Review: One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

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November 26, 2012 by Heidi

One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath book coverTitle: One Year in Coal Harbor [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Polly Horvath [Website]
Standing: Sequel to Everything on a Waffleeach book can be read as a stand alone.
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Published: September 11th, 2012 by Schwartz & Wade
Format: Hardcover; 224 pages.
Source: ARC from publisher.
Spoilers!: This book and review contain minor spoilers for Everything on a Waffle.  One Year in Coal Harbor can be read as a stand alone, but I recommend it as a companion to the first book.

Readers rejoice–Primrose Squarp is back! The wise and curious heroine of the Newbery Honor Book Everything on a Waffle is facing another adventure-filled year in Coal Harbor.

Even though her parents, once lost at sea, are home, there’s a whole slew of problems and mysteries to keep Primrose–and eager fans–busy. There’s Uncle Jack and Kate Bowzer, who may (or may not) be in love. There’s Ked, a foster child who becomes Primrose’s friend. And there’s the new development on the outskirts of town that threatens the Coal Harbor Primrose knows and treasures. Prolific and brilliant Horvath has delivered a masterful sequel to a beloved novel, sure to please old fans and gain new ones.

One Year in Coal Harbor drops us back into the oceanside town in British Columbia where you can play hockey at Uncle Jack’s house or have Miss Bowzer fix you up something to eat–just know it’s going to come on a waffle.  It’s been a year since Primrose’s parents returned, and she to her home with them.  She’s more rich now than ever with her Uncle Jack staying on in town, as well as Bert and Evie, her temporary foster parents who had moved to Coal Harbor all sticking by her.  She visits all of them regularly, along with keeping up her regular sessions at The Girl in the Red Swing learning to cook all variety of dishes with Miss Bowzer.

I observed in the last novel that Primrose Squarp is surprisingly resilient and full of faith, but also lacking in companions her own age.  This is rectified in One Year in Coal Harbor when Bert and Evie take on a new foster child, Ked, who Primrose quickly comes to think of as her best friend (even though she’d never tell him that).  Primrose recognizes in Ked the loneliness and thin places she herself was in when her parents were missing and instinctively finds he is someone she can relate to and wants to protect, despite his reluctance to reveal anything about his own past.

I didn’t want to say he was Bert and Evie’s foster child.  As soon as people find out someone is a foster child they treat them as if they are criminals or diseased.  One thing I learned when my parents disappeared at sea was that it is human nature to secretly suspect that the things that happen to people are really their own fault in some way.  That we bring our misfortunes upon ourselves.  Even if the bad things that happen to us are clearly just a case of bad luck, there’s a kind of underlying belief that there’s a certain amount of bad luck in the world and it attaches to people who are less deserving.  I wanted to protect Ked from this even though it was probably something he already knew.

As in its predecessor, the problems in One Year in Coal Harbor are very real and bigger than the little girl telling the story.  However, because of that little girl the story feels cozy and personal.  Primrose is able to gauge issues the way we adults let slip from our perspectives at times.  Her care for Ked, her concern for Uncle Jack and Kate Bowzer who she is certain must get married, and observations of a town protesting the logging of a mountain in their backyard are all reflected through Primrose’s insightful thoughts, and of course, we are graced with more recipes.

One Year in Coal Harbor is a wonderful story about not letting our pasts dictate who we will be, and also the reality that some things just are.  Primrose realizes somewhere along the road that the majority of things in life we cannot fix or ruin, but we can still change them.  She tries her hardest to change those things she sees in need, but also finds out that you can’t really control other people’s lives if they want certain things.  I was so happy to see Primrose gain a friend at last, and it was wonderful to see her stick her neck out for someone who was currently going through something so akin to what she’d known.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  After reading two of Polly Horvath’s books this year I have determined that she is most definitely an author I will recommend to young readers, but perhaps not quite the right match for me.  I have enjoyed her books, but am not in love with the stories or style, and thus will probably call it quits here.

Recommended for:  I’d really recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Everything on a Waffle, but would say that while it does work as a stand alone, I prefer the first book.  Warning for those of you who can’t handle animal deaths in books: this book has several, one of which is particularly depressing.

Real life repercussions of reading this book: In a book featuring many dishes, one stood out to me.  Have people eaten Welsh rabbit before?  It’s not rabbit at all!  How have I been previously unaware of something that covered in cheese?!

I’ve also reviewed:
Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

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2 comments »

  1. Aww, this sounds like such a wonderfully cute read! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed so many of this author’s works – she’s definitely someone I’m curious to read now. Fantastic review, Heidi! :)

    P.S. – Son of the Shadows shipped! *happy dance* I can (hopefully!) start it next week! 😀

    • Heidi says:

      Oh yay! FINALLY! Hehe, so excited for you to read SotS…not that I can talk, I waited months in between DotF and SotS because I had the biggest book hangover ever.

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