________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 9 . . . . November 2, 2012


The Pancake Express. (Justin Time).

Brandon James Scott, Adapter and Illustrator.
San Francisco, CA: Immedium, 2012.
36 pp., hardcover, $15.95 (US).
ISBN 978-1-59702-035-0.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6.

Review by Claire Perrin.

**** /4



"Stop the train!" yells Olive. Justin pulls on the breaks.

There's a fallen tree on the tracks, blocking the way.

"Uh Oh," groans Squidgy. "How will we get by?"

Suddenly a beaver pops up from behind a log.

"Hey, I have an idea," says Justin.

"Beavers can cut through wood with their big teeth. Maybe he can help us clear the path?"

The beaver happily agrees and starts chomping the log into small pieces of wood.

Olive encourages everyone, "If we hurry and tidy up all this wood, we can still make it to the Pancake Festival."

Based on a recently created TV series, Justin Time, The Pancake Express is an adventure story for preschoolers. The main character, Justin, embarks on imaginary adventures to different places around the world. In The Pancake Express, Justin and his pals journey through the Canadian wilderness to deliver maple syrup in time for the Pancake Festival.

internal art      At the beginning of the story, Justin is a real boy playing with his train set and his friend Squidgy when he gets the idea to go on an adventure. Using the power of imagination, scooting across the living floor, they pick up speed and find themselves aboard a steam train. They soon run into Olive who welcomes them to Canada and gives them the mission of delivering the maple syrup. Together, they travel through the Canadian countryside until they run into several obstacles. The first obstacle is a fallen tree across the tracks. With the help of a beaver and a moose, the tree is removed and the wood is chopped and loaded onto the train. Later, they run out of coal but are able to use the wood to feed the fire and keep the train moving. A cheering crowd welcomes them to the pancake festival just in time.

      It is refreshing to see a new series for this age group featuring a male character and with a focus on imagination and education. The book contains accurate scientific and geographic information, but it is presented as part of the adventure. In this story, the process of creating steam from coal is explained. Canadian geography is shown through the illustrations of the Rocky Mountains along with some iconic Canadian wildlife.

      Scott's lively illustrations capture the action and support the plot without seeming cluttered. Many close ups of the characters help readers understand the characters and their feelings. The text is nicely arranged on the pages with just the right amount of words per page. Most of the story is told in natural sounding dialogue between Justin and the other characters. One of the best features of this book is the frequency of words written in large fonts, such as sound effects (POP! SCREEEECH! CHOO CHOO! etc.) This approach gives young children some simple words to focus on while they listen to the story being read aloud.

      As the Justin Time TV series gains popularity in Canada, this series of books is sure to appeal to preschoolers. A second book, entitled The Big Pet Story, is scheduled to be released in 2013. Boys, in particular, will enjoy following Justin to different places and times around the world on his magical steam engine.

Highly Recommended.

Claire Perrin is an elementary teacher with the Toronto District School Board.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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