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%.

Caramel reviews N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society, by Michael Buckley

Today Caramel wanted to review a book he discovered in his classroom library: N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society, written by Michael Buckley. As usual Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society, by Michael Buckley.
Caramel reviews N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society, by Michael Buckley.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, tell me a bit about this book.

Caramel:The book is about a secret organization called N.E.R.D.S. It is an acronym, for National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society.

S: That’s a funny way to open up the word “nerds”. So this secret society, is it made up of children?

C: Yes, and they are all nerds.

S: What does that mean?

C: I think it means someone who is super-smart.

S: And sometimes it comes with connotations of socially awkward and inept, because people occasionally use the term in a derogatory way.

C: But the nerds in this book are pretty cool. They have super cool gadgets.

S: Ooh, that sounds interesting. Tell me more.

C: For example there is a character called Jackson Jones, who is wearing braces, but the braces can change into weapons and anything else he needs at the time. Then there is Duncan Dewey who can shoot glue out of his hands. He can also stick to walls and so can climb walls. He can also climb on the ceiling.

S: Those are some super cool tools and gadgets really. The characters seem to be nerdy but also kind of like superheroes, right?

C: Yes. And they solve crimes together.

S: But they are school children, aren’t they? How does this crime-fighting fit into their school lives?

C: There is a fire alarm that they set off and they sneak away without anyone noticing they are gone.

S: Hmm, not a very respectable thing to do, setting off an alarm like that, but maybe they are doing very important work. So tell me, what kinds of crimes do they fight?

C: They are fighting evil people, like people who kidnap scientists and so on. So in this book a few scientists have been kidnapped, and they try to get the scientists back.

S: Oooh, that sounds serious!

C: Yes it is.

Caramel is reading N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society, by Michael Buckley.
Caramel is reading N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society, by Michael Buckley.

S: So I saw you read this book really fast. There are lots of pictures in it, and I could see that the book could be appealing to you from how it started. Can you read the dedication page to our readers?

C: Okay, here it is:

For dorks, dweebs, geeks, spazzes, waste cases, and nerds everywhere. Some day you too will change the world.

S: So this book is written to inspire kids who see themselves as outcasts in a way.

C: I guess it could be. But it is also really really funny. And the mystery is very interesting.

S: I can tell you really enjoyed the book. Do you think you will read the next one in the series? Apparently there are a total of five books.

C: Yes. I want to read them all!

S: That’s very good. So tell me your three words to describe the book then, and we can wrap up this review.

C: Fun, funny, and adventurous.

S: That sounds neat! And what else do you want to tell our readers?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society, by Michael Buckley, and is looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
Caramel enjoyed reading N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society, by Michael Buckley, and is looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

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 Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Today Marshmallow reviews Front Desk, the 2018 book by Kelly Yang.

Marshmallow reviews Front Desk by Kelly Yang.
Marshmallow reviews Front Desk by Kelly Yang.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like reading books to learn about different people’s lives, or if you simply want to read about an immigrant girl and her life (in school and elsewhere), then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Mia Tang and her family immigrated to America with dreams of a large house with a dog and lots of hamburgers.

“My parents told me that America would be this amazing place where we could live in a house with a dog, do whatever we want, and eat hamburgers till we were red in the face. So far, the only part of that we’ve achieved is the hamburger part, but I’m still holding out hope. And the hamburgers here are pretty good.”

When Mia’s parents, who had been searching for a job, find out that the Calivista Motel needs a manager, and that the job comes with free boarding, they take the job. Unfortunately, they soon learn that the owner, Mr. Yao, is a very unpleasant man. He doesn’t want them to use the pool, as it might “encourage” the customers to swim, which he claims is bad for the environment. (The real reason is that keeping the pool clean costs money.) If anything breaks, Mr. Yao has Mia’s parents pay for it. He also has a son named Jason, who tries to emulate his father’s behavior and is rude to Mia.

One of the good things about the Calivista Motel is that Mia gets to help with the managing. She works at the front desk and presses the button to let people in to the motel. When she gets this assignment, Mr. Yao tells her to make sure not to “let bad people in”. As the book progresses, we learn that Mr. Yao meant “black people” when he said bad people. However Mia and her family are a lot more open minded. Over time, Mia starts to become friends with the weeklies, people who stay in the motel long term, in a way that is almost like renting. And Mia’s parents eventually start to let immigrants stay in the Calivista Motel for free. The immigrants tell their stories to Mia and her parents. One of them is now in debt to loan sharks. Another one’s previous boss took their IDs and passports. Some of them are looking for jobs. Many of them are facing a lot of challenges in their lives.

Marshmallow is reading Front Desk by Kelly Yang.
Marshmallow is reading Front Desk by Kelly Yang.

Mia starts school, and makes friends with a girl named Lupe. Unfortunately, Mr. Yao’s son Jason is also in Mia’s class. Mia pretends that she has a house with a pool and her family has a golden retriever.

At some point, Mia finds out about a contest to win a motel. Her family is not getting a fair amount of money, so the possibility of owning her own motel seems incredible to Mia. However, the contest is an essay contest, and Mia has been having trouble with the tenses. Will she be able to win the motel?

Here is the author’s introduction to the book:

Front Desk by Kelly Yang (posted by Scholastic on YouTube).

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that Front Desk is a great book. It is realistic and moving. I think that the author, Kelly Yang, did a great job of writing a book that evokes so many feelings in the reader. I have learned that the author actually based this book off of her own experiences. Maybe that is one of the reasons everything is so convincing and touching.

I also enjoyed it when, later in the book, Mia takes matters into her own hands and writes letters to people in order to change her friends’ lives for the better. She writes as the manager of the Calivista Motel, but also, once, as a lawyer (though she is of course not a lawyer). Still her writing plays an important role, throughout the book. Even though Mia enjoys English a lot at school, her mother thinks that she should stick to math: she tells her, “You know what you are in English? You’re a bicycle, and the other kids are cars.” It is good to see that her writing turns out to be so valuable in the end!

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates Front Desk by Kelly Yang 100%.
Marshmallow rates Front Desk by Kelly Yang 100%.