The Dancing Pancake

The Dancing Pancake

4.5 15
by Eileen Spinelli, Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

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The grand opening of the Dancing Pancake isn't the only new thing in Bindi's life: new friends, a new apartment, maybe even a cute new crush? But there are other changes, like her dad's move to a new city, that have left Bindi confused and wondering: What

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The grand opening of the Dancing Pancake isn't the only new thing in Bindi's life: new friends, a new apartment, maybe even a cute new crush? But there are other changes, like her dad's move to a new city, that have left Bindi confused and wondering: What will happen to my family? Will this new life ever feel normal? Among the unlikely bunch of regulars who form a makeshift community at the diner, Bindi will try to figure out how to be a new version of herself, one pancake and one silly elephant joke (her uncle's specialty) at a time.
With plenty of surprises, milk shakes, fake spiders, and real feelings, readers are sure to flip for the sweet mix of humor and heart in The Dancing Pancake.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Spinelli (who collaborated with Lew-Vriethoff on Summerhouse Time) again effectively employs free verse in this series of poems told by 11-year-old Bindi, whose parents' recent separation has thrown her life into upheaval. With her father gone, money is tight, so her mother and aunt open a diner, the Dancing Pancake. Bindi runs the gamut of expected emotions--from pretended indifference through sorrow and anger to tentative joy at her parents' possible reunion--in a fresh, unadorned voice that is always believable and sympathetic: "I have to say,/ I'm starting to think/ maybe it will be/ fun, being in/ the restaurant business./ Did I say that?/ (Not out loud)." The short sentences and straightforward expression of often complex feelings make the book accessible to younger or reluctant readers. Spinelli's secondary characters are affectionately drawn, from Bindi's diverse school friends to the teenage waitress, shy foreign dishwasher, and diner guests, including a homeless woman whom Bindi befriends. Bindi's struggles are credible and moving; while nothing is easily resolved, readers will be more than content with the hopeful conclusion. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (May)
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Bindi's life is pretty normal. She loves to read and has good friends and a loving extended family. This normalcy ends when her parents announce that they are separating and that her father is moving to another city to look for a job. Told entirely in verse, the story relates the sixth grader's experiences, her feelings, and snippets of her daily life. Bindi and her mother move to an apartment above The Dancing Pancake, which Bindi's mother and aunt open shortly after school lets out for the summer. The cafe is populated with interesting staff and customers, many of whom help the girl create her own definitions of friendship and empathy. Bindi's growth and self-realization help her cope with the situations that the grown-ups in her life face and allow her to accept her father back into her life when her parents reconcile. The poetic structure of this novel succeeds in capturing the child's voice and deepest feelings. The verse also provides sound development of secondary characters. Lew-Vriethoff's lively pen-and-ink illustrations add texture to the story and offer touches of humor. Contemporary issues, including the homelessness of Bindi's favorite customer, are balanced by lighter themes of silly little cousins and first crushes.—Shawn Brommer, South Central Library System, Madison, WI
Kirkus Reviews
Eleven-year-old Bindi copes with her parents' separation and an unsettling move, supported by a gently colorful cast of characters. When Dad disappears to job-hunt far away, Bindi barely notices-until she learns that her parents have actually separated. Mom needs a job, and Aunt Darnell's always dreamed of a restaurant, so The Dancing Pancake is born, open for breakfast and lunch only. Bindi and Mom move into the apartment upstairs. The diner's populated by relatives (mother, good-natured aunt and uncle, energetic four-year-old cousin), a friendly teenage waitress and a wise, idealized homeless woman. Bindi's free-verse narration makes for smooth, simple reading; Lew-Vriethoff's line drawings add spirit. Bindi's believable emotional aches exist in a fairly innocent world-where a six-year-old can roam a zoo alone, the most angry 11-year-olds might do "everything / from kicking pumpkins / to screaming ?Banana poop!' / in the principal's office" and God and Sunday School teach Bindi an altruism that lessens her own melancholy. Choose readers who'll enjoy, rather than envy, Bindi's parents' reunion at the end. (Fiction. 9-11)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

I am on the front lawn making snow angels with Albert Poole.  

This is what I like about Albert: He's not afraid to do "girly" things. He'll bake cookies as quick as toss a football.  

He'll tend the African violets in his grandmother's front window as tenderly as a mama cat tends her kittens.  

He likes to shop!  

What I don't like about Albert is this: He talks about bugs all the time. All. The. Time. He can tell you anything you want to know about horseflies or houseflies or dung beetles or cockroaches.  

And me—? I can tell you most anything you want to know about Albert Poole or classic books or the film The Wizard of Oz.  

My dad is outside, too. He is dumping two suitcases into the trunk of his car.  

I sort of hear him backing out of our driveway and driving off, but I'm not watching. Why should I? Albert Poole and I have snow angels to make, and besides, my father is simply driving to a different city to find a new job. That's all.   That's what he said.  

That's what Mom said.  

That's what they both said.  

C'mon, Albert! You have to flap your legs and arms at the same time.      

Meet the Author

Eileen Spinelli is the popular, critically acclaimed, and beloved author of nearly fifty children's books. With twenty-nine (and counting!) immediate family members, Eileen knows about kids and family and drew upon her experiences and imagination to create this sensitive portrait of a child handling parental separation. She also mixed in her fondness for diners-their blend of sights, sounds, and aromas evoke "instant good feelings and a craving for pancakes" in Eileen. She hopes that kids will be entertained and find a reflection of their feelings and lives within the pages of The Dancing Pancake. Eileen and her husband, Jerry, live in eastern Pennsylvania.
About the Illustrator
A graduate of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Joanne Lew-Vriethoff began her career in television and has created artwork for many formats and media. Joanne's best art ideas often come when she is doing "the most ordinary but wonderful things," such as sliding down a slide or riding on her bike. Joanne's art first met Eileen Spinelli's verse in Summerhouse Time, to which Joanne contributed lyrical and charming illustrations. She and her husband and their children live in the Netherlands and enjoy driving trips and visits to castles.

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