Caramel reviews Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Today Caramel reviews the first book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, published first in 2007. As usual Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.
Caramel reviews Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

Sprinkles: Caramel, let us start with you telling us a bit about this book.

Caramel: This book is about Greg Heffley, who is just starting middle school. AS he writes, he is “stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons”.

S: Hmm, so Greg does not like his school friends much.

C: He does not like most of the other kids in school, that’s right. All except for his one friend, Rowley. Greg is not very happy at school.

S: Hmm, so this Greg does not sound like a very good role model for a little bunny.

C: Greg is definitely not a good role model.

S: But I think a lot of kids sometimes feel out of place and maybe they have some unpleasant feelings about other people. So maybe Greg is in some ways representing the unsatisfied and unhappy part of being a kid.

C: I guess so. He is kind of a jerk actually.

S: Hmm, how so?

C: He is mean to Rowley, and he does write a lot of mean things about people. Like would you ever say your school friends are all morons?

S: Well, moron is a pretty bad word.

C: Then again there are two bullies in the school and they are really really mean to Greg and Rowley.

S: So I can then understand Greg being upset and angry towards those kids, but no, we would not say all kids in our school are morons. Greg is pretty unfiltered that way.

C: Well, it is his diary after all. He uses some bad words in there too.

S: That is true, we can assume he is not planning to say any of the bad words in real life but uses this diary as an outlet for all his negative feelings.

C: Yes, but he calls it a journal, not a diary.

S: What is the difference?

C: I don’t know. I think he thinks diaries are for girls.

S: Hmm, not sure if I like that! You recently reviewed a book about a writer’s notebook, and there, too, we tried to make a distinction between a writer’s notebook and a journal. So maybe Greg thinks calling it a journal rather than a diary makes it sound more serious.

C: Yes, I think he wants to sound all grownup and mature.

Caramel is reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.
Caramel is reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

S: But he is in middle school!

C: That is pretty old for me!

S: That is true. Then since you are so far away from middle school, did this book feel alien to you?

C: Well not quite. School is school, and Greg is trying to act big and mature, and he seems to think he is better than everyone else, and that can happen everywhere.

S: Do you really think he thinks he is better than everyone else? I have a sneaking suspicion that he is actually not that confident about himself.

C: I guess he is not happy with who he is, but he is really behaving like a jerk sometimes.

S: But through the course of the year, he does learn some things about being a good friend and finding a place for himself in the school, right?

C: I guess so.

S: Did you know that this is the first of a series and there are many more books about Greg and his friends?

C: Yes, but I might want to wait a bit before reaidng those. Middle school is a long way away.

S: I know. But maybe we will watch the animated version of this book?

C: Yes! I think I’d like that. Can we insert the trailer here?

S: Sure. Here you go:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid | Official Trailer | Disney+ (YouTube).

S: The pictures are straight out of the book itself.

C: Yes they really look like the book.

S: What did you think of the illustrations?

C: They are funny, I think the author wanted to make it look like Greg is drawing things in his diary. The book is like a notebook too, there are lines on each page, each page looks like a lined notebook page, and the writing is almost like handwriting.

S: Very neat handwriting though, because I can read it.

C: Yes. I can read my handwriting too but not everyone else can.

S: It is getting much better through the years though. Practice practice practice.

C: Yep.

S: So what three words would you use to describe this book?

C: Funny, multiple plots, funny drawings.

S: Hmm, you used “funny” twice but let’s let it pass. I agree with you, the word works in both places. So what do you want to tell our readers as we wrap up this review?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, and is thinking he might come back to it right before starting middle school.
Caramel enjoyed reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, and is thinking he might come back to it right before starting middle school.

Marshmallow reviews The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel 

Today Marshmallow reviews the 2019 novel The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel.

Marshmallow reviews The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel.
Marshmallow reviews The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel.

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

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Quijana is one-half Guatemalan and one-half American. However, when her Guatemalan cousins move in to the town she lives in, she feels like she is not living up to her Guatemalan part. A main reason for this is because she can’t speak Spanish very well, whereas her cousins speak Spanish as a first language, and they speak English perfectly. But she has other issues too. Her parents have been “Spanish-izing” their house, and trying to introduce Guatemalans culture to their children. Quijana thinks that she is too abnormal as it is and doesn’t want to be “Spanish-ized”. 

In the meantime, Quijana’s grandmother is diagnosed with cancer and has to undergo treatment. Quijana loves her grandmother very much and is very worried about what will happen to her. Quijana is also having issues at school. Spanish-speaking children are very dismissive of Quijana. They seem disappointed by her lack of fluency in Spanish, and tease her for it. Another issue that Quijana has to deal with is the fact that her little brother is becoming remote and harder to reach. (Quijana has other issues too, involving a boy, who is a good friend, but she wants him to be more than that.)

On top of all this, Quijana’s parents want to go to Guatemala on vacation, but Quijana desperately doesn’t want to. She comes up with an escape plan, selling a huipil sent to her by her other grandmother. She plans to board a bus to Florida to avoid having to go to Guatemala. 

Marshmallow is reading The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel.
Marshmallow is reading The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel.

Marshmallow’s Review: The Other Half of Happy is a beautiful book that really shows its main character’s internal conflicts and concerns. The author, Rebecca Balcárcel, invites the reader into Quijana’s world. The book is narrated by Quijana and she is very open about her thoughts and feelings. Quijana feels like she has disappointed her father and her Guatemalan family, because she doesn’t know how to speak Spanish well.

I think that Rebecca Balcárcel writes in a very poetic way. Here is an excerpt, from page 1, to show you what I mean:

“I live in a tilted house. A bowling ball on our living room floor would roll past the couch, past the dining table, all the way to the kitchen sink. And if the sink wasn’t there and the wall wasn’t there and the bathroom behind that wasn’t there, the ball would roll all the way to my room at the end of the house. That’s what it’s like being twelve. Everything rolling toward you.” 

Rebecca Balcárcel, The Other Half of Happy, page 1.

I think that Balcárcel does a good job of creating unique characters. The characters have unique characteristics or quirks, which make them a lot more realistic. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew Quijana very well.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%. 

Marshmallow rates The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel 100%.
Marshmallow rates The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

This week, Marshmallow continues her repeat journey through the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, and reviews the fourth book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The version she is writing about below is the gloriously illustrated edition, with illustrations by Jim Kay.

For Marshmallow’s reviews of the earlier books see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Marshmallow also reviewed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, written as a sequel to the whole series.

Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.
Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about magic and school, or enjoyed the earlier books or any of the movies in the Harry Potter series, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Harry Potter is a fourteen-year-old boy who discovered his wizard identity on his eleventh birthday and has ever since been attending Hogwarts, a school for young wizards. This fourth book about Harry’s adventures in and around Hogwarts starts with the murder of an old Muggle, which is the word wizards use for people who don’t have magic. The Muggle is murdered by Harry’s archnemesis, Lord Voldemort, and Harry sees the whole event in a dream. Lord Voldemort is in a large house that Harry does not recognize, but he does recognize one of Lord Voldemort’s accomplices: Peter Pettigrew, who, as we all learned in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, was the traitor who betrayed his parents. 

On a happier note, Harry is going to be visiting his friend, Ronald Weasley, and watching a Quidditch game with Ron’s whole family and their friend Hermione. However, after the game, Death Eaters, servants of Lord Voldemort, attack the camping grounds for the game and set the Dark Mark, the symbol of Lord Voldemort, in the sky. 

Marshmallow is reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.
Marshmallow is reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.

When Harry returns to Hogwarts for the new school year, he learns that the Triwizard Tournament is being held. The Triwizard Tournament, which had not been held for a while due to it being extremely dangerous, is a tournament in which three students, one from Hogwarts, one from a wizarding school in France named Beauxbatons Academy, and one from another wizard school in northern Europe named Durmstrang Institute. These students compete in trials and the winner receives the Triwizard Cup and a lot of money. Students who are eligible (they need to be seventeen or older) put their names in to the Goblet of Fire, and the Goblet will select the champions.

In the end, Cedric Diggory from Hufflepuff, one of the houses at Hogwarts, is selected, along with Fleur Delacour from Beauxbatons, and Viktor Krum from Durmstrang. (Viktor is also a famous Quidditch player and we had heard about him before when watching the quidditch game when the Dark Mark had appeared.) Surprisingly, the Goblet also selects Harry, who did not put his name in, nor is eligible because he is too young. However, the judges decide that he will have to compete.

The Triwizard Tournament has always been extremely dangerous, and now, given the impending return of Lord Voldemort, Harry faces more danger than he can imagine. 

Marshmallow is still reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.
Marshmallow is still reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a great book and makes a great fourth book to the Harry Potter series. The author J. K. Rowling created an amazing world and we continue to learn more about it in this book. Something that really adds to the pleasure of reading these books is all the details that she adds. 

The particular version that I chose to read for this review is the illustrated one, by Jim Kay. The drawings are amazing! There are almost no pages that don’t have a special background related to the story, or a drawing or two in the corner. Sometimes there are pages that are all pictures, beautiful, eerie, haunting, whatever is needed at that point of the story. 

Some of the illustrations reminded me of the movie, which too was pretty awesome. Here is the trailer for it in case you are interested in checking it out:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Original Theatrical Trailer (2005).

The plot is very well written. There are some twists and turns that one would not expect, but the evidence is all in the story. Sprinkles tells me that this was the most moving book in the series for her. It is also one of the longest (only the fifth book is longer). But it is definitely worth the read.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay 100%.
Marshmallow rates Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay 100%.

Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Marshmallow has been slowly going through the Harry Potter books, rereading the illustrated versions and reviewing them for the book bunnies blog. See for example her reviews of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the first two books in the series. Today she wanted to write about the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.

Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.
Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about magic and school, and especially if you enjoyed the previous Harry Potter books, or any of the movies from the series, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Harry Potter, a thirteen-year-old wizard, has been attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for two years and is going to be starting his third year soon. At Hogwarts, third-years are allowed to go to Hogsmeade, a wizard town, but students must have permission from their guardians. Unfortunately, Harry’s guardians, Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, don’t like anything to do with magic. They like to think of themselves as ordinary and hate anything that is not. Harry and Uncle Vernon strike a deal. If Harry behaves around Uncle Vernon’s sister Marge, who is coming to visit for a week, Uncle Vernon will sign the permission slip. Aunt Marge hates Harry and treats him terribly, like everyone else, but Harry agrees to try to behave himself, meaning no “funny stuff”. By “funny stuff”, Uncle Vernon means that Harry won’t use magic. Aunt Marge does not know that Harry is a wizard and believes that he attends St. Brutus’s Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys. 

Until the last day, Harry behaves. Marge loves to criticize him for anything, but Harry endures it, until she starts insulting Harry’s parents. She says that his father was “a no-account, good-for-nothing, lazy scrounger”. Harry says that that is wrong, and Uncle Vernon tries to change the subject and tells Harry to go to his room. However Marge wants to hear what he said. They start arguing and Marge starts swelling. She inflates like a balloon, and starts rising. Harry runs away, but little does he know that he is in great danger, being alone. Even the Muggles know that there is a dangerous criminal at large, but they don’t know that he is a violent criminal who has escaped from the inescapable wizard prison of Azkaban. What’s more, he is after Harry. 

Marshmallow is reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.
Marshmallow is reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.

Marshmallow’s Review: I think that this is one of the best Harry Potter books. I like The Prisoner of Azkaban’s plot, because it explains a lot about Harry’s past, and the event that made him famous in the wizarding world. There are some twists in the plot, like who the main bad guy is, but I won’t spoil any more. 

I think that the characters are also well written: they are realistic and relatable. My favorite character is Hermione Granger, one of Harry’s best friends at Hogwarts. Hermione is really hard-working and smart. All of J. K. Rowling’s characters have unique and distinct personalities. 

I read the illustrated edition this time, and it has not only beautiful drawings, but also other interesting pages. Some of the pages are full with information about animals mentioned in the book. These pages also have detailed drawings of the creature being described. And on pages without illustrations, the background is a related pattern, or, on one page, the wrapper of a chocolate bar.

This book has been made into a movie which I have watched several times and I still enjoy. The trailer is below:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Official Trailer #1 – (2004) from YouTube.

One of the special things about J. K. Rowling’s books is that she takes care of all of the details, which helps to create a completely believable world for Harry. Also, the details sometimes tie into the main plot, and very neatly too. All of the books in the Harry Potter series are amazing, and The Prisoner of Azkaban is no exception. 

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay 100%.
Marshmallow rates Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay 100%.