I think the way a book looks --- its cover art and trim size--- tells you a lot about what's inside. There are focus groups and busy professionals spending countless hours behind those aesthetic decisions, and they all mean something. THE DANCING PANCAKE comes in a delicious cover depicting the store our protagonist Bindi's mom opens in the story. And it's a small trim novel with a lot of spot illustrations placed brilliantly throughout its brief chapters. For a beginning reader, the short spurts of text interwoven amongst penciled drawings that evoke the ones from the classic HARRIET THE SPY make THE DANCING PANCAKE a winner before you even get to the sweet and hilarious story from acclaimed author Eileen Spinelli.
There is a lot more to recommend here: a story that anyone can relate to, a protagonist who is smart but not smarmy, additional characters who add resonance to the main themes of finding your place and handling new adventures with courage and enjoyment. The book reads like a mini-journal by Bindi; it tells the story from her perspective, in her little voice, written in small paragraphs that make each outlook, each revelation, seem like a little poem. This is a good tactic for helping young readers create some momentum with getting through an entire chapter book.
Spinelli doesn't dumb down her creation in order to appeal only to the youngest readers. My nine-year-old thought it was funny and has read and reread the entire Harry Potter series without stopping. So this book can appeal to older readers as well. As I was reading it, I kept thinking that I would love to use it in a writing class; there are lots of "what ifs" here that could be used to propel students into their own writings, and the short spurts of text would encourage those young writers who might be under the wrong impression that all good writing goes on and on and on. Clearly, as in THE DANCING PANCAKE, it doesn't.
In little vignette chapters such as "The Sofa" and "Advice," Bindi gives us the rundown on the new life that her family experiences with the creation and opening of the Dancing Pancake, her mom's new restaurant, in a very specific voice. There is an intimacy with the character that reminds me of the best stories of childhood, where the characters let you into their hearts and souls in simple ways, without a lot of drama, but with such clear dedication to the truth that their world resonates with you far beyond the last turn of a page. Highly recommended for all ages.
Eileen Spinelli is at it again with a poignant and charming new tale! Written in gentle verse, The Dancing Pancake is told from the point of view of spunky Bindi, only child and reader extraordinaire. Her comfy normal life is quickly turned askew when her parents separate and her mother moves them into a small apartment building above the restaurant that she and Bindi’s aunt have just purchased together.
Bindi soon learns that life above The Dancing Pancake can be filled with joy, however much she might miss her father and her old house and old life and however mad and sad she might feel about all of the changes thrust upon her. The cast of waiters and customers who make up Bindi’s new community is a fascinating and fun one, especially bubbly waitress Ruby Frances, pesky little cousin Jackson, and homeless Gracie.
With the help of her friends, Bindi finds that she just might be able to weather separation and syrup bottles and slime green bedroom walls just fine, even if her aunt does make her wear a pancake costume to attract customers. Funny illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff add spark to this is a warm and syrup-sweet story that’s great for middle and older readers.
This review originally appeared on abookandahug.com
Eileen Spinelli dishes up a batch of homemade pancakes and homespun advice for young readers in The Dancing Pancake.
Bindi's not looking forward to summer. Her parents separated and now her mom is moving the two of them into an apartment above a restaurant. But the diner downstairs isn't just any diner. Aunt Darnell, Uncle Tim and mom renovate the café and open The Dancing Pancake. Within these walls, Bindi discovers the meanings of acceptance and friendship, thanks to a delicious cast of secondary characters. Classmates Albert, Kyra and Megan, hired help Ruby Frances and Thet, and eccentric customers Gracie and Mrs. Otis introduce subplots including homelessness, separation, and the strength of family bonds.
As Bindi's mom and dad attempt to rekindle and repair their struggling relationship, Bindi must understand the difference between a parent's enduring love and a couple's bumpy path to happily ever after.
Written in poetic style, Spinelli's story is easy to read and flows like the youngster is sitting next to you, sharing her story. The illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff add a simple and fun element to the storyline. Combine those elements, and The Dancing Pancake is a yummy treat for tweens...and adults.
Originally published for the San Francisco / Sacramento Book Review.
I love Eileen Spinelli's picture books, but had never read anything longer by this author- amazing since she has written nearly fifty children's books. The Dancing Pancake is written in verse, making it a fast read. Bindi is encountering several challenges in her life. Her father has lost his job and is moving to another town in order to find one. This makes Bindi nervous, worried that her father is leaving them and will not return, even if he does find a job. This means Bindi's mom can no longer afford their house, and the two must move into an apartment above the restaurant Bindi's mom and aunt are opening- The Dancing Pancake. Luckily Bindi has some good friends that are there to help her out. She also enjoys reading and working as a library aide at school. Bindi takes her Sunday School lessons to heart, trying to put to practice what she is learning at church. Life isn't easy, but Bindi finds a way to deal with the things that are thrown her way - her parents separation, the homeless woman named Grace who visits the restaurant, and even begins to notice that other people have problems, too.
This book reminded me a lot of they Lucy Rose books by Katy Kelly (except a lot faster). Bindi is a girl that readers will be able to identify with. While writing a novel would be challenging enough, I am always amazed by writers who are able to convey an entire story using words so sparingly. A great novel for readers wanting a chapter book, but not wanting to be overwhelmed with the length of time it takes to read one