Author: Crystal Marcos
Year published: 2010
Publisher: Cat Marcs Publishing
Number of pages: 154
Recommended age: 8+
Daughter Rating: ★★★★★
Daughter Rating: ★★★★★
Son Rating: ★★★★★
Son Rating: ★★★★★
Grown-up Rating: ★★★★½
Grown-up Rating: ★★★★½
Reviewed by: Renee, Danielle and Dominic (Mother, Daughter, and Son)
Summary (from author’s website): A lip smacking, mouthwatering, absolutely delectable debut, BELLYACHE: A Delicious Tale by Crystal Marcos is a literary feast for ages seven and up. In the vein of Roald Dahl’s best-loved adventures, Marcos offers a mystical, character driven escapade that intertwines strands of reality with a larger-than-life fantasy world. When Peter Fischer sets out to help his grandfather at Papa’s Sweet Shop, he will quickly learn that sneaking sweets and covering up his sugar-dusted tracks will have major consequences. As Peter is transported to a mysteriously delicious, faraway land, a curious people known as the Candonites, some of whom have no time for a non-Candonite, will teach Peter a lesson on what it means to be different and what it means to forgive.
What it’s about: This book is about a boy named Peter who goes to help his grandpa at a Sweet Shop. Peter eats too much candy, goes to sleep, and when he wakes up the shop is closed and the lights are all off. He then sees a package on a table that says “Special Delivery” in red letters. He tries to touch it, but the box swallows him and brings him to a weird place called Maple Town, where there is weird candy-animals and weird candy-people called Candonites. Peter really likes Maple Town and the people and doesn’t really want to leave. There are only two Candonites that he doesn’t like (Joe and Carol Winston). He runs into his best friend Lina at a parade held for them. Peter and Lina think they are on their way home, but instead they are taken to a strange castle where they have to rescue two Candonite children who were mean to them. Peter and Lina have to forgive them to save them.
What I liked and disliked about it: I liked the Candonite people, the peppermint cat, and the marshmallow birds and wondered what they would look like in real life. All I could think of were yellow and green gingerbread people. I really wish there were pictures of the Candonites so I could see what they looked like. I wish I could have been Peter so that I could go to Maple Town because I would like to meet the Candonites. The food sounds gross though, like the brussels sprout pie. I liked Lina and wished that there was more of her in the story because she was funny and brave.
Maple Town was a cool place because they ate the same kind of food as humans, except for candy because that’s what they are. I would be fine in Maple Town because I don’t like candy all that much. The pointing trees and floating cars were cool too. I liked that the grass was bluish-green that matched bushes and trees because those are two of my favorite colors.
It was interesting that it seems like Peter’s grandma had already been at Maple Town, but it’s annoying that we don’t know about that for sure. It was also annoying that we don’t know for sure if Peter was just dreaming or not because of the ending. I want to read the next books to find out for sure.
I found that the start of the book was a bit boring because all it talked about was eating candy. Once Peter woke up and found the Special Delivery box with glowing red letters popping out, THAT’s when it got good. It took too long to get to the good part of the story.
My bottom line: I REALLY liked this book because the story was cool and inventive. I would highly recommend this book to my friends, both girls and boys. I am really looking forward to reading the next book.
What it’s about: This story is about a boy who gets eaten by a box and goes to this weird city called Maple Town that has people made out of candy. Peter and his friend Lina who’s also in Maple Town go on a float to the castle. They start to walk up some really tall stairs and they get a huge blast of wind to bring them up to the top. They rescue two kids in the castle and then they get chased by some weird monsters called Peblars and they want them to stay with them forever. They get away and go back home.
What I liked and disliked about it: I really liked the marshmallow birds, peppermint cat, and the people made out of candy (the Candonites). I also liked the Peblars because they had glowing yellow eyes that came out of the wall – I thought that was funny. One of my favorite lines in the story is when Joe, a Candonite boy says:
“Don’t even think about taking a bite out of me!”
There are some things that I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand how Peter got eaten by a box. I also didn’t understand how the float worked: How did it bring them somewhere else?
I didn’t like how it took so long to get to the good part of the story. I don’t like the part where they are just talking because it’s not that interesting.
My bottom line: I really loved, loved the book. I think other kids like me would like the story.
What it’s about: This book tells the story of a young boy, Peter who spends the day helping his grandfather at his Sweets Shop. Peter gives in to the temptation surrounding him, gorging on cupcakes, chocolates, licorice, and candies until he gives himself a bellyache. Unbeknownst to him, a bellyache constitutes a ticket to a marvelous and wondrous place called Maple Town. In Maple Town, Peter runs across the Candonites, who are men, women, children, and even animals made out of an assortment of candies. There are peppermint cats, marshmallow birds, a cupcake mayor, donut women, lemon drop kids, licorice police, and a candycane lady to name a few. In this wildly creative world, Peter runs into his best friend from school, Lina. Together they must make a difficult decision – - to leave Maple Town and go back home or to stay and help their new friends, the Candonites, by facing certain danger.
What I liked and disliked about it: I decided to read this book aloud to my two children over the course of one week. They were begging me each night to read a bit more. This is a reflection of how original, imaginative, and riveting this story really is for children even as young as 5. The children’s books I have read are largely predictable, but this story has so many twists and turns that it keeps you guessing what will happen next throughout. Further, as far as fictional settings are concerned, Maple Town is like nothing I’ve read before. In short, the plot and the setting are very unique and intriguing.
My children’s reviews above speak directly to both what is so great about this book and a few of the weaknesses. What is clearly memorable is Maple Town and the Candonites. Marcos goes to great length to describe this fascinating new world with its pointing trees and blue-green grass and its wide assortment of “candy people”. We were left anticipating what kind of Candonite Peter would run into next. My daughter kept hoping to run into a gingerbread man, but that might have been a bit too cliche! Along the same vein, we were salivating over the descriptions of all of the cakes, cupcakes, candies, licorices, and other sweets in the first chapter of the book. Yummy-num-num! (As my kids would say).
While not giving away too much of the ending, it is worth it to note that there are important and valuable lessons to be learned in this story: compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. Marcos spins a tale where tension between the characters is nearly inevitable: human meets candy person; human likes to eat candy; candy person is afraid of being eaten! You’ll have to read the story to find out if Peter and Lina show restraint.
A couple of small issues I had. First, my kids and I agree that if they were whisked off to a strange land, they would not want to stay there. They would miss their Mommy and Daddy terribly and would want to come home. Ok, maybe I planted that idea in their head! I did find it a bit incredulous that Peter and Lina seemed to want to stay in Maple Town more than they wanted to come home – - they are only 10 after all.
We all agreed that we wanted more of Lina in the story. This series of books (with the second one coming in March, 2012) could have wider appeal to both boys and girls if Lina’s character becomes more fully developed and integrated in the next books. Crossing fingers for more Lina!
While I did read this book to my children (8 and 5 years old), I do believe that the story, as well as the vocabulary was a bit too complex for someone under the age of 8. There were many interruptions with questions such as “What does stupefied mean?” (presumably because it sounds alot like another word they’ve come across…at school), “What does stricken mean?”, “Why are the trees pointing?”, “How did Peter get eaten by the box?”, etc. So, while I think it was a bit much for my 5 year-old (although he did love the story), it was perfect for my 8 year-old (who was completely riveted by the story).
My bottom line: I really, really enjoyed this story. It is very unique and it had me guessing what would happen next. I would recommend the book for both boys and girls who are at least 8 years old. I have to admit that it was a bit difficult to read aloud to the kids, but the proof is in the pudding: They loved it!!
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Where to Buy?
In Canada In U.S.
**Kindle e-book version available through Amazon.com
*** Non-Kindle e-book versions of Bellyache by Crystal Marcos (Smashwords) ***