Everything on a Waffle


Haven’t you ever just known something deep in your heart without reason?

Primrose Squarp simply knows her parents did not perish at sea during a terrible storm, but try convincing the other residents of Coal Harbour on that score. For all practical purposes, at least for the time being, Primrose is an orphan, and there’s no great clamoring of prospective adopters. After realizing the impracticality of continuing to pay Miss Perfidy an hourly ...
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Haven’t you ever just known something deep in your heart without reason?

Primrose Squarp simply knows her parents did not perish at sea during a terrible storm, but try convincing the other residents of Coal Harbour on that score. For all practical purposes, at least for the time being, Primrose is an orphan, and there’s no great clamoring of prospective adopters. After realizing the impracticality of continuing to pay Miss Perfidy an hourly wage to baby-sit her, the town council is able to locate a relative, Uncle Jack, who reluctantly takes Primrose into his care. But true sanctuary can always be found at a restaurant called The Girl in the Swing, where everything–including lasagna–is served on a waffle.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
Even after her parents disappear at sea, an 11-year-old girl is convinced that they are still alive. As she is shuffled from household to household, the heroine delivers a "lively recital of her misadventures," PW wrote in a starred review. "A laugh-out-loud pleasure from beginning to triumphant end." Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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. Reviewer: Ann T. Reddy-Damon :
From The Critics
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 thebook, 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. Reviewer: Patrick Jones
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. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6 "Didn't you ever believe anything just because you knew it was true?" Eleven-year-old Primrose asks this question of the inhabitants of Coal Harbour, British Columbia whenever the topic of her parents' disappearance comes up. They were lost in a storm at sea, and she is the only one who believes they will return. Polly Horvath's Everything on a Waffle (Farrar, 2001) is Primrose's sweet and often quirky observations of the townspeople who help her cope with her loss. Moving from Miss Perfidy, the elderly babysitter, to Uncle Jack, her reluctant only relative, to foster parents Bert and Evie, with plenty of input from Miss Honeycut, the school counselor, and Miss Bowzer, the owner and operator of The Girl on the Red Swing, Primrose develops a philosophy of life that will satisfy young and old alike. This is a coming-of-age story of a child who believes with her heart while trying to make sense of the world around her. Primrose has a very strong voice, and Kathleen McInerney is the perfect narrator. She is girlish without being cloying, and conveys Primrose's youthful innocence and sense of humor without sarcasm or cynicism, Her reading of the recipes that appear at the end of each chapter not only binds the work together but illustrates Primrose's spirit. This unusual novel is a must for elementary school libraries. If you only have enough money in your budget for one audio purchase this year, make sure to buy this high quality and uplifting performance. -Maura Martin Smith, Somerset Elementary School, Shawnee Mission, KS Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Child Magazine
A Child Magazine Best Book of 2001 Pick

Eleven-year-old Primrose Squarp is convinced her parents aren't lost at sea, and so sails confidently through a series of eccentric guardians. She's aided by friend and confidante Miss Bowzer, the owner of a restaurant where everything, including pork chops, is served on a waffle (hence the title and recipes at the end of each chapter). First-rate characterizations and Primrose's sassy voice carry this sharply written, amusing story effortlessly along.

From the Publisher

“In [Horvath’s] capable hands the dilemma of Primrose Squarp is revealed with hilarity and buoyant good nature. . . . Subtlety and slapstick is a challenging combination; Horvath pulls it off beautifully.”—The Horn Book Magazine, Starred Review

“Horvath delivers another hilariously puckish read with this tale of a (possibly) orphaned girl from a small Canadian fishing village. . . . A laugh-out-loud pleasure from beginning to triumphant end.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“The story is full of subtle humor and wisdom, presented through the eyes of a uniquely appealing young protagonist.”—School Library Journal
“. . . a deeply touching novel about irrational faith.”—Orlando Sentinel

“Delightful. Hilarious. Entertaining. Insightful. These adjectives don’t even begin to describe a novel I simply couldn’t put down. . . . You’ll love it.”—The Syracuse Post-Standard

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739359655
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/12/2008
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.65 (w) x 5.87 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Polly Horvath is the author of many books for children, including The Pepins and Their Problems, The Vacation, and The Trolls, which was a National Book Award Finalist. These titles are all available on audio from Listening Library. She lives in Metchosin, British Columbia.

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Table of Contents

My Parents Are Lost at Sea 3
I Move to Uncle Jack's 14
The Dead Whalers 20
I Am Almost Incarcerated 31
Lena's Boiled Potatoes 38
What Miss Bowzer Knew 48
I Lose All My Sweaters 58
I Lose a Toe 65
Uncle Jack's Idea 81
I Set Fire to a Guinea Pig 88
Dinner at The Girl on the Red Swing 97
I Lose Another Digit 108
Fire! 118
Miss Perfidy Leaves 125
Everybody Goes Home 140
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