Vinegar Pancakes and Vanishing Cream

Overview

Is Martin good at anything but being average?

In a family of winners, Martin Elwood Snodgrass feels lost in the middle. His mother is the mayor, his father is a beloved doctor, and his siblings outdo him in sports, brains, and good looks. Martin's hilarious quest to stake his own ground leads him back where he started-to himself.

Author Biography: Bonnie Pryor thoroughly researched important periods of American history for each of her American ...

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Overview

Is Martin good at anything but being average?

In a family of winners, Martin Elwood Snodgrass feels lost in the middle. His mother is the mayor, his father is a beloved doctor, and his siblings outdo him in sports, brains, and good looks. Martin's hilarious quest to stake his own ground leads him back where he started-to himself.

Author Biography: Bonnie Pryor thoroughly researched important periods of American history for each of her American Adventures. For Luke on the High Seas, she delved into seafaring in the nineteenth century so that the details of Luke Reed's journey would be accurate. She lives in Gambier, Ohio.In Her Own Words...

"I grew up in Spokane, Washington, the middle child in a family of three girls. Books were a part of my life from as far back as I can remember. I was often in trouble for reading at the wrong time. I would be caught reading under the dining room table when I was supposed to be dusting, or reading under the covers by flashlight late at night-even hiding a novel inside my textbooks at school.

"Not everyone thought I read too much. I remember a school librarian who saved all the new books for me to read first, and on several occasions she gave me presents of books. Perhaps she felt she should because I had read every single thing in her library!

"I was very shy, and, like Robert in The Plum Tree War, I spent a lot of my time hanging from my knees from a favorite plum tree, telling myself stories. Of course since I was raised in the West these stories were usually about wild horses and cowboys, and I was always the heroine who came to the rescue. The stories were long and involved, sometimes going on for days. I wasalways impatient to get to my tree each day so I could find out what was going to happen next, but I was too lazy to write the stories down.

"I think everyone expected me to become a writer, but it took me twenty years and a gentle nudge from my husband, Robert, to build up the courage to try. In the meantime I moved to Ohio, worked at a variety of jobs, and raised a family. I have four grown children, eight grandchildren, and two daughters still at home-Jenny and Chrissy. Many of my books are loosely based upon incidents in my children's lives, and they often appear as characters, in personality if not by name.

"My family recently moved to the country. When I'm not writing and visiting schools, we're busy building barns and fences and laying out flower beds. In addition, we all take part in caring for the four newcomers to our home: three horses and a bunny!"

Surrounded by siblings who are either athletic, smart, or cute, Martin wonders who he is while enduring a wild camping trip, disasters in the kitchen, and other family escapades.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Martin Snodgrass feels like the only loser in a family of winners. His dad's a doctor, his mom's the mayor, older brother Tim is a sports champ, older sister Caroline is a whiz in school, baby brother Robbie is simply adorable. And then there is Martinan average student with no special talent and a face full of freckles. Martin limps along through an eventful spring, but it's not until a camping trip that he understands how he fits into his family. And, by the end of this fast-paced story, Martin is a self-confident, self-assured boy. Pryor's second novel for young readers is a touching, lighthearted look at an appealing character. Ages 7-10. (May)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5 Martin Elwood Snodgrass begins his story while in Mrs. Robbins' second-grade class. He is unhappy with his name, with being the shortest kid in class, and with being the only member of his family with no special talent. The year or so following second grade is an eventful period for Martin. He misses yet another class trip to the zoo; survives the chicken pox; establishes himself in school; befriends a new, elderly neighbor; and learns that being Martin in the middle isn't so bad after all. The book is a series of short episodes tied together by Martin's first-person narration. Children should empathize with many of the events and Martin's perceptions of them. Characters are generally plausible and consistent, although not always likable. Caroline, for example, is a rather typical sibling and as such is often irritating, obnoxious, and pompous, made more so because she is described by her younger brother. Owens' illustrations are realistic but humorous, virtually spilling out of their frames. The scenes depicted are lively, well chosen, and appropriately placed. The short chapters should appeal to young readers just beginning longer books. Maria B. Salvadore, District of Columbia Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688147440
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 118
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 580L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.23 (w) x 7.55 (h) x 0.36 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Maybe if I were rich and famous, I wouldn't mind having a name like Martin Elwood Snodgrass. I wouldn't even mind having red hair, about a million freckles, and being the shortest kid in Mrs. Robbin's third grade.

On top of a rotten name, I got stuck with a brother who is a Little League baseball star and captain of the swim team; a sister who's so smart she got to skip first grade; and a little brother so cute people "ohh" and "ahh" over him wherever we go. My mother just became the mayor of New Albany, where we live. And my father is the most popular doctor in town. Sometimes I wonder why I even get up in the morning.

I think I will change my name when I grow up. Something like John Smith or Bill Brown would be nice. Martin Elwood Snodgrass sounds like something you would say if you shut your finger in a door and your mother was standing next to you.

I asked my Dad if he ever thought about changing our name. But he said it was a good name that went all the way back to a duke or earl or something like that. Then I asked him about changing Martin, or at least Elwood. He said I was named Martin after one grandfather and Elwood after the other, and their feelings would be hurt if I changed either one. I wonder why no one thought about how my feelings were going to be hurt with a name like that.

Dad said having a name like Snodgrass never seemed to bother my brother Tim. Of course not. Who is going to call you Snotgrass if you are the biggest kid in class, a terrific swimmer, and the best pitcher the Little League has ever had? No one would care if your name was Pumpernickel.

Actually, changing my name wouldn't do any goodunless I had brown hair like Mom. Everyone else in my family has red hair like mine. That means that everybody in New Albany recognizes me wherever I go. "Oh, you are one of the Snodgrass kids," grown-ups always say. Then they wonder what great things I've been up to. Even my brother Robbie, who is not quite two, and never remembers to go to the bathroom until it's too late, has had his picture in the paper and been on television. It happened on Mom's first day as mayor of New Albany.

We had a lot of babysitters while Mom was running for mayor. She had to give a lot of speeches and go to a lot of meetings. As soon as she was elected, Mom had to put an ad in the paper for a housekeeper. A lot of ladies applied for the job, but most of them left when they discovered there were four kids. Finally Mrs. Albright came. She looked like a grandmother. We all liked her right away. But she couldn't start work until Tuesday, and Mom started being mayor on Monday. Caroline, Tim., and I would all be in school, but there was no one to watch Robbie.

"Maybe you could take him to your office," Mom suggested to Dad. His office was in the back of our house.

"You don't want Robbie around all those sickies," Tim said.

"My patients are not sickies," Dad said. "But Tim is right, this is the flu season. Take him with you," Dad said soothingly to Mom. "He'll be all right in the playpen. You won't have much to do the first day anyway."

Mom left for her first morning as mayor with a cheerful smile-and Robbie. When she came home that night she handed Robbie to Dad and headed straight for the couch with a cool towel for her head. We had all forgotten how much Robbie hates the playpen. When you put him in it he screams and shakes the bars like he's in jail. I don't blame him. I'll bet I hated it when I was a baby, too, even though I don't remember now.

Mom had had to take Robbie out of the playpen. She said it wasn't too bad at first because Robbie kept busy dropping pens and erasers into the wastepaper basket. Then he found a typewriter ribbon and unwound the whole thing. Mom cleaned him up the best she could because the commissioners of parks and water invited her to lunch. They went to the Golden Spoon, the fanciest restaurant in town. Robbie wanted a peanut butter sandwich and wouldn't eat anything else. But they didn't have any peanut butter. I guess peanut butter isn't fancy enough.

The waitress brought Robbie some Jell-O all cut up in little squares. That's another thing about fancy restaurants. They don't know that kids hate green Jell-O, even if it is in squares. While Mom was talking to the commissioner of parks, Robbie was throwing the green squares at the head of the water department. It's too bad they didn't bring Robbie some red gelatin. He would have eaten that.

Mom said the man was pretty nice about it, considering the green didn't look very good on his white shirt. Even so, she decided she would take the rest of the day off and take Robbie home. But when she called her office, her secretary said the newspaper was sending someone to take her picture, so Mom went back to work.

The newspaper reporter arrived, and so did some reporters from the local television station. They said they had heard about Robbie and thought it would make a nice story for the evening news.

The newspaper wanted a picture of Mom signing her first proclamation as mayor. But no one could find the paper until one of the television crew noticed Robbie chewing on something.

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