July 6, 2012 by Heidi
Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time!
Title: Everything on a Waffle [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Polly Horvath [Website]
Standing: Stand alone novel, but a companion One Year in Coal Harbor is being released this fall!
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Published: April 5th, 2008 by Square Fish (Originally published April 4th, 2001 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Format: Paperback; 176 pages
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Challenge: Award Winning Reads Challenge
I believe that when most people read the phrase “emotional comfort food read” their minds will immediately turn to the Chicken Soup for the Soul line of books that were so popular more than a decade ago. And yet, Polly Horvath’s Everything on a Waffle is exactly the type of book that fits under the emotional comfort food read heading. To me, there is no better way to describe the deep-seated warmth that filled my insides as I consumed this book. Bunbury readers know that I have a long standing love of Middle Grade fiction, but it might shock you to know I was hard pressed to bring to mind a single contemporary MG book that I have read that was not required reading for me in school (such as Shiloh, Because of Winn Dixie, etc.). I couldn’t think of a single one that I’d read by choice, though I did enjoy many I was assigned in class. That alone made Everything on a Waffle an out of the box read for me, and I am so glad I did it.
Everything on a Waffle tells the story of a young, redheaded Primrose Squarp (not Everdeen) who lives in the fishing village of Coal Harbor, British Columbia. When her father fails to return from his ship one evening in the midst of a terrible storm, her mother follows him out into the sea on her small skiff. Neither return, but Primrose refuses to accept the notion that they are dead. She is certain that they are surviving together on an island somewhere, bound to return eventually. Because of her firm belief she is ostracized and teased by others her age, pitied by adults, and left largely to fend for herself. Primrose moves in with her uncle, a developer bent on changing everything about Coal Harbor who does little to help her local popularity. Primrose, however, draws comfort from her beliefs, food, and companionship at The Girl in the Red Swing, a restaurant where no matter your order, everything is served on a waffle.
What is it about little redheaded girls that I find so incredibly loving and endearing? Is it overflow from my love of Anne Shirley? Or maybe it’s because I have a little redheaded niece I adore. It’s hard to say, but Primrose Squarp has found herself neatly situated in good company. She’s steadfast in her belief that her parents live, and really doesn’t care what anyone else thinks so long as they aren’t teasing and patronizing her. Primrose’s insistence causes her to have many interesting conversations with townsfolk about times when they believed something contrary to the evidence.
Everything on a Waffle is full of rich characters, and what I found unusual about it was that other than Primrose, they were really all adults. She has very little in the way of relationships with children her own age. On the one hand, this is sad, but on the other hand her ability to connect with Miss Bowzer, the owner and chef at The Girl in the Red Swing, is incredibly endearing. Her uncle, who turns his own life upside down to take Primrose in after her parents disappearance keeps her faith, supports her, and lets her do her own thing. Unfortunately for Primrose, the rest of the souls in Coal Harbor cannot forgive her for not falling apart at her parents’ disappearance. They cannot relate to a love so strong that one would follow another out into such a storm, or a faith so fervent a child refuses to accept her parents’ death.
I also appreciated that Everything on a Waffle forced me to see the other side of the coin in terms of development. Coal Harbor is a fishing and whaling village, and with whaling soon to be outlawed and the navy withdrawing, it’s evident that many in the town will be losing work. Primrose’s Uncle Jack is a developer who wants to turn Coal Harbor into a premiere tourist destination, and believes it’ll save the town. Having grown up the daughter of a small business owner in a small town, I’ve always had a very negative outlook for those who wish to develop towns in this way. I have the utmost disdain for tourist towns like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that I honestly don’t even consider part of the state it has been developed so beyond the surrounding culture to attract only inhabitants from far away places. Jack spends much of Everything on a Waffle working to buy up properties and businesses and replace them with more corporate or touristy options. Polly Horvath’s story didn’t really change my mind or make me okay with this sort of thing (and I don’t think it was trying to), but it did show me the other point of view. The idea that Jack is working to save Coal Harbor, provide jobs, and generate income for locals in new ways is positive. I’m not going to stop gearing up to protest the building of a Wall-Mart in my hometown, but I will be more mindful of this perspective in the future.
Finally, the most delightful aspect of Everything on a Waffle (besides the paperback cover, which I adore), was the food. Each chapter closes out with a recipe for an item mentioned therein. Even the recipes are written with heart and humor, and they vary from the simplicity of how to boil potatoes perfectly to the complexities of cinnamon rolls. I think it would be so much fun to read this book together with a child, and after each chapter work together to make the recipe mentioned. Polly Horvath understands how food can be a comfort and make you feel at home when the rug has been pulled out from under you and you are surrounded by nothing else that is familiar. Reading Everything on a Waffle was kind of like getting a good hug, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Most certainly! I have a copy of One Year in Coal Harbor for review, and will be back to tell you about it closer to its release date.
Recommended for: Middle Grade contemporary readers, those who like to cook, or love food in books.
Real life repercussions of reading this book: Have you ever believed something contrary to the evidence? I’ve been thinking about this while reading Primrose’s story, and I’m sad to report I can’t think of a single instance where I have. I’ve always been too practical, but I often wish I weren’t.
Get a second opinion:
Have you reviewed Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath? Let me know, and I’ll link your review here.
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Category Middle Grade, Retro Friday, Review | Tags: British Columbia, Canada, contemporary, faith, family, Farrar Straus and Giroux, food, Macmillan, Middle Grade, Newberry, Retro Friday, review, Square Fish