I like it when a book wins me over to a genre or style of book that I had not been accustomed to enjoying before. The Dancing Pancake is a verse novel, and although I still don’t understand why books are written in this particular style or what the line is between poetry that tells a story and prose that sings a song, I did enjoy reading the story of a girl named Bindi and her broken, struggling, loving family and a restaurant called The Dancing Pancake.
I liked reading about Bindi’s struggle to overcome selfishness and to forgive. She didn’t really seem much different in her difficulties from adults who deal with the same issues. For example, here’s Bindi remembering her absent father while she’s trying to read The Yearling:
Or Bindi trying to reconcile with a friend whose feeling she hurt and at the same time still working out her own feeling toward her dad:
“Ruby Frances pours
more syrup on her plate.
‘That so?’ she says.
I take another breath.
‘Well, actually, there’s more,’
I say. ‘Since God forgives us
for all the stupid,
thoughtless, mean things
we do and say,
We should forgive others.’
I give her a long sideways look.
Is she listening?
‘Right?’ I say.
Ruby Frances just chomps away.
I plunge on: ‘If God never
forgave anyone, Heaven would be empty.
The Dancing Pancake was a lovely story of separation and forgiveness and reconciliation. Bindi’s anger and sense of betrayal over her parents’ marital problems is real and not too lightly resolved, and Bindi makes some mistakes of her own, getting caught up in her unhappiness and ignoring the problems of her family and friends. However, the tone never gets too heavy, and the story remains appropriate for third through seventh graders throughout. And Bindi deserves the cake that she gets at the end of the book that reads “Bravo to our Bindi!”
This book would make a useful bibliotherapy title, but it would also resonate with any child who deals with forgiving imperfect family members and friends or who finds things to forgive in herself. And don’t we all struggle to forgive others and ourselves?