird. So the book is about Luna and Xan and their adventures?

M: No. Not quite. There are multiple stories that are going on at the same time. There is a guy who is determined to kill Xan for example, but he is a good person, he just wants to protect his own child. And eventually we see Luna’s real mom show up. Lots of things are happening at the same time, and Luna is trying to figure out how to use her magic.

S: Hmm, that sounds intriguing. I might want to read it too some day.

M: Yes, I think you should. It is about family, love, and who becomes your family. Luna’s family is made up of a dragon and a bog monster besides the witch Xan, and eventually she is reunited with her birth mom too. And there is a surprising twist towards the end, but I am not going to spoil things.

S: Hmm, I guess I will just have to read the book to find out for myself.

Marshmallow is reading The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.
Marshmallow is reading The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

S: So apparently there was a prequel published right around the time the book came out. What did you think of that?

M: I thought it was interesting to get some backstory on one of the characters. We should probably put links to them in our review.

S: Okay, here is the link to the first part of the prequel, and here is the second part. We should warn our readers that there are lots of popups and ads on the linked pages but the story seems to be worth it.

M: I’d say so.

S: Did this book remind you of any other books you have read or reviewed before?

M: No, I think it was quite unique. I’d say it is really a beautiful story.

S: What you did tell me so far reminded me of a couple of the stories in Soman Chaimani’s Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales. Or even the beginning of the School for Good and Evil stories. There, too, children are taken to save their villages.

M: Yes, I can see what you mean. And I do love the School for Good and Evil books. But I view this book as something quite different.

S: Okay, it is a book of its own, deserves its own place among your favorites?

M: I’d say so. I will definitely reread it at least once more.

S: So then would you be rating it 100%?

M: Yes!

S: And that is a good place to wrap up this review then. I might just grab the book and start reading it right away.

M: You do that! And our readers, they should stay tuned for more amazing reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow rates The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill 100%.
Marshmallow rates The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill 100%.

Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter: A Magical Year – The Illustrations of Jim Kay by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay

Marshmallow has been reviewing the illustrated editions of the Harry Potter books, and so far she reviewed  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneHarry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, all written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay. While waiting for the fifth book to come out in the illustrated version, she came upon another gem: Harry Potter: A Magical Year – The Illustrations of Jim Kay, just hot off the press (publication date is October 2021). As she occasionally does, Sprinkles is asking questions and taking notes.

Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter: A Magical Year - The Illustrations of Jim Kay by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay.
Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter: A Magical Year – The Illustrations of Jim Kay by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay.

Sprinkles:So Marshmallow, tell us a bit about this book.

Marshmallow: This is a book that has Harry Potter quotes for every day. Like the illustrated versions of the Harry Potter series that I have been reviewing for our blog, the drawings were created by Jim Kay. All of the pages are richly decorated with related images and backgrounds.

S: That sounds interesting! So every day, you could wonder what Harry or Hermione or some other person from Hogwarts might have been doing that day and the book would tell you?

M: Not quite. The quotes are placed on a date close to when they are supposed to have happened. But for example on the days before Harry’s birthday, there are several days where we get quotes from Harry’s birthday. But still, if you wanted to have some Harry Potter magic for each day of the year, this would work perfectly!

S: That sounds perfect for a Potterhead like yourself Marshmallow!

M: Yes, exactly.

S: So have you checked the entry for today?

M: Yep! Here is me looking precisely at that page!

Marshmallow is reading the entry for today, November 13, in Harry Potter: A Magical Year - The Illustrations of Jim Kay by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay. The entry is a quote from Hermione Granger, taken from Chapter 19 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: "Why don't we go and have a butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks, it's a bit cold, isn't it?"
Marshmallow is reading the entry for today, November 13, in Harry Potter: A Magical Year – The Illustrations of Jim Kay by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay. The entry is a quote from Hermione Granger, taken from Chapter 19 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: “Why don’t we go and have a butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks, it’s a bit cold, isn’t it?”

S: How about your on birthday? Did you check that out?

M: Yes, and it is kind of a sad one, so I won’t tell you about it.

S: Okay, I understand. And we don’t want to give away personal information here anyways…

Marshmallow is reading the pages corresponding to May 24, May 25, and May 26, in Harry Potter: A Magical Year - The Illustrations of Jim Kay by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay.
Marshmallow is reading the pages corresponding to May 24, May 25, and May 26, in Harry Potter: A Magical Year – The Illustrations of Jim Kay by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay.

S: So would you recommend this book to our readers?

M: Yes, of course. Especially people who like Harry Potter and his world will definitely enjoy this book. It is really pretty, the illustrations are amazing!

S: That is a ringing endorsement, especially coming from you!

M: Well, I always like Harry Potter-related stuff.

S: That’s true of course. So would you like to rate this book then? I think I know what the rating will be…

M: Yes, and I would rate it 100%. It is a beautiful book, especially for bunnies who like Harry Potter…

S: So then we are about ready to wrap up this review I think.

M: Yes!  I’ll again adapt Caramel’s famous closing line to myself and say: “Stay tuned for more amazing reviews from the book bunnies!”

Marshmallow really enjoyed reading and reviewing Harry Potter: A Magical Year - The Illustrations of Jim Kay by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay, and is looking forward to reading more from this author-illustrator team, in particular the illustrated versions of the remaining Harry Potter books.
Marshmallow really enjoyed reading and reviewing Harry Potter: A Magical Year – The Illustrations of Jim Kay by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay, and is looking forward to reading more from this author-illustrator team, in particular the illustrated versions of the remaining Harry Potter books.