For young readers

Everything on a Waffle By Polly Horvath Farrar, Straus & Giroux 160 pp., $16

How could a tale which begins with the loss of parents to a typhoon keep readers chuckling on every page?

Eleven-year-old Primrose Squarp is confident that her parents are waiting to be rescued from a remote island, while all of the eccentric inhabitants of Coal Harbour see no hope for their survival. But Primrose deals philosophically with the unbelieving locals, who all have plans for her future.

Miss Perfidy, her ancient and most unlikely babysitter, and Miss Honeycut, the school psychiatrist, obviously do not understand or delight in imaginative orphans. Fortunately, Primrose finds a friend in the owner and cook of the local restaurant, where Miss Bowzer serves every menu item on a waffle, along with her reassuring advice.

Peggy Horvath has created an outlandish group of adults. Primrose takes them all in stride, naming only one other child, Pinky Caldwater, a Cambodian orphan who got his necktie stuck in the self-threading movie projector. But Primrose has enough adventures of her own, losing a toe and fingertip en route to coping with her predicament. One relative, Uncle Jack, whose smile beams "wall-to-wall teeth beneath his blond moustache," both eases and complicates her erratic life.

That a tale which includes death and dismemberment could be so funny is the genius of the author, whose previous book, "Trolls," was nominated for a National Book Award.

Each chapter concludes with a recipe that every young reader will want to try in the kitchen. They're as tasty as this unique and lively scamper of a book. (But don't try Miss Perfidy's moth-ball tea biscuits.)

Young and old readers will marvel at the ingenuity of this young narrator who copes masterfully with her life.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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