Hiding Out at the Pancake Palaceby Nan Marino
Eleven-year-old musical prodigy, Elvis Ruby, was supposed to win the most coveted reality show on television, Tween Star. None of the other contestants even came close to his talents. But in the middle of the biggest night, with millions of people watching, Elvis panicked. He forgot the words to the song. He forgot the tune. He forgot how to play every/i>
Eleven-year-old musical prodigy, Elvis Ruby, was supposed to win the most coveted reality show on television, Tween Star. None of the other contestants even came close to his talents. But in the middle of the biggest night, with millions of people watching, Elvis panicked. He forgot the words to the song. He forgot the tune. He forgot how to play every single instrument he'd ever known and froze on national TV. So Elvis must run from the paparazzi camped outside his door and spend the summer working with his aunt and cousin at Piney Pete's Pancake Palace in the remote wilds of New Jersey. It's the perfect place to be anonymous, that is until Elvis meets Cecilia, a girl who can't seem to help blurting out whatever's on her mind.
An NPR Best Book of 2013
“* Put this book in the hands of both the girls who follow every moment of the latest teen celebrity's life and the quiet boys and girls who stand on the sidelines, listening for their song.” School Library Journal, starred review
“* Her audience will eat it up.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“An entertaining read.” Booklist
“Wish-fulfillment appeal for many a young reader.” BCCB
Read an Excerpt
Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace
By Nan Marino
Roaring Brook PressCopyright © 2013 Nan Marino
All rights reserved.
Where the Hiders Go
If you need somewhere to hide, try the Pinelands of New Jersey.
It's a wild place filled with swamp streams. And sand hills. Salt marshes and bogs. There are towns too, some so small they don't make it on the map. No one pays attention to them anyway.
For a hider, that is the beauty of the Pinelands. The entire place can go unnoticed. The trees are stubby, the paths are hard to find, and the streams are lazy and slow. Nothing about it stands out. People drive by on their way to somewhere else.
For a hider, this is good. It makes it easier to slip away.
A place like this you can trust with your secrets.
A place like this has secrets of its own.
And here's the first.
They say that when the trees get restless they sing.
But it's the Pinelands, so most people don't notice that either.CHAPTER 2
The Perils of Happiness
The night the hider came to town, Cecilia Wreel decided to sneak out of her bedroom window. She was not quite eleven and it was her first time climbing out at night.
Cecilia slipped out of bed, grabbed her eyeglasses, and put on her pink bunny slippers while Storm, her miniature dachshund, begged and pleaded to go. He cried and whined and looked like a flying hotdog when he jumped into the air.
Before she could quiet him down, there was a knock on the bedroom door. "Everything okay in there?"
It was her mother.
Cecilia dove under the covers, bunny slippers and all. The door creaked open. She could feel her mother's worried stare as she lay with her eyes closed, taking fake sleepy breaths.
"Are you awake?" her mother asked, almost hopeful. It took everything in Cecilia's power not to blurt out "Yes!" And all the while that her mother stood there watching, the urge to blurt grew greater. She was not a girl who was used to keeping secrets.
Later, much later, when the house was quiet, Cecilia tossed some crackers on the floor for Storm. It was a bribe for silence and Storm took it too. He lapped up every last crumb. But by the time Cecilia got halfway out the window, Storm was whining again. "I'll be back soon," she whispered, which made him whimper even more.
Cecilia climbed down into the Pinelands night. She expected to see starlight and moonlight, but the clouds had come in quick and her flashlight was dim. As soon as her feet hit the path made of sugar sand, she broke into a run.
Don't let the sweet name fool you. Sugar sand is so fine and powdery that it can grab hold of something and not let go. When you walk in it, you sink in deep. And if you're careless enough to run, you're bound to lose a bunny slipper or two.
The first one flopped off before Cecilia even made it through her own back yard, somewhere between the goldfish pond and the old shed. She hopped around on one foot searching for it. That's how she lost the second one.
Barefoot, she doubled back and retraced her steps. She crouched down on her hands and knees and sifted through the sand. Cecilia found the first one by the pond, its little bunny face staring solemnly at the water. With one slipper on, she limped toward the edge of the yard.
Cecilia stood where her parents' property ended and the woods began. She pointed her finger at the trees and gave them her command. "Sing."
A few of the more polite trees rustled. But most of them stood there, silent.
"Please." She was begging now. "A small song."
Cecilia pushed her glasses up her nose and pointed into the darkness with her flashlight. Somewhere inside those woods was the rugged bank of a cedar swamp stream where Cecilia had been born. It was a total accident. Her parents were out camping and she had surprised them by coming into the world a month early (and her mother always said it was the first surprise of many). Her father wrapped her in his flannel shirt, and her mother held her in her arms. And while her parents sat by the banks of the stream near the curly grass ferns, Cecilia put her fist into her mouth and tasted flannel.
That night, there was music in the pines. A real song, one with a melody, a harmony, and a beat. Her father said it was everywhere. Her mother said it started before Cecilia took her very first breath.
Cecilia had heard the story a hundred, no a thousand times. Her parents told it over and over again. Her father liked to tell it at Cecilia's birthday dinners. Her mother whispered it to her the day Mr. Finn the goldfish died and again the day that Natalie Bracer said Cecilia's glasses were "too big for her face." No matter who told it and why and when, it always ended the same way.
"Those trees don't sing for everyone. That song played just for you."
For Cecilia that was the best part.
But earlier that evening when she had asked her parents to tell it again, the story had a different ending. The three of them were sitting on the porch swing that was only built for two. Storm had curled up on her lap.
Her father started. He told about the darkness of the cedar swamp and how they went too far into the woods to make it back to town. And how Cecilia's mother had shouted, "We need to figure out something quick. This baby's coming out now!"
Usually this was where her mother joined in. But tonight, she had been quiet. And when Cecilia asked about the music, her mother was quiet about that too.
Oblivious to her mother's silence, her father had continued. "That song was everywhere. Up in the trees. Down in the water. It felt as if the pines themselves were singing."
This was her mother's favorite part. She always added the important details. The flannel shirt was a soft blue. The song was so loud it caused the stream to ripple. The flowers on the curly grass ferns looked like stars.
But tonight, there were no details shared.
The swing creaked back and forth before her mother spoke. "What if. What if. What if," she said over and over again.
"What if what?" demanded Cecilia.
"What's wrong, Stephanie?" her father asked.
Storm flicked his ears a bit and then went back to snoring.
There was an odd puffy sound when her mother exhaled, as if the breath she had just let out had been trapped inside her for years. "I've been thinking about it for a long time," she confessed. "What if it wasn't music? What if we didn't hear a song?" She waved at the pines in the back yard, which of course were silent. "Singing trees? How can that be?"
Wow. That was a clunker.
An ice-cold chunky clunker.
This was not how the story should go.
Her mother put her hand on Cecilia's shoulder. "I have a new theory," she announced. This was no big surprise. Her mother had theories for everything. "Remember how happy we were? How extremely happy we were back then?"
Her father nodded. "We were overjoyed. But what does this have to do with anything?"
"Well," said her mom, "I read in a magazine that extreme happiness causes your brain to produce this chemical called endorphins. And too much of it can cloud your reasoning." Her father tried to interrupt, but her mother held up her hand. "So maybe we were both so happy about the birth of our child that we imagined we heard music. Maybe we were insanely happy. And that's why we thought the trees sang."
Cecilia and her father protested at the same time.
"But, Mom" was all Cecilia could say.
Her father marched into the house. Cecilia and her mother followed.
"We weren't the first to hear music in the pines." Her father pulled a book off the shelf and he pointed to a page. "Over a hundred years ago, they say a fiddler named Sammy Buck heard it. He even learned to play it on the fiddle for his friends."
"Oh, I know the story of Sammy Buck," said her mom. "I grew up here too. I know all those old folktales. They're lovely old stories, but not exactly reliable."
"Folktales are often based in truth," said her dad. "Besides, others have heard it. My grandfather told me that when he was a boy playing hide-and-seek in the sand hills, notes rang out. Remember? He used to say it exactly that way. Notes rang out. Are you doubting the words of my grandfather?"
Her mother left the room. When she came back, she tossed a magazine on her husband's lap. "Here. Read this."
Cecilia's father held it, unopened, in his hands. "You're changing your mind because of something you read in Celebrity Scoop Magazine? This is a gossip magazine about rock stars and reality shows and movie people. Talk about your unreliable sources." He looked at the picture of a curly-haired boy on the cover and said, "I'm surprised you read this stuff."
"The health and fitness articles happen to be very good," said her mom. "That's the only part I read." She turned to Cecilia. "Sweetie, you're almost eleven. You're old enough to understand. We need to be logical. How could we really have heard a song?"
How long? How long ago did her mother change her mind? How long had she been keeping this secret?
Cecilia took a deep breath. It would be okay. Her father would make her mother remember and he would still tell the story on her birthdays and whenever Uncle Frank came. It would all go back to the way it was. To the way it should be.
But what if her father was already having doubts?
It could happen.
Then who knows? Maybe in a year or two, both parents would be sitting on that porch swing, wearing sheepish smiles, joking about the perils of happiness and how it can lead a person to imagine all kinds of crazy things. "Like singing trees." She could picture her father throwing his head back and laughing his deep laugh. She could almost hear her mother's soft chuckles.
Her song. The one that played just for her.
It would be gone.
And so there was only one logical thing to do.
And that was to sneak outside to the edge of the woods and wait for the trees to sing.
But when Cecilia stood, half barefoot, in front of the pines, they refused to cooperate. No matter how long she stood. No matter how quiet she was. No matter how many times she leaned into the darkness to listen.
Instead of music, she heard the sound of a car engine. Cecilia looked toward the road and saw headlights. It was odd to see a car on the road this time of night. With one slipper still missing, she limped to the front of the house.
The car was shiny, low to the ground, and sleek, not one she recognized. It stopped by the Hunt and Fishing Club. Then it inched forward a bit, moving on toward the Lost Treasures Thrift and Throwaway Store, then to Barnegat Al's Auto Repair, then to the old church. Obviously the driver was looking for something. Or someone.
Cecilia ducked underneath Cheryl McKenzie's blueberry stand, but she was not the type of person who could stay tucked inside a wooden box that said "Best Berries in Town" while something interesting and exciting was going on. She leaned out from her hiding place and peeked.
In the back seat, pressed up against the window, she saw a face. It was blurry, hard to make out. But Cecilia saw a pair of eyes. And the eyes saw her. She was sure of it.
The shiny car lurched forward, then it stopped in front of Piney Pete's, the only restaurant in town. But at this time of night, that was closed too.
The car door opened. A boy with long hair ran out, turned around, then ran back to the car. Or was it a girl? Cecilia was too far away to tell.
She hoped it was a girl.
But either way, this was a person who didn't want to be seen.CHAPTER 3
The boy riding in the sleek shiny car was too busy staring at the sameness of the pine trees to notice Cecilia. At least, at first. But when he pressed his face against the window and glanced down at the blueberry stand, a pair of eyes behind very oversized glasses stared back at him.
He sank back into his seat. It had been a long day. He was extremely tired. He was imagining things. Besides no one wore eyeglasses that looked like that anymore.
The car heaved forward before he was able to take a second look.
His father was asking him a question, but the words blended together with the song that played on the radio. They turned into a driveway, and his father asked again, "Have you thought about a name? If you don't come up with a new name, people will recognize you."
The boy bolted out of the car as soon as it came to a complete stop, surprised that even after the long drive he still felt that urge to run. He took a few steps, first one way then the other.
He ran his hands through his long curly hair, like he always did when he felt jittery, and gave a hard look in the direction of the blueberry stand. But he saw nothing.
No eyes. No out-of-fashion oversized eyeglasses. Nothing.
Nothing was good.
His little sister, Cher, stuck her head out the window. "What about Christopher? Or Luke is nice." Then she grinned. "Or how about Aaron?"
He liked that one.
"Are you sure you don't want us to stay with you?" his father asked.
"Aaron" shook his head. It would be impossible to hide all three of them. Besides, he was the only one they were looking for. "No. I'm fine." He smiled at Cher when he said it. She smiled back, then put her hand over her mouth, embarrassed by her missing front teeth.
"Dad," he heard Cher whisper. "Look at this place. Where are we anyway?"
"Where's what?" Cher asked.
"Wares Grove. It's the name of the town. Wares Grove, New Jersey."
Cher poked her head out of the car again. "Hey, Aaron." She said his new name like it was the most natural thing in the world. Like she'd been calling him that every day for the past seven years of her life. "We're in New Jersey. And this" — she pointed to the trees around her — "is supposed to be a town."
It was hard to tell where they were or how far they had driven. He had spent the first part of the trip under blankets in the back seat. Plus, there had been evasive maneuvers that involved traveling south, north, east, and west on highways and side streets in case they were followed. The famous are always followed.
"Hey, Dad," Cher said, "I thought you said we were going to a palace."
Aaron stuck his head back into the car just in time to see his dad extend his hands and legs and lean into a good long stretch. No one stretched like his father. In cars, trains, buses, it didn't matter where he was, the man could outstretch a cat.
His father pointed to a painted sign near the roofline of a nearby cottage that said "Piney Pete's Pancake Palace."
A single porch light flickered on and off. There were no streetlights. The moonlight was dim. But even in the darkest, most shadowy depths of night, it was obvious. This was no palace. If you didn't count the barely visible spiderweb that hung like a curtain from the top of the front porch, the cottage was a tidy one. But "palace"?
"Are you kidding me?" Cher and Aaron's words rang out together.
"Food that's fit for a king. No one makes better pancakes than your aunt Emily," said his dad.
Cher leaned out of the car and reached for her brother's arm. She pulled him close to her. "I didn't know we had an Aunt Emily."
"We're not really related. She's a friend of the family." That much he knew. "You wouldn't remember her at all. You were a baby the last time we saw her. I was five."
The truth was that Aaron didn't remember much of Aunt Emily either, but his father had assured him that when he was five he had adored her. Her daughter, Millicent, was a different story. The last time they met, she was a gum-cracking teenager who called him Wonder Boy. Even at five, a kid is bound to remember the person who calls him Wonder Boy.
A light snapped on. Two women burst from the door. They stood on the front porch. Then they skirted around the spiderweb and hurried down the side steps.
"Hey, Wonder Boy," said the younger one. "How've you been?" Millicent had the same dark hair and the same get-down-to-business walk she'd had when she was a teenager, but she was old now. About twenty-three at least.
It was Aunt Emily who reached him first. She threw her arms around him. "You poor kid." Something about the way she hugged made him like her right away. Cher must have liked her too. She slowly released her grip on her brother's arm, got out of the car, and stood beside him.
His father and Aunt Emily had some quick whispered conversations. Then he handed her Aaron's suitcases and other bags from the trunk. When his dad tried to give her a wad of money, Aunt Emily shook her head. "No, no. He won't need any here."
While the adults talked, Cher pulled him away from the others. "Do you really want to do this? Are you sure?" she asked.
"I'll be fine," he said. "It's only for a little bit. And I need a break." But even his seven-year-old sister wasn't fooled by his fake smile. She threw her arms around him and hugged him tight.
There were more hugs, except this time they were goodbyes. His father and Cher grabbed him at the same time. As he stood sandwiched between them, Aaron wasn't sure if he heard the swishy sound of the wind or if his father had whispered the words "I'm sorry."
As soon as they drove away, Millicent patted him on the back. "Well, kid, I guess you're incognito now."
Incognito. The word sounded musical and he liked that.
Incognito. It meant driving to New Jersey in the middle of the night.
Excerpted from Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace by Nan Marino. Copyright © 2013 Nan Marino. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Nan Marino is the author of Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me, which received a SCBWI Golden Kite Honor and was selected as a Bank Street Best Book and one of the New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing. Nan is also a librarian who lives with her husband and a large dog in a town that borders the Pinelands of New Jersey.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Nan Marino is a great storyteller. I recommend this story to teenagers. She has a beautiful style and worth reading her other books.
It wus fluff for me
I loved the book
This book is about Elvis Ruby.He is 11 years old and can play the flute, the horn, ukele, sing, and much more.He goes on the show Tween Star and he freezes on stage in front of millions of peolpe.His house is no longer surrounded by his fans. He runs away and hided in a small town. He is no longer the same boy that was called the most famous boy in the world.Eveything is good after he stops acting like his old self.That is till the girl with a big mouth finds out his secert.What will he do to keep his secret safe??? The book is good , but it needs a sequel.