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The Dancing Pancake

Review

The Dancing Pancake

I think the way a book looks --- its cover art and trim size--- tells you a lot about what’s inside. There are focus groups and busy professionals spending countless hours behind those aesthetic decisions, and they all mean something. THE DANCING PANCAKE comes in a delicious cover depicting the store our protagonist Bindi’s mom opens in the story. And it’s a small trim novel with a lot of spot illustrations placed brilliantly throughout its brief chapters. For a beginning reader, the short spurts of text interwoven amongst penciled drawings that evoke the ones from the classic HARRIET THE SPY make THE DANCING PANCAKE a winner before you even get to the sweet and hilarious story from acclaimed author Eileen Spinelli.

There is a lot more to recommend here: a story that anyone can relate to, a protagonist who is smart but not smarmy, additional characters who add resonance to the main themes of finding your place and handling new adventures with courage and enjoyment. The book reads like a mini-journal by Bindi; it tells the story from her perspective, in her little voice, written in small paragraphs that make each outlook, each revelation, seem like a little poem. This is a good tactic for helping young readers create some momentum with getting through an entire chapter book.

Spinelli doesn’t dumb down her creation in order to appeal only to the youngest readers. My nine-year-old thought it was funny and has read and reread the entire Harry Potter series without stopping. So this book can appeal to older readers as well. As I was reading it, I kept thinking that I would love to use it in a writing class; there are lots of “what ifs” here that could be used to propel students into their own writings, and the short spurts of text would encourage those young writers who might be under the wrong impression that all good writing goes on and on and on. Clearly, as in THE DANCING PANCAKE, it doesn’t.

In little vignette chapters such as “The Sofa” and “Advice,” Bindi gives us the rundown on the new life that her family experiences with the creation and opening of the Dancing Pancake, her mom’s new restaurant, in a very specific voice. There is an intimacy with the character that reminds me of the best stories of childhood, where the characters let you into their hearts and souls in simple ways, without a lot of drama, but with such clear dedication to the truth that their world resonates with you far beyond the last turn of a page. Highly recommended for all ages.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on May 10, 2011

The Dancing Pancake
by Eileen Spinelli

  • Publication Date: May 10, 2011
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling
  • ISBN-10: 0375853480
  • ISBN-13: 9780375853487