Saturday, June 9, 2012

48 Hour Book Challenge - Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

Second book completed for my 48 Hour Book Challenge! I managed to log 2.5 hours reading last night before collapsing and sleeping like the dead (until 5:30! The child slept in!). After finishing Zachary Beaver I dived right into Polly Horvath's delightful Everything on a Waffle. I finished it today at lunch - in between I've been listening to the audiobook version of A.J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically, which I may not be finished with before the challenge ends.

And you wouldn't think an adjective like "delightful" could sum up a book about a young girl whose parents are lost at sea, whose guardian is preoccupied by development deals and who loses not one but two digits in the course of the novel. Oh, and who sets a guinea pig on fire. But somehow this book is not only smart but moving, funny and charming even as it is insightful.

Primrose Squarp knows her parents aren't dead, she just knows it, and no amount of intervention on the part of nosy adults in her town of Coal Harbour will convince her otherwise. Though the snoopy Miss Honeycut and the crisp and proper Miss Perfidy try to make Primrose realize that she is an orphan, she won't believe them. Rather, Primrose continues to have various misadventures that are not at all related to her being depressed, as the two women believe. And all the while she enjoys the company of the somewhat unusual adults who do support her, including her devilishly charming Uncle Jack, her foster parents Evie and Bert (whom she compares to "kindly old hard-boiled eggs) and of course the culinarily inventive Miss Bowzer (she of the restaurant The Girl on the Red Swing, where everything is, as you've probably guessed, served on a waffle).

Primrose is an engaging character in the vein of such sparky lasses as Pippi Longstocking or Matilda Wormwood (though without a nemesis half as threatening as the Trunchbull - shudder). Primrose makes the kind of keen observations of the world around her that bely a depth far beyond her years. Nothing gets past Primrose; though the adults in her life think they are outmaneuvering her, she always ends up right where she wants to be. This is definitely an unusual novel and one that's on the surface packed with oddball sensibilities. However, dig a bit deeper and you'll find commentaries on love, loss, loneliness and the value of always being just who you are.

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath, published by Farrar Straus Giroux
Ages 9-13
Source: personal collection
Sample: "Uncle Jack thought it was strange that I didn't move my sweaters into his house. I said it was because the mothballs were protecting them but really it was because I wanted to see Miss Perfidy now and then. We had a peculiar relationship. We didn't like each other much but had lived through my parents' disappearance together. It gave us a kind of melancholy bond."


Anonymous said...

Oh, I loved A Year Living Biblically! It managed to both offend me deeply and tickle my funny bone in one book. Have you read the book where he tries to read the encyclopedia?

Bookologist said...

The Polly Horvath sounds pretty interesting. Looks like an award honor but I don't know if I've ever heard of it.