Books by Polly Horvath

VERY RICH by Polly Horvath
Released: Sept. 25, 2018

"Horvath is at her odd, arch best here—generous with her wry observations of people and their awkward relationships and foibles. (Fiction. 9-12)"
Rupert Brown discovers a family as odd as his own—but in which food, clothing, warmth, and money are abundant and barely noticed. Read full book review >
THE NIGHT GARDEN by Polly Horvath
Released: Sept. 12, 2017

"Fans of Horvath's Newbery Honor book, Everything on a Waffle (2001), will be disappointed; this one isn't nearly as good. (Fiction. 8-12)"
A remote Canadian farm contains a magic garden. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 11, 2014

"A purely Horvath-ian (meaning hilarious) hop across the pond. (Comedy of manners. 9-14)"
Mr. and Mrs. Bunny and the sixth-grade human child Madeline collide again in this silly, satirical sequel to Horvath's Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire! (2012). Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 11, 2012

"Ever respectful of the capacity of her audience to comprehend the big words and concepts she deals in, the author delivers a gothic tragicomedy that is both a worthy sequel and as able as Primrose to stand on its own. (Fiction. 9-12)"
One year after the events of Newbery Honor-winning Everything on a Waffle (2001), Primrose Squarp returns, no longer orphaned but just as determined to make everything turn out right. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 14, 2012

"A wickedly funny ramble. With bunnies. (Satiric mystery. 9-14) "
Horvath takes on the world of talking animals with all the absurdist, satirical panache fans have come to expect from the award-winning author. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 23, 2010

This delicious ramble picks up a year after My One Hundred Adventures (2008) left off, and Jane Fielding, now 13, isn't just dreaming of having adventures but is experiencing a doozy of one. The family has had to flee Saskatchewan because her flighty stepfather Ned was fired, so Jane finds herself on the road with him, her dreamy, curiously checked-out poet mom, three younger siblings and a possibly hot bag of cash that needs unloading. Plot plays second fiddle to Jane's brilliant, dryly humorous musings about everything from Canadian winter to place memory to the talents of a diner waitress, but there's plenty of intrigue to keep the pages turning, including a visit to a First Nation village, a Las Vegas diversion and a trip to Ned's mother's horse ranch, where Jane, mortifyingly, falls for an indifferent wrangler. Jane's observations of her quirky, likable family are comical but compassionate, and her perennial penchant for adventure—unlike Ned's—is always tempered by her attachment to her Massachusetts home. A detour-rich road trip well worth the ride. (Fiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 9, 2008

Twelve-year-old Jane Fielding's soul itches for adventure. Her life on the Massachusetts shore with her siblings and poet mother is rich with familial love, natural beauty and fresh shellfish, but she still longs to embark into the "know-not-what." Her fervent prayers for adventure are soon answered when a disheveled man shows up for dinner and when, afterwards, her mother casually states, "That was your father," as if to imply that Jane wasn't, as she'd hoped, "conceived in the depths of a moonlit sea." As the scales fall from Jane's eyes, she struggles to make sense of a touchy-feely, "energy"-obsessed preacher, a purse-stealing fortuneteller touting "transparent poodles" (translation: transporting portals), and, most poignantly, a parade of possible fathers. Jane is a lovely blend of hopeful and compassionate, disillusioned and grumpy: "I pour more orange pop moodily into my cup and think about murder-suicides and wonder if they begin with too much food and fun and games." Jane's poetic, philosophical musings capture a child's logic with an adult voice in this witty, wise and wonderful novel. (Fiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 7, 2007

Not exactly a change of pace for Horvath, this slightly less bizarre (only slightly) tale than her usual quirkiness assembles a quartet of grieving loners in a baroque mansion on a remote British Columbian island. Having lost their parents to an accident in faraway Zimbabwe, teenaged cousins Jocelyn and Meline are sent to live with their reclusive uncle Marten—an ex-stockbroker with absolutely no social skills. In desperation, he hires as cook/housekeeper Mrs. Mendelbaum, an old Austrian whose family has predeceased her, and who smuggles in bottles of a barbiturate "cough syrup" to which she and Jocelyn become addicted. These four trade off elaborate monologues that take the tale past months of steady rainfall, a perfectly hideous and hysterically funny Christmas, Meline's effort to reconstruct an airplane from wrecked parts and the revelation of an older family tragedy, which explains a lot. While Meline's final monologue is perhaps a too-facile tying up of loose strings, readers will sink deeply into the story, finding the truth under the eccentricity. (Fiction. 11-13)Read full book review >
THE VACATION by Polly Horvath
Released: Aug. 9, 2005

His impulsive mother having decided to do Good Works in Africa, 12-year-old Henry abruptly finds himself in the decidedly un-maternal care of quarrelsome, forty-ish aunts Magnolia and Pigg. In the wake of Mag's bout with a gruesome blood disease, the two decide to take a vacation in Virginia Beach—a vacation which turns into an aimless, marathon drive down to Florida, out through Texas, up to Mount Rushmore and thence on a swing through the Midwest. Along the way Henry floats into a swamp with an autistic child for three days, sees Aunt Pigg fall in love with a rancher, is reunited with his squabbling parents in Tulsa after their African sojourn collapses in disaster and ultimately comes round to the conviction that a person's character is best shaped from what's inside, not by outside circumstances. Fair enough—but the steady flow of sour outlooks, ill-humored repartee and self-pitying comments is a bit much, even for Horvath. Some will laugh; some will be put off, Horvath fans included. But a new offering from the queen of offbeat is always a welcome holiday. (Fiction. 11-13)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 11, 2004

Horvath puts a distinctive and decidedly hilarious spin on the "problem novel" with this chronicle of a family's unusual (to say the least) mishaps. She also carries the metafictional conceits of Allen Ahlberg's Better Brown Stories (1995) and such a step further—for not only does she converse with her characters, she invites readers to chime in psychically from wherever they may be, duly recording any suggestions she "receives," along with their towns of origin. Poor Pepins: if it's not a rash of toads in their shoes, or a cow who's suddenly giving lemonade when it's cheese that's in short supply, it's Mrs. Pepin's latest crying jag, or the mysterious disappearance of all the tableware. Young readers won't be able to turn the pages fast enough to discover the Pepins' newest predicament, to find out its seldom-obvious cause, to check out the reader comments winging in from the likes of Boring, MD, Forks of Cacapon, WV, and other real places—but mostly to meet the Pepins, part Bagthorpes, part fugitives from Chelm, and their fittingly quirky neighbors, all of whom are rendered in Hafner's sunny, simply drawn cartoons. A delight. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
Released: May 7, 2003

Horvath tops even Everything on a Waffle (2001) with this hilarious, heartrending tale of two unwanted children left with a pair of eccentric old ladies. As softhearted as her hard-drinking twin sister, Tilly, is surly, Penpen Menuto proclaims a willingness to welcome all who come to the door of their isolated old house—a resolve that is sorely tested by the twin entrances of mousy Ratchet Ratchet Clark, a distant relative, and Harper, a sharp-tongued adolescent raised, then abandoned, by a ne'er-do-well aunt. Subjecting their new charges to wonderfully lurid family stories and conversational volleys that tend to veer violently off-course, the 91-year-old twins both provide care, and need it—a combination that ultimately leads to Ratchet's blossoming, and to Harper showing the worthy spirit beneath a truly rough-cut exterior. Though Tilly's old heart finally gives out at the end, the author alleviates the tragedy with an epilogue describing how everyone else turns out (well). Once again Horvath displays a genius for creating multigenerational, interestingly extended families, and for blending high and low comedy into a tale rife with important themes and life-changing events. (Fiction. 11-13)Read full book review >
Released: April 4, 2001

Life dishes up the sweet with the sour following the disappearance of a child's parents in this perceptive, barbed tale from the author of The Trolls (1999). Horvath displays a real knack for naming. Everyone else in her small British Columbian fishing town is sure that her mother and father are lost at sea, but 11-year-old Primrose Squarp clings to hope as months pass. She too is passed: from the minimal care of gruff old Miss Perfidy, to a previously unknown uncle who turns out to be an enterprising real-estate developer, and then, thanks to a small-minded school counselor, to out-of-town foster parents. Along the way, she loses a pair of minor body parts in accidents, but gains loyal friends both in Uncle Jack and in Kate Bowzer, proprietor of a café called The Girl on the Red Swing, in which everything, including salad, is served on a waffle. Food not only plays a recurrent theme here, but each chapter ends with a recipe (of varying palatability). The author engages in some clever role reversal with Uncle Jack, a happy-go-lucky sort with a streak of fierce loyalty who is unperturbed when his housing development goes up in flames, but fights tooth and nail to regain custody of Primrose. He never once expresses doubt that her parents are alive—as indeed they turn out to be. Primrose is a serious, sturdy soul, able to hold her own against this quirky, nearly all-adult supporting cast, and by the time her shipwrecked mother and father are rescued, she has gained considerable insight into human nature—as well as the ability to create dishes as diverse as Cherry Pie Pork Chops and Butterscotch Chow Mein Noodle Cookies. And waffles, of course. That she was right all along about her parents will make her story extra sweet to readers. (Fiction. 11-15)Read full book review >
THE TROLLS by Polly Horvath
Released: March 30, 1999

An unconventional aunt blows in from Vancouver to pinch-hit as a babysitter, and offers two sisters and their brother an entrancing view of family history. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson have nonrefundable tickets for a trip to Paris, but their babysitter has canceled on short notice. When all other options fail, mysterious Aunt Sally arrives to spend a week with ten-year-old Melissa, eight-year-old Amanda, and six-year-old Frank, unkindly referred to by his sisters as Pee Wee. With platform shoes that lace up to her knees, and eyes full of mischief, Aunt Sally is unlike anyone they've ever met, and has never been discussed by their father—her brother. Her stories are full of colorful characters, such as a beautiful man who coaxes one relative out of mourning; Mrs. Gunderson, the dog next door; and, of course, their father, Robbie, who was the baby of the family. The stories build on each other, made suspenseful by Aunt Sally's maddening habit of leaving parts of them untold. Some of the stories are downright spooky, especially the ones about the trolls; Robbie was left on the beach with them one night and his and Sally's relationship was never the same. Most sections are also hilarious, as is the snappy and perfectly timed dialogue. Melissa's succinct definitions of entries in Aunt Sally's large vocabulary provide a thread of humor throughout, as does Aunt Sally's faithful regard for Pee Wee despite his dismissive older sisters. After the last laugh, Aunt Sally's hard-won understanding of human nature will leave readers with plenty to ponder. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 17, 1996

For someone who plans to be a writer when she grows up, Ivy has led a pretty solitary life. When Alfred Halibut, son of a circus publicity manager, moves in next door, she finds a kindred spirit. But the Halibuts are only the beginning of an invasion of circus people in Ivy's small town, and not all the residents welcome them. Ivy launches several schemes designed to silence the malicious gossips and make the newcomers feel at home. In the process, her reformation of a gang of bullying goons into models of civilized propriety leaves her feeling a little like Dr. Frankenstein. Another enjoyably lightweight novel from Horvath (Happy Yellow Car, 1994, etc.): The message about the importance of community is not too heavy-handed, the silly situations never become outlandish, and the whole book hums along with good humor. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

The author of An Occasional Cow (1989) features country folk in another slapstick yarn. Betty, third of the Grunts' four children, seems to be the only one with college potential, but her hopes are dashed when her father, Gunther, blows the $80 her mother has amassed for her education on a flashy car intended only for Sunday drives. Meanwhile, the 12-year-old is elected Pork-Fry Queen on condition that she come up with a dollar for flowers. Gunther has a steady railroad job, but there's no spare cash for this Depression-era Missouri family. Still, Betty schemes to wangle the necessary buck, in the process discovering that her brother Grant has been spending their cousins' church- collection money on candy and that Great-aunt Hilda left a buried treasure. All of this results in shenanigans made more comical for sophisticated readers by Horvath's satirically flowery narrative. Unfortunately, its happy-go-lucky tone is undermined by rather mean caricatures of these mostly dim-witted yokels, especially Gunther (a boor whose typical utterances is ``Hrunk!'') and massive, sanctimonious Aunt Lolly. Still, those who enjoyed the wordplay and broad humor in the author's earlier efforts will be amused by Betty's struggles. (Fiction. 10-13) Read full book review >