Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace

Horn Book (July/August, 2013)

Eleven-year-old Elvis Ruby is "the most famous [musician] in the world." Poised to win the American Idol-like TweenStar reality TV competition, he instead freezes onstage during a performance. His dad whisks him away to tiny Wares Grove, New Jersey, in order to regroup and escape the paparazzi. Elvis (going incognito as "Aaron") tries to keep a low profile while helping out at the Pancake Palace, a flapjacks-only restaurant run by family friend Aunt Emily and her sassy would-be librarian daughter Millicent. His secret is soon uncovered by misfit Cecilia, a local girl his own age who enlists his help. When Cecilia was born in the Pinelands woods, her parents mysteriously heard music; ever since, the tone-deaf girl has been trying, unsuccessfully, to coax the music out of the trees. With Aaron's accompaniment, Cecilia's wish is fulfilled -- only not in the way either of them expects. Interspersed chapters about the Pinelands and Jersey Devil myths echo the story's themes -- identity, alienation, community, creative expression. The tall-tale element (including occasional direct-address narration) adds texture and depth to this story about two kids: an extraordinarily talented one coping with the push and pull of fame, and a seemingly unremarkable one finding her voice. elissa gershowitz


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