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

Marshmallow reviews Soof by Sarah Weeks

A few months ago Marshmallow reviewed Save Me A Seat, a 2016 novel by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan. Today she wanted to talk about Soof, a 2018 book by Sarah Weeks that she has read recently. As this was an exceptionally busy week for Marshmallow, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Marshmallow reviews Soof by Sarah Weeks.
Marshmallow reviews Soof by Sarah Weeks.

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

Marshmallow: Soof is about a girl named Aurora. Aurora has grown up hearing about this girl named Heidi, who brought Aurora’s family a lot of good luck. Heidi was apparently the main character of another book Sarah Weeks wrote, and in Soof, Heidi is now a grownup and is pregnant. She’s going to come to visit Aurora’s parents, and so Aurora is feeling a bit weird about it all. She is excited to meet this Heidi. but she is also a bit jealous of how much her mom likes her. I think this is totally understandable, because her mom and her dad keep telling her about Heidi and how she seemed to bring good luck to the people around her. And Aurora, she doesn’t feel lucky at all. Especially when her house burns down and she loses her dog.

S: Hmm, that is quite a setup for a story. I did not know this book was a sequel. Did you read that other book?

M: No. But it does not seem necessary to have read that first book. (I think its name is So B. It.) I thought the story stood on its own.

S: Hmm, sometimes authors like a character in a story and then bring them back to life in different ways in other books. Maybe that was what happened here too. A girl who brings good luck would be a good plot device I’d say.

M: Well, I don’t want to say she brings good luck, and I don’t think it is magic or anything. It’s just that she is extremely lucky. But anyways, the story is mainly about Aurora and her life.

S: And Aurora is not very lucky and she is curious to meet Heidi but also slightly jealous. Okay, I think I get it. So now you have to tell me, what is the meaning of the word in the title?

M: Soof apparently means love. One of the main plot lines is for Aurora to learn what soof really means.

Marshmallow is reading Soof by Sarah Weeks.
Marshmallow is reading Soof by Sarah Weeks.

S: Looking it up online there seems to be some explanation of that in the first book too, so maybe it was good you had not read that one.

M: Yes, I actually found it interesting to meet Heidi from Aurora’s perspective. I’m intrigued by the other story too. Apparently they made a movie about it. Shall we put in the trailer here?

S: Sure.

Trailer for the 2017 movie So B. It, from YouTube.

M: I think we should tell our readers that there is a movie named Soof too but it is not the same Soof.

S: Yes, I think that is a good idea. Okay, let us get back to the book. Did you like the book?

M: Yes. I liked the characters, I thought they were very realistic. I too would be kind of jealous if my mom kept talking about this other person Heidi who was so awesome.

S: Okay, I will keep that in mind. So was the book also funny?

M: Not really. I think it was more emotional than funny. But I did like it.

S: You have read and reviewed Save Me A Seat, which the author of Soof cowrote with someone else. Do you see any similarities between the two books?

M: I think they are quite different. I think the author was able to create a totally different story with totally different characters.

S: That is a good thing! They are both aimed towards middle grade readers. but other than that, the author is versatile enough to create totally independent stories. That is neat.

M: Yes. I think she actually has several other books besides these two. Her website is an interesting place to visit.

S: What would you like to ask her if you could?

M: I’d ask her where she got the ideas for all of Aurora’s quirks. She likes tapping her nose and things like that. I think it is interesting.

S: That’s a good question Marshmallow. And it is clear you enjoyed reading this book. I’m assuming you’d recommend it to other readers?

M: Certainly. I rate it 95%, only because Aurora feels so different from me, so I have some difficulty completely understanding her.

S: Well that’s fair. After all you are a little bunny and she is …

M: Yes. That must be it.

S: Okay, so let us wrap up this review then. What would you like to tell our readers?

M: Stay tuned for more amazing reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow loved reading Soof by Sarah Weeks and rated it 95%.
Marshmallow loved reading Soof by Sarah Weeks and rated it 95%.