Who can turn down free pancakes? Bindi’s mom and aunt—proud owners of The Dancing Pancake diner—hope no one can. After all, they need a gimmick to jump-start their new business, and 11-year-old Bindi Winkler refuses to dress up like a pancake and dance around on the sidewalk. That would just be too humiliating—and besides, isn’t her life already full of enough drama?

With her father’s recent mysterious move to a new city, Bindi wonders what will become of her family. But that hope-tinged wonder is dashed when her mother announces that she and Bindi’s father are separating. On top of that, school is stressful—why doesn’t that cute boy, Noah, ever notice me?—friends are fickle and Bindi’s young cousin, Jackson, is an all-around pain.

Growing up is a full-time job, Bindi learns, laden with lots of ups, downs, milkshakes and pancake costumes. But at least she’s got her mom and Aunt Darnell—along with a cheerful teenager, a kindly homeless woman and regular customer Mrs. Otis, a perpetual complainer. They’re a motley crew, to be sure, but combined, they all offer Bindi valuable insights to help her navigate the sidewalks of adolescence.

Spinelli’s lyrical blank verse is the perfect form for story. Each short form poem is like watching a clip from Bindi’s life in progress. The text is fast-paced and easy to read, yet still provides enough detail to elucidate and endear the characters to readers.

Surprises tend to pop up along the way—and not just a fake spider in the pancakes. Some have a weightier impact on Bindi, changing the way she views both people and situations.

While the book’s rather lighthearted ending seems to arrive a bit abruptly—I was left wanting a bit more resolution about Bindi’s life going forward—it seemed to follow Spinelli’s pacing for the book. Maybe all Bindi’s loose ends aren’t tied up. . . but then again, that’s an important life lesson too.

Freelance writer and former children’s librarian Sharon Verbeten lives in Green Bay, Wis., where she loves both dancing and pancakes.

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