#368 – Return to Cardamom by Julie Grasso

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Dear Readers, you have read the date correctly.  This book tour ran from July 17th to July 31st, and yes, this is August 6th.  For today only, we are going to pretend today is July 26th and the review for Return to Cardamom, a middle grade novel by Jule Grasso, is online as expected.  For those who do not know, Ms. Grasso’s book tour was missed here at Kid Lit Reviews because the reviewer–me–fell and had to take a couple days off.

July 26, 2013

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The Adventures Of Caramel Cardamom #2: Return To Cardamom

by Julie Grasso

David Blackwell, illustrator

4 Stars

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What the Story is About:  After returning from the forbidden planet of Earth, Caramel returned to the healer school as life went back to normal.  Soon, there was a problem.  The cardamom pods were all bad.  A saboteur, possible a Cardamom elf, is hiding in the rainforest, after having wiped out the cardamom crop that sustains the entire galaxy of intergalactic planets.  Caramel believes Alexander222 and Aunt Isabel are behind the scheme, but the adults refuse to hear it.  In the meantime, Caramel must tend to the plants in hopes of recouping some of the loss.  Caramel is a tree healer and has the ability to soothe the stems, allowing another crop of cardamom to grow.  If the planet cannot supply the yearly needs of the galaxy of planets, Lex will step in with a substance he claims can replace the Cardamom pods forever.

Despite adults refusing to believe her, Caramel and Jorde plan to prove Alexander222 is behind the failing cardamom.  If they do, will Alexander222 and Isabel retaliate.  Is there more to this hybrid energy—Cardocryst—that Lex is letting the council know?

First Sentence:  The Chairman addressed the crowd, banging his fist on the podium.  ‘Ambassadors of the Intergalactic Council, it is clear we have much to investigate.

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What I Think:  Return to Cardamom is more exciting than Escape from the Forbidden Planet.  The adults in Caramel’s life ignore her when she suggests the culprit to the lost pods of cardamom.  Adults can become myopic about “adult events” and ignore a younger voice.  Caramel does not let that stifle her, and with the help of friends, she decides to check her hutch: Alexander222 and Isabel are the culprits.  The loss of an entire cardamom crop, and the resultant loss of the contract to supply the entire intergalactic galaxy with this vital energy source, could destroy the Planet Cardamom’s economy and in turn the planet.  The stakes have definitely increased in book 2. 

Ms. Grasso’s writing was good for a debut in Escape from the Forbidden Planet—which is Earth for those not having read book 1.  Her abilities did not rest there.  This story is tighter, the plot easier to follow, and the ending had two twists, both surprises.  The writing goes into not only a fantasy but also an intergalactic fantasy.  Included are well-researched areas of medicine, technology in general and future technology invented by the author.  A major plot point enters the world of software design, specifically coding.  I am lucky to understand a tiny bit of HTML.  Programing little bits into something of substance is never going to happen, let alone deprogramming and wiping out a vicious virus that, well, causes problems.  Caramel does the latter with relative ease.

Which leads into the one thing that bugs me with Return to Cardamom:  Caramel Cardamom is perfect.  She is the hero and as such, she pulls off some mighty fantastic stunts (no spoilers).  Doing all of that as a disabled individual makes them all the more spectacular.  My problem with Caramel is she does everything correctly, making her inaccessible and difficult to identify with.  Don’t get me wrong, Caramel is a sweet character that, if real, would be a popular girl, liked by kids and parents.  But, main characters need to have some faults, some glitch, at least one that gets in their way, causing the character to fail, near fail, or make a big blunder from which growth can occur.

I understand that the leg disability is supposed to make Caramel’s life more difficult, and it may be a glitch, but regardless of her pain, weakness, or even her fainting, which is not leg related, Caramel is too perfect.  She never fails, as her beaming grandfather points out when he says to Carob, Caramel’s father, “Once again, your clever daughter has saved the day.”  This is more than a doting grandfather who thinks she is perfect.  Caramel is perfect.  There is no more room for growth once perfection has been achieved.

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Return to Cardamom has a few twists that will turn your head with the extended ending involving a major plague on Earth.  I really liked the final twist that involved returning to Earth, the “Forbidden Planet.”  It will involve just about everyone and is more emotional, than magical, but technology is involved—which is often magical to me.  This difficult and emotional ending is a nice addition to a story built around technology and evil.  The 156 pages make for a fast read and there are no wasted words in this second volume of The Adventures of Caramel Cardamom.

Kids who love fantasy and new worlds that clash with our own will love Return to Cardamom.  This second book in Mr. Grasso’s series, The Adventures of Caramel Cardamom, is the perfect book for a rainy day, lounging by the pool, or reading by flashlight under the bed blankets.  Despite being book 2, it can stand on its own for those who have not read book 1.  My advice would be to buy both books.  It is only practical, for once you’ve read Return to Cardamom, you will want to read Escape from the Forbidden Planet, the book that started the adventure.  Here is to hoping Ms. Grasso’s writing skills continue to improve, for if they do, The Adventures of Caramel Cardamom, book 3 will be an irresistible end to Caramel’s fantastic galaxy of worlds.

SHORT REVIEW (click here) and see a sketch of Carmel and more of Jorde

Student Work Pages for Return to Cardamom HERE

Student Work Pages for Escape from the Forbidden Planet HERE

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The Adventures Of Caramel Cardamom #2: Return To Cardamom

by Julie Grasso    website    blog   facebook    twitter

David Blackwell, illustrator    website    blog    facebook    twitter

Released July 6, 2013

ISBN:  978-0-9873725-2-9

156 Pages

Ages 8 to 12

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© 2013 by Julie Anne Grasso, used with permission.

Text:  Copyright © 2013 by Julie Anne Grasso

Illustrations:  Copyright © 2013 by David Blackwell

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A digital book was read for this review.

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11 thoughts on “#368 – Return to Cardamom by Julie Grasso

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  3. Sue, on the technical point of writing, you are 100% correct. Characters need to have faults, overcome conflict, and grow.
    How much the character grows can and does vary in children’s books. Children don’t know all this technical writing stuff–sometimes they just want a fun character doing fun things.

    I do agree with you, though–main characters can’t be perfect and they do need to grow in some aspect.

    This is an awesome review. Good work!

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  4. Hi Sue
    Thank you so much for taking the time for such an in depth review. I really enjoyed it and of course welcome all feedback. Next book I will remember to make Caramel a little less perfect lol. Sending you virtual caramel cupcakes to help that hip heal. Take care, Julie

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    • Hi Julie!

      You know I only want you and your stories to be the best they can be. I’ve said what I think based on how I was taught about main characters, conflicts, faults, growth, etc.

      Now you are the author and creator. You make your Caramel as sweet as you want.

      Mine is but one opinion in a sea of opinions. Am I right (of course I am going to say yes, what a dumb question), but maybe, just maybe I could be wrong. 🙄 Who cares! 🙄

      What matters is what you think and the direction you want to take those characters and your story. ❗

      That said, when I was reading the book I liked the story, and I liked the writing, and I liked the cover, and I liked Caramel. I enjoyed the story. I especially liked the sarcasm about humans and the other little digs meant to be funny. Your writing is getting better, but that is only my opinion. 😀

      As a reviewer, I looked closer that enjoyment. That’s just what I do.

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  5. Pingback: Blog Tour Launch: Return to Cardamom by Julie Anne Grasso | Mother Daughter Book Reviews

  6. Thank you for your review Sue *ahem*. I love the sketches you included – they are pretty neat, aren’t they? So, you have something against perfection?! I’ve never really thought about it that way and I wonder if that is us with our adult goggles on. My daughter loved Caramel – I’m not sure she would say she found her perfection annoying. She would be more likely to say that she would be friends with Caramel in real life. Interesting…

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    • Well, Renee, I am sure there are a few years between your daughter and I, so it is not surprising that our opinions show this age gap. But Caramel’s perfection was taken from a story perspective. If she is already perfect then how is she going to grow? The main character is to conquer a conflict(s) and grow from that conflict, changing to become a better person. Plus, the main character needs to have some fault. Not only to grow from, but also to get in the way of conquering that conflict(s).

      As a reader, Caramel’s “perfection” did not bother me at all, but I did notice that she was the same as she was at the beginning of book 1 and that is not how a character is suppose to carry a series. That was my point.

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