Pandas on the Eastside

Summary:  Journey Song loves her neighbourhood.  People there may be down on their luck, but they do everything they can to support Journey when she goes on a mission to save two pandas.  When ten-year-old Journey Song hears that two pandas are being held in a warehouse in her neighbourhood, she worries that they may be hungry, cold, and lonely.  Horrified to learn that the pandas, originally destined for a zoo in Washington, might be shipped back to China because of a diplomatic spat between China and the United States, Journey rallies her friends and neighbours on the poverty-stricken Eastside.  Her infectious enthusiasm for all things panda is hard to resist, and soon she’s getting assistance from every corner of her tight-knit neighbourhood. 

Author: Gabrielle Prendergast is a UK-born Canadian/Australian who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.  A part-time teacher and mentor.  Gabrielle is the author of the verse novels Capricious and Audacious, which was shortlisted for a CLA award, and The Frail Days in the Orca Limelight’s series.  For more information, visit 


WITS LEADerS Connection: Look and Listen, Explore Points of View, Act 

Lesson Plan

Pre-reading questions: 

  • Look at the book cover of Pandas on the Eastside and describe what you see.  Can you guess what the book might be about?  What are some of the challenges the main characters in this book might face?  
  • Have you read any other stories about pandas or the Eastside of Vancouver, B.C? 


Conflict:  Stories are usually based on a conflict.  The conflict may be a problem to solve or a goal that the main character wants to reach. 

Types of conflicts in stories are: 

  1. Person vs Person 
  2. Person vs Self 
  3. Person vs Nature 
  4. Person vs Society 
  5. Person vs Technology 
  6. Person vs the Supernatural 


POST-READING QUESTIONS: Conflict and Feelings  

  1. Who is the main character of the story and what are the conflicts in the story?  
  2. Journey used a variety of strategies to deal with bullyingWhat were they? 
  3. What lessons did Journey learn about friendship, family and saving the Pandas? 
  4. Can the way someone’s friends or family treat them affect how they feel about wanting to do different things? 


Post Reading Question and Activity:  

  • In the book Pandas on theEastside, Journey Song is a 10-year-old narrator. What advantages does this have to the telling of the story?  What are some of her challenges?  
  • Journey Song travels around herEastside neighbourhood interacting with the unique characters and collecting their advice and wisdom.   How does this affect her? What does it give the reader? 
  • What does Journey understand about the difficulties in her neighbourhood?  What is she still naïve about? 
  • How doesJourney’s sense of identity change with the reappearance of her father?  
  • How doesJourney’s sense of identity change by theend of the story, after saving the pandas with the support of her friends, family, school, and neighbours from the Eastside 


Suggested activities: 

  • Do some research on pandas. How long do pandas live? What do pandas eat? Where do pandas live? 
  • Invite to your classroom another school/classroom/teacher who is from (or has lived or worked) Vancouver to talk about the city and the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. 
  • Draw a picture of what Journey Song at her school and her Eastside neighbourhood. Underneath your drawing write a few words to describe your picture.  Draw another a picture of yourself at your school and your neighbourhood.  Underneath your drawing write a few words to describe your picture.   Compare and contrast the two pictures.  What do you see that is similar and what do you see that is different? 
  • What projects can you do in your school, community or neighbourhood to create more connection, create more fun and friendlier spaces and spread kindness? 

This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.  

Ce projet a été rendu possible en partie grâce au gouvernement du Canada