Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2001. 978-0-374-32236-6
Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Primrose Squarp lives a quiet life with her parents in the small town of Coal Harbor, British Columbia. When her parents are lost at sea and believed dead, Primrose still holds out hope that they are out there somewhere and will one day return. That year, she lives with her Uncle Jack and makes friends with a woman named Miss Bowser. Miss Bowser owns a restaurant named The Girl on the Red Swing, which serves everything imaginable on a waffle. Primrose’s optimism about her parents gets her into trouble, but despite everything that happens to her, she continues to believe that they will come back.
Why I picked it up: I ordered it out of a Scholastic Book Club catalog once upon a time, read it, and loved it so much I just had to read it again.
Why I finished it: As a narrator, Primrose is honest and funny despite the many mishaps she has after her parents are lost at sea. She holds nothing back when telling about her life, her family, the town, the townspeople, and learning to cook. Her observations about the people in her life eventually lead her to a greater understanding about human nature and character, and help her to understand a little bit about what she wants to do with her own life and who she wants to be. Each of the chapters ends with a recipe for everything from properly prepared asparagus to the waffles made by Miss Bowser at The Girl on the Red Swing. I thought the recipes were a particularly nice and unique touch and display much of the same humor that Horvath offers the reader in the story. The story is funny, charming, and takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery and the belief that believing in things that you know are true in your heart can give you hope in the hardest situations.
Other related materials: The Trolls by Polly Horvath; The Pepins and their Problems by Polly Horvath; The Canning Season by Polly Horvath; When The Circus Came to Town by Polly Horvath; The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg; Abel’s Island by William Steig; A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck; A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck; Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli; Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool; Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata; Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes; The Moffats by Eleanor Estes; Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo; Holes by Louis Sachar; The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Patterson; Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan; Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse