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Book Review: Ronaldo: The Phantom Carrot Snatcher – Maxine Sylvester

“Good friends make happy days brighter and problems lighter.” (p. 60)

Is this not the nicest message ever? I’m so glad I read this book! I received a review copy of Ronaldo: The Phantom Carrot Snatcher by the lovely author Maxine Sylvester in exchange for an honest review – thank you so much, Maxine!

When I saw the cover I instantly knew I had to do it – it looks bright and wintery and wonderfully fun! To be honest, at first I thought it a bit odd to be asked to do a review of such an obviously wintery book in the middle of summer, but I was totally wrong! This book is definitely worth to be read all year round (though it would surely also make a great Christmas gift!). By the way, this is the first book of Ronaldo’s adventures I have read and I could perfectly follow along without prior knowledge! Now, let’s get started with the review!

Reindeer Ronaldo and his best friend Rudi are on a special superhero mission to help the lost wolf cub Ernie get back to her pack. Rudi has come up with a super plan to deliver a message to Ernie’s pack during a speed test at flying school. But Ronaldo is concerned – what if this jeopardizes his chances of winning the race? Will Ronaldo go for friendship or glory..?

First of all, I have to say I really loved this book! It’s a perfect winter wonderland setting, and full of Santa’s reindeer – plus Ronny – who is the hero of the story, and rightfully so! I loved that we got to meet Rudolph, probably the most famous reindeer of all, but he is ‘only’ the best friend, not the main character. I loved how full of action and adventure the book is, and that friendship place such an important role in it. I also loved how Ronaldo learns a lot about the true meaning of friendship through several different instances. When he first encounters Ernie, the lost wolf cub, alone in the woods, he is scared of her – as wolfs are the natural enemies of reindeer – but since she is so small and he finds her crying he approaches her nonetheless. However, he doesn’t let her into his family’s house at first, but his bad conscience tells him that this was the wrong choice – it’s so cold outside!

There are several of such instances in the book, and I was always relieved to find Ronaldo going for the morally correct choice after thinking properly about it and weighing his options. It showed that he put others above his personal needs, which is such an important message (for children and adults alike)! The biggest and hardest challenge for Ronny was definitely during his speed test at flying school. He needs to decide whether to take a detour and look for Ernie’s pack or race straight for the finishing line. It was nice seeing him feel good about his decision, even though it threatened his grading overall. It was also nice that Ronaldo is very ambitious – he cares a lot about the outcome of the race and his grading at school, which makes his decision even more special.

I think another important underlying message for children (and adults alike) is that friends come in all shapes and sizes! Especially Rudi, Ronaldo’s best friend, is terribly afraid of wolves, and the reindeer adults in the story spread rumors and prejudices about them amongst the other reindeer children. Since Ronny and Rudi have taken Ernie under their wings and spend so much time with her, they quickly lose their fear though and find that they can have just as much fun with her than with their friends from reindeer flying school – more even, considering some of them and their inclination to pranks and mischief… In the end, they also find that Ernie’s pack is so grateful to have their daughter back that they do not need to be afraid of them, either.

The only tiny negative point – and I mean tiny tiny – is that sometimes I thought the black and white illustrations inside the book made it a bit hard to recognize the reindeer as such – sometimes I thought they resembled hippos more? Or is that just me? They were cute nonetheless! Anyhow, even though I loved the illustrations overall I sometimes got the impression that the situations they portray concentrated more on the negative (facial) expressions rather than the positive ones – the crying, screaming or sometimes mean-ish looks with lots of open mouths, glaring and tears (there isn’t an illustration for every page, so I thought maybe the choice for when to include one could have been made a bit more balanced in that regard?). I think that a lot of this has to do with the aforementioned point – the open mouths made them look like hippos sometimes, but it’s honestly not such of a big deal. Maybe this was just my ‘adult point of view’ – I don’t know.

Other than that I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Ronny, his friends, and their adventures together! Even though I didn’t read the book to or with a child I’m pretty sure children would fall head over heels for both the characters and the story. I’m looking forward to more adventures with Ronny and his friends and recommend the book to everybody, young and old, who loves a good story about the true meaning of friendship! 4.5 stars from me!

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