cover image Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace

Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace

Nan Marino. Roaring Brook, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-59643-753-1

After completely choking during the live televised finals of an American Idol–type show, 11-year-old musical prodigy Elvis Ruby (who was heavily favored to win) hides from the paparazzi at his Aunt Emily’s humble pancake restaurant in New Jersey’s Pinelands. Though he cuts and dyes his trademark black curly hair and introduces himself to the townsfolk as Aaron, his identity is quickly uncovered by Cecilia, a friendless seventh-grader undergoing a musical crisis of her own. Marino’s (Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me) affection for New Jersey’s coastal preserve shines through in her descriptions of its natural beauty, not to mention the way the pancake house showcases its natural resources with its red (cranberry), white (plain), and blueberry stacks. But a subplot about the legendary Jersey Devil, also famed to be hiding in the Pine Barrens, doesn’t add enough to warrant its inclusion, and until the paparazzi finally arrive, not a lot happens. That said, the warmth and humor of the story will help carry readers through to its satisfying conclusion. Ages 8–12. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Apr.)