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Children's Literature Reviews
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Everything on a waffle
Polly Horvath.
Contributor biographical information
Publisher description
New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2001.
149 p. ; 22 cm.


Eleven-year-old Primrose living in a small fishing village in British Columbia recounts her experiences and all that she learns about human nature and the unpredictability of life in the months after her parents are lost at sea.

Best Books:

Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for PreK-Grade 6, 13th Edition, 2002 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Best Children's Books of the Year, 2002 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Capitol Choices, 2001 ; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2002 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Ninth Edition, 2005 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Eighth Edition, 2002 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Notable Children's Books, 2002 ; ALSC American Library Association; United States
Parent's Guide to Children's Media, 2001 ; Parent’s Guide to Children’s Media, Inc.; United States
Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, April 2001 ; Cahners; United States
Smithsonian Magazine's Notable Books for Children, 2001 ; Smithsonian; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children's Literature, 2001 Honor Book Fiction and Poetry United States
John Newbery Medal, 2002 Honor Book United States
Parents' Choice Award, 2001 Gold Fiction United States
Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize, 2002 Winner British Columbia, Canada
White Ravens Award, 2002 Winner United States United States

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Arizona Young Readers' Award, 2005 ; Nominee; Intermediate Books; Arizona
Cochecho Readers' Award, 2002-2003 ; Nominee; New Hampshire
Colorado Children's Book Award, 2003-2004 ; Nominee; Colorado
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award, 2003 ; Nominee; Vermont
Indian Paintbrush Book Award, 2004-2005 ; Nominee; Grades 4-6; Wyoming
Iowa Children's Choice Award, 2003-2004 ; Nominee; Iowa
Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award, 2003 ; Nominee; Manitoba, Canada
Massachusetts Children's Book Award, 2004-2005 ; Nominee; Grades 4-6; Massachusetts
Nene Award, 2003 ; Nominee; Hawaii
Nene Award, 2004 ; Nominee; Hawaii
Rocky Mountain Book Award, 2003 ; Nominee; Alberta, Canada
West Virginia Children's Book Award, 2003-2004 ; Nominee; Grades 3-6; West Virginia
William Allen White Children's Book Award, 2003-2004 ; Master List; Kansas
Young Reader's Choice Award, 2004 ; Nominee; Junior (Grades 4-6); Pacific Northwest

Curriculum Tools:

Link to Discussion Guide at Multnomah County Library

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Middle Grade
Book Level 5.8
Accelerated Reader Points 5
Accelerated Vocabulary

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.
Lexile Measure 950

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 6
Title Point Value 10
Lexile Measure 950


Tree (BookHive (
But the important things that happen to you will happen to you even in the smallest places.” Life is not easy for Primrose. When her parents disappear at sea, the people of Coal Harbor believe that they have drowned, a belief not shared by Primrose. As she waits for her parents to return, Primrose spends time living with her Uncle Jack, talking and cooking with Miss Bowzer who serves everything on a waffle, and learning about love and loss with Miss Perfidy an old woman with whom she shares a “melancholy bond”. On top of this she has to deal with nine toes, Child Protective Services, a guinea pig with burnt fur, a fire, and losing the tip of her ring finger. Will things stop going wrong? Will her parents come home? Can there be a happy ending for Primrose? Category: Award Books; Humor; Mystery; Realistic Fiction. Grade Level: Intermediate (4th-6th grade). 2001, Farrar Straus Giroux. Ages 9 to 12.

Ilene Cooper (Booklist, Feb. 15, 2001 (Vol. 97, No. 12))
Eleven-year-old Primrose Squarp is an orphan. At least that's what the town of Coal Harbor thinks. Her mother sailed out during a storm to find her fisherman father and neither has been seen since. Primrose, however, knows, just knows, that her parents are alive. First, Primrose lives her with her persnickety baby-sitter. Then her dashing uncle, a developer, comes to Coal Harbor to take care of her and gentrify the town. When his plans go up in smoke, literally, Primrose is sent to an elderly couple as a foster child. Narrated by Primrose, the story is dotted with her pithy observances about the vagaries of life, especially her's. Although Horvath employs the same arch tone that worked so well in her highly acclaimed novel The Trolls (1999), this book doesn't have quite the same wit and verve that carried its predecessor so well. Still, there are some funny moments and clever touches, including the (mostly) mouthwatering recipes given for each of the noteworthy culinary references that pop up throughout the story. Category: Books for Middle Readers--Fiction. 2001, Farrar, $16. Gr. 5-7.

Sharon Salluzzo (Children's Literature)
When her parents are lost in a storm at sea, Primrose is steadfast in her belief that they will return. The school counselor, certain that Primrose has lost touch with reality because of the many accidents that she has (she loses two fingers), attempts to convince her otherwise. She is just one of a number of unusual adult characters in the small town of Coal Harbor, British Columbia who influence Primrose's life. Her opportunistic Uncle Jack is supportive, as is the owner of the restaurant where every item on the menu is served, well, on a waffle. Each chapter ends with a recipe, grounding this novel in a common ordinary act necessary for physical survival--eating. Parallel to this is the need for emotional survival and a support system that will nourish it. This carefully constructed and rewarding story is served up with a cast of quirky characters, bizarre events, a deft touch of peculiar humor and a plucky heroine. 2001, Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.00. Ages 10 to 14.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2001 (Vol. 69, No. 4))
Life dishes up the sweet with the sour following the disappearance of a child's parents in this perceptive, barbed tale from the author of "The Trolls" (1999). Horvath displays a real knack for naming. Everyone else in her small British Columbian fishing town is sure that her mother and father are lost at sea, but 11-year-old Primrose Squarp clings to hope as months pass. She too is passed: from the minimal care of gruff old Miss Perfidy, to a previously unknown uncle who turns out to be an enterprising real-estate developer, and then, thanks to a small-minded school counselor, to out-of-town foster parents. Along the way, she loses a pair of minor body parts in accidents, but gains loyal friends both in Uncle Jack and in Kate Bowzer, proprietor of a café called The Girl on the Red Swing, in which everything, including salad, is served on a waffle. Food not only plays a recurrent theme here, but each chapter ends with a recipe (of varying palatability). The author engages in some clever role reversal with Uncle Jack, a happy-go-lucky sort with a streak of fierce loyalty who is unperturbed when his housing development goes up in flames, but fights tooth and nail to regain custody of Primrose. He never once expresses doubt that her parents are alive--as indeed they turn out to be. Primrose is a serious, sturdy soul, able to hold her own against this quirky, nearly all-adult supporting cast, and by the time her shipwrecked mother and father are rescued, she has gained considerable insight into human nature--as well as the ability to create dishes as diverse as Cherry Pie Pork Chops and Butterscotch Chow Mein Noodle Cookies. And waffles, of course. That she was right all along about her parents will make her story extra sweet to readers. 2001, Farrar Straus & Giroux, $16.00. Category: Fiction. Ages 11 to 15. © 2001 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Marie Salvadore (Parents Guide, Fall 2001 (Vol. 4, No. 1))
Eleven-year old Primrose Squarp knows that her parents, lost at sea, will return. Of course, the adults in her small, close-knit British Columbia town don't agree, making Primrose stay with Miss Perfidy (who smells of mothballs) until her dashing developer uncle, Jack, arrives. The plot moves briskly to a gratifying conclusion. Sprinkled throughout are family recipes and recipes from the Girl on a Red Swing, a restaurant where everything from steak to fish is served on a waffle with a healthy dash of humorous, reliable advice. Quirky, unforgettable characters are introduced through Primrose's wise, droll and ultimately triumphant voice. 2001, Farrar Straus Giroux, $16. Ages 10 to 12.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Horvath (The Trolls) delivers another hilariously puckish read with this tale of a (possibly) orphaned girl from a small Canadian fishing village. Eleven-year-old Primrose Squarp refuses to attend the memorial service for her parents after they disappear at sea. "Haven't you ever just known something deep in your heart without reason?" she demands of all and sundry, convinced her parents are still alive. Meanwhile, she is shuffled from the custody of her elderly neighbor Miss Perfidy to her likable but somewhat feckless Uncle Jack. Not unlike another beloved red-haired Canadian heroine, Primrose whose own hair is "the color of carrots in an apricot glaze (recipe to follow)" attracts trouble like a magnet. In addition to singeing the fur on the class guinea pig, she manages to lose a baby toe and part of a finger in chapters entitled "I Lose a Toe" and "I Lose Another Digit" accidents that land her in the foster care of an older couple whose stature and girth give them the look of "kindly old hard-boiled eggs." Primrose's lively recital of her misadventures comes complete with recipes, pungent descriptions ("the feeling of joy swept through my soul like fire up a vacuum") and memorable characters, among them the tough-talking, golden-hearted owner of a local restaurant that serves everything (even fish and chips) on waffles. A laugh-out-loud pleasure from beginning to triumphant end. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)

Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March 2001 (Vol. 54, No. 7))
Primrose lives in Coal Harbour, a small village in British Columbia, and she's waiting for the return of her parents, despite the fact that everyone insists that they died in a storm at sea. When her bachelor uncle Jack's life finally overlaps with hers, she moves in with him, trying to avoid the machinations of syrupy counselor Miss Honeycut (who wants Primrose out of Jack's house and Miss Honeycut in). Primrose finds comfort in familiar surroundings and acquaintances, such as her mothball-scented former foster mother, Miss Perfidy, and Miss Bowzer, owner and chef at the town restaurant, where everything is served on a waffle. She's sufficiently distracted, however, that she manages to lose not one but two digits under Jack's care, and that's enough to get Primrose sent into foster care with the irresistibly sympathetic Evie and Bert, who leap into Primrose's life with wonderfully partisan vigor. The book doesn't offer an easily encapsulated plot but instead sees Primrose through her time of troubles as she bounces off people and events like a pinball, anchoring herself down each chapter with a narratively relevant recipe (finishing, of course, with waffles). Sharp in both perceptions and honed edges, Primrose details not the gentle and predictable path of therapeutic adjustment but the price and reward (her parents do indeed return) of a determined adherence to instinctive belief. If there's a villain here, it's orthodoxy: it's the uncategorizable and surprising bonds between people that bring satisfaction, not the ordained social protocols. Add to this Horvath's tart and relentless humor, and you've got a fine, quirky followup to The Trolls (BCCB 2/99). (Reviewed from galleys) Review Code: R* -- Denotes books of special distinction. (c) Copyright 2001, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2001, Farrar, 160p, $16.00. Grades 5-8.

Patrick Jones (The Five Owls, September/October 2001 (Vol. 16, No. 1))
From a pretty serious premise emerges a very comic novel. Horvath, the author of The Trolls (Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1999), which was National Book Award finalist, tells the story of eleven-year-old Primrose Squarp (a perfectly hysterical name) who starts the book with two parents, but by page two has lost them both. Her father is a fisherman who is out to sea when a typhoon hits. When he doesn't return, Primrose's mother takes out their sailboat to locate him, but she, too, is taken by the storm. With no close relatives, Primrose's future becomes a matter of grand concern for the good burgers of her hometown of Coal Harbour, a small fishing village in British Columbia. Coal Harbour becomes almost a character in this book with its eccentric citizenry bouncing in and out of the story. Like the populace of Sweet Haven in the movie Popeye, the good folks of Coal Harbour scuttle about in the background of the story, peeking their eyes out and sticking their noses in Primrose's life. The names of the townspeople are as far-fetched and farcical as Primrose's moniker, such as Miss Perfidy, the frugal baby-sitter; Miss Honeycutt, the helpful school counselor; and the madcap café owner, Miss Bowser. Miss Bowser's café, The Girl on the Red Swing, is a central meeting point in the story. The café's menu is also appropriately zany as all meals, from steaks to fish and chips, are served on a waffle. Cuisine is a preoccupation of Primrose's. She fills her story full not only with references to food, but provides the recipes as well. But in between the food formula and comical conversation is Primrose's attempts to understand the sudden circumstances which have upended her life. Throughout most of the book, whenever an adult mentions that Primrose's parents have died, she denies it. Despite the turns in her life, including losing a toe when she is almost run over by a truck, setting fire to a guinea pig, and being placed in a foster home, Primrose is never defeated. Even as Primrose wonders how she can go missing one toe and two parents, she is overcome by a sense of joy. Just as waffles are comfort food, Primrose finds comfort in the small things in her life. By the book's end, she discovers that "the important things that happen to you will happen to you even in the smallest places, like Coal Harbour." From its wacky cover featuring Primrose with her carrot-covered hair, making her appear to be Pippi Longstocking's long lost cousin, to a mountain of waffles, and the book's touching conclusion, Horvath serves up a delicate balance of pulled heart strings and tickled funny bones. 2001, Farrar Strauss Giroux, $16.00. Ages 10 up.

Susan Walker (The Lorgnette - Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 14, No. 4))
EVERYTHING ON A WAFFLE is a delightful book about a young girl, Primrose Squarp, who tells of her own unusual life experiences during the months following her parents' disappearance at sea. Primrose is absolutely sure that her parents did not perish at sea, contrary to what the rest of the town believes. Although she is tossed from living with a forgetful elderly woman, to living with her long lost uncle, to living in a foster home in another town and is considered to be out of touch with reality by her school counselor and many other townspeople, Primrose never gives up on the idea of her parents' survival at sea. This is a humorous and entertaining book that addresses several life issues, including the disappearance and possible death of loved ones, foster care, and interpersonal relationships with teachers, counselors, relatives, and even strangers. Children will enjoy reading the unique way that Polly Horvath tells of the unpredictability of life and human nature through the eyes of Primrose Squarp. Fiction. Grades 4-5. 2001, Farrar Straus Giroux, 149p, $16.00. Ages 9 to 11.

Ann T. Reddy-Damon (VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2))
This novel combines the intensity of an Oprah book with the whimsy of Harry Potter and a dash of contextually based recipes as in Like Water for Chocolate (Doubleday, 1992) to create a tasty read. Primrose is orphaned at age eleven when her mother follows her father into a coastal Canadian storm that kills them both. In Primrose's mind, however, her parents are stranded on an island, awaiting rescue, despite the conciliatory advice from her babysitter and the school guidance counselor, or the taunting jeers of her classmates. She is placed under the guardianship of an elderly, tight-fisted neighbor, Miss Perfidy, who bills the state an hourly wage, until Primrose ends up with her realtor uncle who treats the girl like an adult as he scours the picturesque sea village for investment potential. When Primrose has too many accidents, she is placed with a family in a neighboring village, where she learns to live in the present again. What makes this book so extraordinary is the author's ability to capture humanity so genuinely. For example, when visiting the distant Miss Perfidy, Primrose becomes Miss Perfidy's confidante, sharing the older woman's feelings about loss of control and onset of senility: "I won't know tomorrow if you really came over for a sweater or if it was just another memory of something that never happened." The only fault in this book might be in its marketing. Perhaps because the main character is only eleven, the cover art targets a younger audience. Although upper elementary or middle school students would enjoy this book, older students will miss a funny, insightful, short piece of meaningful fiction unless directed to the book. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Farrar Straus Giroux, 160p, $16. Ages 11 to 18.


Self-reliance Fiction.
Uncles Fiction.
Parent and child Fiction.
Foster home care Fiction.
Interpersonal relations Fiction.
British Columbia Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.H79224 Ev 2001
00035399 [Fic]
View the WorldCat Record for this item.