Caramel reviews The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland

Today Caramel reviews Dragon on Trial, the second book of The Menagerie series written by Tui Sutherland, the author of Caramel’s beloved Wings of Fire series, and her sister Kari Sutherland. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking followup questions.

Caramel reviews The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.
Caramel reviews The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, you read this book really fast!

Caramel: Yes, I did.

S: Was it exciting?

C: Yes.

S: So will you tell us about it?

C: Yes, of course!

S: Do tell!

C: This book starts exactly where the last book, The Menagerie, ended. That book ended with the disappearance of Pelly, the golden egg laying goose. And in this book, the heroes, Logan, Zoe, and Blue, try to find out who killed Pelly.

S: Wait, is Pelly dead?

C: Well, it looks like that, at least in the beginning. But —

S: Wait, don’t tell. I still have not read this one, and I really want to.

C: Yes, you should read it. It is just as exciting as the first book.

S: I found the first book really fun and full of curious things. And a lot of mysteries. Is this one as good as that book?

C: Yes. And there are new magical mythical creatures that we meet, and they are awesome!

S: Can you name one?

C: We finally see and meet the dragons!

S: That’s cool. I know you like dragons a lot. Are the dragons of this book similar to any other dragons we met in any other book?

C: Not really. Scratch is a Western dragon and he can fly and he is big and long, and breathes fire. And all clues point to him being guilty of the death of the goose.

S: I see. So he is the “dragon on trial” that is mentioned in the title of the book. And as usual, things are not what they seem, right?

C: Exactly!

Caramel is reading The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.
Caramel is reading The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.

S: So let us move a bit away from the plot so you don’t give away too much by mistake.

C: Okay.

S: Instead maybe we can talk about the characters. Other than the three friends Logan, Zoe, and Blue, do we meet some new important characters?

C: Well, not really. We do get to see the SNAPA agents a few more times. SNAPA stands for SuperNatural Animals Protection Agency.

S: Cool, kind of like a mixture of EPA and the CIA. Right?

C: Yeah, I guess. They are a government agency, trying to protect the mythical animals and they are pretty secretive.

S: Who was your favorite person in this book?

C: My favorite is still Squarp; that is the baby griffin cub that Logan found in his room in the first book.

S: Why is that?

C: Because he is a cute little baby animal!

S: And you are a cute little baby animal, too, so it makes total sense you would like him. He is also very playful and funny; I liked him too, in the first book.

C: You will like him in the second book too!

S: Okay, I think I am quite ready to begin reading the book. How about you? Are you itching to read the third book?

C: Yes!

S: Does this second book also end with a cliffhanger?

C: Kind of. The book ends with them finding out something very serious, a big danger for the menagerie.

S: I can’t wait to find out more! So let us wrap this up so we can both get reading. What do you want to tell our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel loved reading The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, and he cannot wait to get started on the third and last book of the series. Stay tuned!
Caramel loved reading The Menagerie: Dragon on Trial by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, and he cannot wait to get started on the third and last book of the series. Stay tuned!

Caramel reviews The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland

Readers of this blog know that Caramel is a big fan of Tui Sutherland and her Wings of Fire series. He has already read and reviewed all fifteen books! (He reviewed the fifteenth book, The Flames of Hope, only a couple weeks ago; check it out for links to his reviews of the earlier books.) Today he reviews the first book of another series from Tui Sutherland, cowritten by her sister Kari Sutherland: The Menagerie. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.
Caramel reviews The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.

Sprinkles: I know you had been a bit reluctant to read this book Caramel. Can you explain why to our readers?

Caramel: I really would rather not. But I know you really want me to. So okay, I’ll tell. I felt that Tui Sutherland means Wings of Fire and dragons, and I did not want to read a different story by her that I would not really like too much and get disappointed.

S: I can totally understand that. That’s why I read this before you and I was quite convinced you would actually enjoy it.

C: I think you were right. Now I need to read the next book.

S: Wait, I know this is the first book of a trilogy, but then you did like it a lot! That makes me happy. So okay, I promise we will get our paws on the next two books soon, because I too want to know what will happen next. But before that, why don’t you tell our readers what the book is about?

C: It’s about this boy named Logan Wilde who has just moved to Xanadu, Wyoming. He discovers a griffin cub in his room and he realizes that he can hear the cub’s thoughts in his mind and communicate with him.

S: That must be so exciting, right? Finding your own magical mythical beast in your room?

C: Yeah. And being able to understand it when noone else can!

S: So Logan is special somehow?

C: Yes, but we don’t know for a long time why.

S: Alright, so tell us a bit more about the story. Where does this griffin cub come from?

C: The Menagerie.

S: Yes, that is the title of the book.

C: And it’s the name of the place where the cub was living with his five siblings and parents. And a whole lot of other mythical magical creatures, like a phoenix and a golden-egg-laying goose, and so on and so forth.

S: Hmm, so this Menagerie is kind of like a zoo for weird mythical animals, right?

C: Well, it is more like a nature reserve. Because it is not open to visitors. And most people do not know about the place because it is secret.

S: I can see why you would like to keep such a place a secret. Can you imagine what it would be like if people knew there was this place where you could find a golden-egg-laying goose? Or a phoenix? It could get really dangerous for the animals really fast.

C: Right. There is already only one phoenix left in the whole world, and it would be on the wish list of all sorts of people.

Caramel is reading The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.
Caramel is reading The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.

S: So this book is about Logan coming to learn about the Menagerie?

C: Practically. But the one cub in his room is not the only one which ran away. All six siblings escaped and the main story is all about Logan and his friends trying to find all the cubs.

S: And along the way, Logan becomes good friends with the girl and the boy who live in the Menagerie, right?

C: Yes, their names are Zoe and Blue. They are all in seventh grade, with Logan.

S: And then there is the mystery about Logan’s mom?

C: Yes. As it turns out Logan’s mom is —

S: Caramel! You can’t give it away!

C: I was not going to tell anyway. But so she is missing and Logan and his dad just moved to Wyoming to find her.

S: And Logan has no idea why Wyoming should be where his mom would be?

C: No, that is not true. She sent them a postcard from there saying she was not going to come back home. They were living in Chicago, and then they moved all the way out west to Wyoming.

S: Yes, I found that the authors blended the two stories together really well. Logan finding out about the Menagerie and finding out more about his missing mom.

C: Yes, but now we need to read the next book!

S: I agree. But before that, maybe you can tell our readers about the segment in the back of the book about mythical creatures?

C: Sure. It’s titled Camp Underpaw’s Guide to Mythical Creatures. And it lists and describes a lot of strange mythical creatures. Several of them show up in this book. And here is my favorite: Zaratan. It is apparently a “turtle the size of a small island, and yet shockingly difficult to track”.

S: That is really funny Caramel! I knew you would love that list of mythical creatures! You have created your own book of mythical creatures before. And both you and Marshmallow enjoyed the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

C: Well, I really liked the movie but I think only Marshmallow read the book.

S: No worries. You were so much smaller back then. Still, all in all, I am really glad you enjoyed this book. So what three words would you use to describe it?

C: Mysterious, funny, and cliff-hanging.

S: Okay, I guess we will claim that is a word now, because this is at least the second time you are using it. But you are right, the book does end with a resolution to the six escaped cubs problem but ends with a totally new problem which will tie in to the next book. So we do need to read the next book.

C: YES! We do! We have to!

S: Okay Caramel, and we will. But let us finish this post first. What do you want to tell our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunnies reviews!

After some reluctance to begin, Caramel devoured The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, and now is itching to read the next two books in the series.
After some reluctance to begin, Caramel devoured The Menagerie by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, and now is itching to read the next two books in the series.

Marshmallow reviews Bear Bottom by Stuart Gibbs

Marshmallow has already read and reviewed all of Stuart Gibbs’s FunJungle books for the book bunnies blog. You can check out her review of the first book, Belly Uphere, while her review of the second book, Poached, is here. Her review of the third book Big Game is here, her review of the fourth book, Panda-monium, is available here, and her review of the fifth book in the series, Lion Down, is here. She reviewed the sixth book Tyrannosaurus Wrecks last, and you can find the review here. Today she reviews the seventh book of this series: Bear Bottom.

Marshmallow reviews Bear Bottom by Stuart Gibbs.
Marshmallow reviews Bear Bottom by Stuart Gibbs.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like realistic fiction books about animals and mystery, or if you have enjoyed any of Stuart Gibbs’s earlier books, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Teddy Fitzroy generally lives in FunJungle, in the mobile housing section for employees (his parents both work for FunJungle). FunJungle is the world’s largest zoo, described in the first book of the series as a combination of Disneyworld and the San Diego Zoo. The zoo was created by billionaire J.J. McCracken. During his time living in FunJungle, Teddy solved many crimes there and became friends with and eventually began to date J.J.’s daughter, Summer McCracken.

But in this book, Teddy is off to Montana with his parents to accompany J.J., Summer, and several other people. (Summer’s mother, Kandace, comes shortly after too.) This is because J.J. is planning on purchasing a ranch located close to Yellowstone (Oy Vey Corral) to create a FunJungle-approved safari park.

Teddy plans on having a relaxing trip. However, his plans go askew when a giant grizzly bear named Sasquatch breaks into the ranch house and Kandace’s very expensive necklace is stolen. Once again, Teddy finds himself stuck in complicated mysteries that have many suspects, lots of danger, and (so it seems) no answers. 

Marshmallow is reading Bear Bottom by Stuart Gibbs.
Marshmallow is reading Bear Bottom by Stuart Gibbs.

Marshmallow’s Review: I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved all of the books in this series, and I think that this is a great addition. (And I hope it isn’t the last one!) I like that in all of the books there is always more than one mystery; as far I remember, there are almost always two mysteries and they intertwine in very interesting ways.

I liked how we see more than just FunJungle in this book, because it does seem like the series is getting more detached from FunJungle itself. The main setting is Yellowstone and it was a refreshing change. I also appreciated how we have been introduced to so many new characters. 

All in all, the main storyline of Bear Bottom was not an easy mystery to solve; I never would have guessed the real culprits. (I already gave away enough spoilers, but I won’t spoil that for you!) 

I did like however that the author, Stuart Gibbs, had information about animals and history slipped into the story. It also taught me a lot more about some parts of history not often spoken about. Also he touched on important issues, like how Native Americans are treated unfairly and unjustly for their lands.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Bear Bottom by Stuart Gibbs 95%.
Marshmallow rates Bear Bottom by Stuart Gibbs 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

A couple years ago Marshmallow read and reviewed When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Today she reviews another book from the same author published in 2015: Goodbye Stranger.

Marshmallow reviews Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.
Marshmallow reviews Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.

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

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Bridge is an accident survivor. She has missed all of third grade, and had to learn how to live normally again. When she returned to school, her friend Tabitha (Tab) introduced her to Emily (Em), and the three of them became best friends, the set of fourth graders who drew animals in the corner of their homework. (Bridge draws a Martian, Tab draws a funny bird, and Em draws a spotted snake.)

They are now starting seventh grade and are in middle school. They are still best friends, but some things have changed. Em turned out to be really good at sports, and her body has started to change, which has attracted some attention. Tab is now a “know-it-all” and has become very interested in social action/change and feminism.

The three girls are best friends and they all follow one rule: no fighting. But they have encountered some difficulty with this rule since they started middle school. Bridge has become very good friends with a boy named Sherm. She has joined the Tech Crew with him. But she finds herself confused about how she feels about him. But the worst problem of all is Em’s. She has made a critical mistake, regarding a boy, and the repercussions threaten to tear the trio apart. 

Different chapters of the book are told in different voices. In some chapters we read the letters Sherm writes to his grandfather. He never sends them though. Sherm’s grandfather left his family and ran off with some woman that is not Sherm’s grandmother. Sherm doesn’t think that he can forgive his grandfather for leaving them, ever. Sherm also has trouble identifying his feelings toward Bridge. Sherm writes down the events of the book in these letters, from his point of view, ending each letter with the amount of time left before his grandfather’s birthday, something they used to do before he left. 

The third set of chapters is written in the voice of an unknown highschooler (who knows the previous characters mentioned). This particular person is having big problems with her friends, specifically Vinny. Vinny is pretty, smart, and popular, and the unknown highschooler used to be best friends with her, until she (the anonymous highschooler) finally realized how cruel she was. Vinny likes to play a “tasting game” where she blindfolds a person and feeds them something. If she likes you, she gives you a banana or something. If she doesn’t like you, she gives you a spoon of black pepper. The unknown student brings another girl, named Gina, to meet Vinny, and Vinny feeds her pepper during the game. The unknown teenager struggles to understand whether the Vinny she knew when she was younger is still there, under the cruelty. 

Marshmallow is reading Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.
Marshmallow is reading Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.

Marshmallow’s Review: Goodbye Stranger is a good book. I found it interesting that the name of the anonymous highschooler is unknown until the end, and that it turns out to be someone who has been there since the beginning. I didn’t guess who it was at all. As I said before, the book is told from multiple perspectives: Bridge, Sherm, and the unknown girl. I think that this made it more interesting. And the three voices are quite different from one another. All of Sherm’s chapters are in the form of letters written to a grandfather, while Bridge’s chapters are narrated in the third person. The unknown highschooler chapters, on the other hand, keep using “you”, which leaves a totally different flavor in the end.

I think that Goodbye Stranger is probably better for middle schoolers and up. There are some things that might be confusing for younger children. For example, I think Caramel might not understand all of the plot.

One minor thing I felt was not perhaps ideal was the way the most idealistic of the three girls, Tab, was treated, both by others in the book and by the author, too, in the end. I think Tab was perhaps a bit too naive and perhaps a bit too strong with her passion for an equitable and just world, but I think those are valuable things to hope and work for, and I did not appreciate that she was too often dismissed and not taken seriously.

Overall though, I think that the author, Rebecca Stead, did a great job with this book. The characters are unique and realistic, and also very understandable. Rebecca Stead also wrote When You Reach Me, which I reviewed before. I did like that book a lot, too, but I think that Goodbye Stranger is even better.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead 100%.
Marshmallow rates Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead 100%.