Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Marshmallow has been reviewing the illustrated editions of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series for the book bunnies blog. In the past few years she has read and reviewed the first four books, 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. This week, when the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, finally appeared in the illustrated version, Marshmallow was able to get her paws on a copy and reread it once more. Below is her review of this book.

Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay and Neil Packer.
Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay and Neil Packer.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about magic and friendship, or if you have enjoyed the previous Harry Potter books, then this might be the book for you. (If you have not read any of the first four books yet, you might be better off starting from the beginning.)

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Harry Potter is a teenage boy who discovered on his eleventh birthday that he was a wizard (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). Since then his life has been transformed as he attends the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Not to mention that he is extremely famous as the boy who survived when Lord Voldemort, the Wizarding World’s most infamous villain, tried to kill him. When Voldemort failed to kill him, it was believed that the curse he released on Harry rebounded and killed Voldemort instead. However, in the four years Harry has attended Hogwarts, Voldemort has made several attempts to return. His first few attempts, chronicled in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, were eventually foiled, but unfortunately, last year, in the climax of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he succeeded. So at the beginning of this book, Lord Voldemort is back.

The bad part, besides the whole “worst wizard in the world has returned” part, is that the Wizarding World refuses to believe Harry when he tries to convince them that Voldemort is back, since he was the only witness to Voldemort’s return who is not working for Voldemort, and as expected, none of the others are talking. The entire Wizarding World believes now that Harry is no longer the miraculous boy who lived, but instead he is a nutjob conspiracist. Dumbledore, Hogwart’s headmaster, supported Harry’s claim and is now being demoted, with people insisting that he must be going senile. 

Since Harry only attends Hogwarts during the school year, he must spend most of the summer at the house of his aunt Petunia and uncle Vernon (with his obnoxious, bullying cousin Dudley). Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon despise magic as they are Muggles, or un-magical people, like the rest of us. (Harry’s parents were both wizards, but they were killed the night that Harry survived Voldemort’s curse.) Whenever Harry stays at his aunt and uncle’s, he is cut off entirely from the world of magic. Generally, his best friends, Ron and Hermione, send letters, but this summer, Harry only receives cryptic messages from them, saying that they are not allowed to tell him too much about what they are doing. 

Harry is thus feeling rather lonely and unhappy, when his predicament is much worsened by a sudden dementor attack. Dementors are foul creatures that feed on the despair of humans and can suck souls. Harry must use a spell to stop them from doing just that to his cousin Dudley (despite the fact that he hates him). However, underage wizards (like Harry) are forbidden from using magic in front of Muggles. As a result, Harry receives messages that inform him that he is to be tried for his behavior. So far it seems that everything is against him, and it is about to get a whole lot worse. 

Marshmallow’s Review: I have loved all of the Harry Potter books I have read (as well as pretty much every book written about this Wizarding World). The author has created a magical but realistic world with unique characters and undetectable plots. This fifth book is no exception.

As Harry is getting older, his world is becoming more and more dangerous, and the story is getting a lot scarier. Though I enjoyed this book immensely, and I watched the movie version with much excitement, I’d definitely urge caution for younger bunnies who might not yet be ready for this much tension.

The original version of the book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was already amazing, but this illustrated version is even more special. It is beautifully drawn by Jim Kay together with Neil Packer, filled with images and drawings relating to the story. The characters and events are portrayed in large, detailed drawings, each page is different, and I enjoyed diving into the images when I took my eyes away from the words. 

The Order of the Phoenix is the longest of the seven Harry Potter books, so this illustrated version is a really big book, almost like an encyclopedia volume. But it is beautiful to behold. I very much enjoyed returning once more to Harry’s world in this illustrated edition.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay and Neil Packer, 100%.
Marshmallow rates Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay and Neil Packer, 100%.

Marshmallow reviews Guts by Raina Telgemeier

Marshmallow has already reviewed several graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier for the book bunnies blog. (You can read her reviews of Ghost (2006), the graphic novel version of Ann N. Martin’s Kristy’s Great Idea (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #1) (2006), Drama (2012), Smile (2010), and Sisters (2014) if you’d like.) Today she reviews Guts (2019).

Marshmallow reviews Guts by Raina Telgemeier.
Marshmallow reviews Guts by Raina Telgemeier.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about family, fears, and personal development, or if you have enjoyed graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier before, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Raina  Telgemeier wakes up one night with a terrible stomachache and vomits. At first it seems like she has a stomach bug that was recently going around, as her mother is also throwing up. The two of them spend the rest of the night throwing up. Unfortunately for Raina, her fourth grade is a constant gross-out competition. Everyone seems fascinated by gross things. There is especially one girl named Michelle who is always mean to Raina. (But whenever Raina responds in kind, her teacher tells her to be nicer to Michelle and says that Raina doesn’t know everything about Michelle) The problem with all this grossness is that Raina seems more worried than everyone else. Eventually Raina becomes so concerned that she starts to monitor what she eats to make sure that she doesn’t become sick. Raina sometimes feels really sick, but there seems to be nothing really wrong; she seems perfectly healthy, at least physically. To get over her illness, Raina will have to face her fears with help from her family, her friends, and her therapist. 

Marshmallow is reading Guts by Raina Telgemeier.
Marshmallow is reading Guts by Raina Telgemeier.

Marshmallow’s Review: Guts, if you didn’t know, is based off the life of the author, specifically her fourth and fifth grade experience. The best way to describe this book is authentic because it is not at all artificial. The characters are all funny and relatable. The people in this book might also remind you of your friends, family, or other relations.

I did not think anything discussed or depicted in the book was disgusting, but it was probably the first fiction book I read that dealt with human bodily functions like vomiting and bowel movements. (A while ago, Caramel did review The Science of Poop and Farts: The Smelly Truth About Digestion by Alex Woolf for our blog, but that was a science facts book; these types of things do not typically show up in most fiction books.)

This video of Raina Telgemeier talking about Guts summarizes and contextualizes the book really well:

“Raina Telgemeier: Guts — let’s just talk about it” – YouTube video.

I think that Guts is a good addition to Smile and Sisters. As far as I know, this is the last book Raina Telgemeier has written about her childhood, even though time-wise, it comes before the other two. I found it interesting to read about what had occurred before the first two books, and some characters in the first book who were mentioned were also in Guts, which definitely added to how real the books felt. I especially like how the author, Raina Telgemeier, doesn’t leave anything out and how original the books are.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Guts by Raina Telgemeier 95%.
Marshmallow rates Guts by Raina Telgemeier 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Marshmallow has reviewed three books by Raina Telgemeier before: Ghost (2006), the graphic novel version of Ann N. Martin’s Kristy’s Great Idea (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #1) (2006), and Drama (2012). For her first review after her summer break she chose to write about a fourth Telgemeier book: Smile (2010).

Marshmallow reviews Smile by Raina Telgemeier.
Marshmallow reviews Smile by Raina Telgemeier.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about friends, friendship, and school, or if you enjoyed any of Raina Telgemeier’s other graphic novels, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): When Raina Telgemeier fell after her Girl Scouts meeting, her front teeth fell too. Unfortunately, they were her adult teeth and they weren’t going to grow back. This leads to a long process that continues for years. Her teeth must be fixed through braces, headgear (only during the night), and more. Raina is extremely self conscious of her image at school, and fears that her braces will make her look like a “dork” or a “nerd”; her friend group doesn’t help at all. In fact, several of her friends tell her that, “cool just isn’t the word to describe you.” In addition to all this, Raina has, what the book cover calls, “boy confusion”. ’nuff said.

Raina feels overwhelmed by middle school, and eventually high school. She is frustrated by the teeth issue, and struggling to find out what real, true friendship really is. I can’t spoil too much, but I can say that by the end, Raina can finally smile. 

Marshmallow is reading Smile by Raina Telgemeier.
Marshmallow is reading Smile by Raina Telgemeier.

Marshmallow’s Review: I thought that this was a very interesting insight into the author’s childhood, and her experiences with middle and high school. This book is about the author, Raina Telgemeier, herself, and spans several years of her teenage experience. 

Though I couldn’t associate myself with all of the feelings the main character had, I can still sympathize with her problems, because the character is shown in such a real way. She is almost like a real person. (Oh, wait, she is.)

This is a graphic novel, and one of a series. However, despite the fact that there are two other books, this can definitely be read as a stand-alone book. But it doesn’t take too long to read, so you can probably read the books all at once and it makes a nice story all together. (I might even review the other books for the blog some day.) However, as I said, this could be a stand-alone, because the story ends at a satisfactory point. (Furthermore, the story arcs of the other two books are all different and the plots are all unconnected. I would of course say more if I do end up reviewing them, too.)

All in all, Smile is a good book that can be enjoyed by all. But I would say that probably a middle school / middle grades reader would find it more exciting than younger or older bunnies.  

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Smile by Raina Telgemeier 95%.
Marshmallow rates Smile by Raina Telgemeier 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Dear Student by Elly Swartz

Today Marshmallow reviews Dear Student by Elly Swartz, published in February 2022.

The book bunnies received this book as a review copy.

Marshmallow reviews Dear Student by Elly Swartz.
Marshmallow reviews Dear Student by Elly Swartz.

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

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Autumn Blake’s father left her, her sister, and her mother to work in the Peace Corps. He wanted to “seize the day”, but Autumn doesn’t see why he has to go to Ecuador with the Peace Corps to do so. Now she, her sister Pickle, and her mother are living without her father.

Her father is not the only important person who has left Autumn. Her best friend Prisha has also just moved to California. So Autumn is starting middle school without a good friend.

The book starts on the first day of school. Autumn is starting sixth grade and neither her father nor her best friend will be there. But it turns out that the first day is still quite eventful.

On that first day of school, a boy runs over an iguana’s tail. Autumn and the boy, named Cooper, take the iguana to the veterinarian. Autumn’s mom is the vet, and she starts to try to save the iguana. Autumn then starts spending time with Cooper every day at lunch, and they become friends quickly. They decide to do a whoopie pie stand to raise money to take care of Cooper’s dog, Mr. Magoo. 

On that first day of school, Autumn also makes friends with a girl named Logan. Logan’s mother is a famous human rights lawyer. Logan is nice, but Autumn feels that everything she does is forced: her smile, her words, her agreements.

Unfortunately, Logan dislikes Cooper. She thinks he is weird. Autumn starts to have trouble choosing between which friend she will spend time with.

On top of this, Autumn has become the writer of Dear Student, the famous advice column in the student paper, following the advice her dad gave on her first day to “do one thing”. Her job is to respond to questions sent anonymously by students, and her own identity is also to be kept secret. But one piece of advice she gives ends up forcing her to choose between her two friends. Will she be able to make it through with both her friends?

Marshmallow is reading Dear Student by Elly Swartz.
Marshmallow is reading Dear Student by Elly Swartz.

Marshmallow’s Review: Dear Student is a great book and a quick read. Written in fifty-four short chapters, it tells us a compelling story about friendship, family, and finding one’s voice.

The character Autumn is a nice person (her mom calls her “a gentle spirit”) and a great sister. She is relatable and she has a realistic personality. The other characters are also very realistic.

I think the author Ella Swartz did a great job of showing Autumn’s dilemma in the book and also her confusion and hurt about her father’s departure. The whole story is told through Autumn’s perspective (except for the student letters she reads and responds to, the postcards from her dad, and the messages from her friend Prisha), and in the present tense, and both these help make Autumn and her feelings come across as very real and almost urgent.

Ella Swartz’s Dear Student does not have a big mystery like Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot or Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me or any of the FunJungle books, but when I was reading it, I still wanted to read on to find out how things would turn out. The plot is not completely predictable and keeps you wanting to read further. The central dilemma of the book involves animal rights, just like in Hoot, but in Dear Student, we get a human dimension, too, complicating the issue further.

I thought that the questions addressed to the Dear Student column were sometimes related to how Autumn was feeling, which worked really well. And the column responses give the reader good advice on all types of topics. It was also neat to see a reference to a book Caramel read and reviewed before: Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat.

All in all I really enjoyed reading Dear Student. I look forward to trying the whoopie pie recipe at the end of the book…

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates Dear Student by Ella Swartz