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James Coleman
Pancake the Cat
In a world where bravery was measured by bacon bits, Pancake the cat, who adored pancakes, lived with Mr. and Mrs. Buttons. Feeding him pancakes made him look more like one, sparking laughter from neighbors. Despite his pancake-like appearance, Pancake longed to be a real hero. After a series of comical mishaps while trying to prove himself, he encountered a hungry black cat and her kittens. Helping them, Pancake discovered that true heroism came from within. His kindness transformed him from a funny pancake cat into a shining star, teaching him that appearances don't define heroism.
Coleman offers young readers a winning story of a cat who loves pancakes—maybe a little too much. Pancake the cat lives with Mr. and Mrs. Buttons, a pair who measure their love for him in the stacks and stacks of pancakes they feed him every day. Though Pancake revels in the meals, he soon realizes that he doesn't really look like the other cats anymore. Instead, he’s actually starting to resemble his favorite food—and he wants to be so much more than just a “funny pancake cat.” Coleman uses Pancake as a springboard for the crucial message that being a hero doesn’t equate to being perfect.

With an irresistible title and protagonist, the story touchingly explores some hard-to-talk-about feelings, including tricky topics like body image and making assumptions about others based on appearance. Pancake initially seems like the luckiest cat ever, but when the other cats (and neighbors) start making rude comments, and he can no longer keep up with his pals, it starts to wear on him. Out of sadness and frustration, he runs away—only to find himself in a dark alley, surrounded by shadowy figures. When he’s startled by a black cat, Pancake learns that not everything is what it seems on the surface: the strange cat has no plans to hurt him, she’s just desperate to find a meal for her kittens. Pancake marches the small family to his home, where he promptly serves them a pancake feast.

Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Buttons welcome the new family with open arms—and full bowls—and the addition of new cats in the house inspires Pancake to try new foods, too (though he sticks with his favorite on the weekends). Lucy Pirogova’s shaded illustrations imbue the story’s animals with human-like expressions, that, when paired with Coleman’s lesson to be kind to others, make this debut relevant for any young readers. This story’s told with a light touch but shares a powerful message.

Takeaway: Pancake-eating cat shows readers what it really means to be a hero.

Comparable Titles: Nikki Rogers’s A Hero Like You, Rachel Bright’s The Lion Inside.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A