The Story Behind the Book
A Message from Sharon:
I'd like to dedicate Pancake Jake to my husband, Kevin, and our three sons and their girlfriends who have all encouraged me in my writing pursuits; my sweet parents and siblings who have believed in me all my life, my much-beloved nephews and nieces and great-nieces and great-nephews, and to my wonderful and supportive friends. But I'd like to give a special dedication to one of my nephews, Jacob, because he was the inspiration for Pancake Jake.
The dedication in the book says simply: For my nephew Jacob who inspired this adventure many years ago
But here is the rest of the story behind the book:
When Jacob was three years old back in 1987, I'd often play a game with him where I called him Pancake Jake, and I was Waffle Man. I'd chase him around and try to catch him, all in good fun, of course. Later, I thought about our Pancake Jake game and realized there was a lot there below the surface of our game about Pancakes and Waffles and how they look different but are made of the same things. So I began writing early versions of this story about Pancake Jake and his adventures in bringing the Pancakes and Waffles together.
When Jacob was 8, he was diagnosed with a rare leukemia that wouldn't stay in remission, and doctors told us he would need a bone marrow transplant to survive. Remarkably, through the marrow donor system of the American Red Cross, he found a perfect marrow match in the Netherlands! He had the transplant on the night before Thanksgiving in 1993, and after some ups and downs, the transplant was deemed successful after a little over a year had passed. Jacob showed such courage and faith during that time and amazed us all with his perspective on what was important in life at such a young age. Jacob grew up, went to college, got married, and he and his wife adopted a precious baby boy in 2019; we never were allowed to know who his donor was or were able to thank him personally, but that person gave new life to my nephew, and from that so much good has been done. It's been an incredible journey. It's such an uplifting story about a person who loved his fellow humankind so much that he donated bone marrow to a stranger.
I don't think the story of Pancake Jake would have ever come to life if I hadn't played that game years ago with Jacob. Pancake Jake exemplifies in this story the same kind of insight and perspective that Jacob did during his battle with leukemia; Jacob met diverse children and adults along his transplant journey: kids and adults fighting cancer and other diseases like Tomica and Johnny; parents of those kids who would have gladly traded places with their children; people who made the decision to be marrow donors, giving strangers a second chance to live; dedicated doctors and nurses passionate about saving lives; amazing staff members and volunteers with the American Red Cross and the National Donor Marrow Program devoted to making a difference; people in the community who came out to the marrow drives we held, willing to join the registry of donors; the media that promoted his journey and other similar journeys; and of course, his family, friends, and church family who supported and prayed for him and rallied around him, lifting him up. Everyone joined together with the goal of helping one another, regardless of any differences -- much like what happens in Pancake Valley and on Waffle Mountain.
Pancake Jake came close to publication a few times over the years, but it never came to fruition. When all the terrible events happened in 2020 and we all seemed farther apart than ever before, I was determined to see the story through to publication. So, these characters of Pancake Jake and Wally Waffle that I have had in my imagination for decades, I'm now sharing with you.
This is an article I wrote about my nephew's bone marrow transplant in the August, 1998 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. Click the image to read the article.