The Dancing Pancake: 11/17/11
The Dancing Pancake by Eileen Spinelli is a novel told in verse about eleven year old Bindi trying to cope with her life being turned upside down. Her parents are separated and she and her mother are moving into an apartment over a restaurant which her mother is running the restaurant with a family friend.
While I enjoyed the free verse style of story telling, the plot seemed rather derivative. There seems to be a glut of stories about single parents (usually mothers) running catering companies (or restaurants) while the fathers off having midlife crises. I'm thinking most specifically of the Regular Guy series by Sarah Weeks and Food, Girls and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff (review coming).
Besides the family drama plot, The Dancing Pancake has a bittersweet side story about a homeless woman named Grace. She usually has enough to order something from the fledgling Dancing Pancake restaurant but they usually give her something extra. Bindi, trying to find her own place in this new life she's living, befriends Grace and tries to do favors for her. Some of them Grace likes and others she doesn't. This part of the book is a far more interesting but understated discussion on homelessness and mental illness that the After School Special main plot.