Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Dancing Pancake

The Dancing Pancake

Eileen Spinelli
Illustrator:  Joanne Lew-Vriethoff 
For ages 8 to 12
Random House, 2010   ISBN: 978-0375858703

When Bindi’s father goes away “to find a new job,” she imagines that he will soon be back, just as he always is. Bindi is therefore completely unprepared when her mother tells her that her parents have separated. They never fought, they “never even had / a big fight!” How can this be happening?

At first Bindi is heartbroken, and she grieves for a while. Then she is angry. How could her father abandon them? What kind of person abandons his family anyway. Matters only get worse when Bindi’s mother explains that they have to move. They cannot afford their big house anymore, and it has been decided that Bindi’s mother and her Aunt Darnell are going to go into business together, running a café. Bindi and her mother will go to live in the apartment above the café, thus solving their housing problem.

Bindi is furious that all these decisions were made without anyone consulting her. What about her needs and her wants? Bindi can’t wait until she is old enough to be able to make decisions for herself. Though her mother, her aunt, and her friends all think that it will be “fun” to have a café, Bindi doesn’t “want any part of this stupid business.” She is angry, and she wants everyone to know it.

After the move and after she has been living and working at the café for a while, Bindi comes to realize that perhaps things are not as bad as they seem. Perhaps she is missing something. Perhaps being angry at the world is not the best way to live your life.

In this memorable and very moving book, Eileen Spinelli tells Bindi’s story using the girl’s voice in a collection of blank verse poems that are full of evocative imagery. There is also humor and sadness in the tale, which addresses family problems with great sensitivity.