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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Polly Horvath's MG Tale As Entertaining as ... well, Everything on a Waffle

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"Didn't you ever believe anything just because you knew it was true?"

Young Primrose Squarp's plaintive question drives the residents of Coal Harbour, British Columbia up the wall and back down again. The truth is: her parents drowned when their boat collapsed in a typhoon. Sitting on the dock every day watching the ocean won't bring them back. Frankly, think most townspeople, the child needs to face the facts.

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath tells Primrose's story. After her parents' disappearance, Primrose lives with a doddling old woman whose mothball smell permeates everything she touches (even her tea cookies). Eventually, a relative is located and she moves in with her bachelor uncle, Jack. Not one for close supervision, he lets her roam at will, which leads to all sorts of trouble. As Primrose wanders the town avoiding her taunting classmates, collecting recipes and waiting for her parents, she somehow manages to start the class pet on fire, get hit by a truck, tangled in a fishing net, and almost incarcerated. Her endless hope is about the only thing saving her from a completely miserable life. Well, that and The Girl on the Red Swing, a homey dive where you can get everything served on a waffle. And I do mean, everything. If you're Primrose, you also get some affection and life lessons from the chain-smoking cook, Miss Bowzer.

Primrose is the kind of narrator you can't help but love. Her naivete makes her vulnerable, but her faith keeps her strong. Her observations on life are downright hilarious. Take this note she jots down next to a recipe for tea biscuits:

This is really two recipes. One is the recipe for delicious tea biscuits and the other is for Miss Perfidy's tea biscuits. For delicious tea biscuits ... If you prefer Miss Perfidy's tea biscuits, double the baking soda and leave out the vanilla. Then age for ten days in a drawer full of mothballs They won't be tasty but they'll be authentic. (64)

The narration is pitch-perfect, as fresh as a child's take on life always is. Plenty of funny situations balance out the tragedies that befall Primrose, cushioning them for the reader as well as our intrepid heroine. What results is a funny, but subtly poignant story about a girl who refuses to give up on what she knows in her heart to be true.

Everything on a Waffle is a thoroughly enjoyable story, filled with eccentric characters and a very engaging narrator. The only thing that soured it for me was the odd, rushed ending. It just felt like a cop-out to me. I'm not sure what kind of ending I imagined, but it definitely wasn't the one Horvath supplied. Did it work? Not for me. Ah, well. You win some, you lose some. It's still a fun, different book that kids should find as entertaining as ... lasagna on a waffle ... or shepherd's pie on a waffle ... or, well, everything on a waffle!

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: G


  1. I've always wondered about that book. Thanks for the terrific -- and honest -- review.

  2. Great review, as usual! Spot on about the ending too. I appreciate your candor, it left me wanting.... a waffle maybe?

  3. I can't find your email address, so I will leave you the info you asked for here.

    Susan Here are the two sites I used to do it:

    (to make the static pages)

    (to make the navigation bar:) (This is a site I use all the time to find new things for my blog)

    Scroll down till you see "Text Link Menu Navigation Bars" If you need more help, let me know.

  4. Wonderful review. This sounds like such a charming story.


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