Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Patricia Polacco Is a Storyteller with Heart: A Review

Why I Love the Books of Patricia Polacco


Patricia Polacco's books aren't just stories. They are connections to the hearts of her readers. You will see why in a moment. Polacco is not just a talented artist with a style that's easy to recognize, but she's a storyteller with heart.


Patricia Polacco Is a Storyteller with Heart: A Review



Patricia Polacco is only a year younger than I, but she led a much less sheltered life. Her parents had divorced when she was only three, and she and her mother had been living with her grandmother in many different towns until her grandmother died. In one of those towns, Union City,  Michigan, they had lived on a farm. Life on the farm with her Babushka (grandmother) provided Polacco with many of her story ideas when she later began to write.

Most of Polacco's stories relate to problems and fears that children have. In some a child has lost a beloved adult -- a grandparent or neighbor.  I have read many other children's books, both fiction and nonfiction, that deal with these issues, but none have made the connection with my heart that Polacco's did. I believe that in almost every one of her books I've read, and I've read lots of them, her own heart and feelings were involved. In others, her love of books and reading connected with me.

Polacco understands the importance of family relationships in both the nuclear and extended family. She understands the value of intergenerational relationships. In many of her books a child and a lonely elderly person make a connection that ends their isolation. Not all children have grandparents and not all widows and widowers have grandchildren. Polacco shows that these intergenerational relationships can be just as vital even when child and elderly person come from different races or cultures.


Gifts of the Heart by Patricia Polacco


In this precious Christmas story, young Patricia and her brother have been living with their mother and her parents on a farm in Michigan. When Patricia's grandmother dies, her grandfather wants to sell the farm and move because the house is so full of memories. Meanwhile, Grandfather has hired a woman who says she is Kay Lamity to look after the children, as their Babushka used to do, while their mother went to work. Patricia's brother, especially, rebels at the thought that anyone can replace their Babushka. Rather than me summarizing the story, I will let you listen to the book be read aloud in this video. You will also see Polacco's wonderful illustrations as you listen, and you will also see what I mean by stories that have heart in this Christmas picture book for children 5-8. I really think it's for all ages.




A Gift for a Child with Dyslexia: Thank You, Mr. Falker


My brother had the misfortune to have dyslexia before anyone knew what it was. Born into a family with a mother and sister who loved reading and read to him all the time, everyone assumed he'd also become a reader. Except he didn't. As much help as he had from a mother who was a teacher and a sister who wanted to help, he just became more frustrated when books didn't make sense to him. Like Patricia, he didn't get help until he was in middle school. Like Patricia, he thought he must be dumb. He never told me what he might have suffered from teasing by his classmates. This is a book every teacher and parent should read -- especially if they have a child with a reading problem. Listen to Jane Kaczmarek read it on YouTube and see if you can keep your eyes dry. I couldn't




If you know a child who needs this book, please get Thank You, Mr. Falker for him or her. I recommend a physical book for all the picture books to enhance the reading experience.



My Favorite Polacco Book: Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair

This my favorite because I can't imagine a life without reading.  I've loved reading since I was three years old, and I loved being read to even before that. I've never been a great fan of TV, either. So I can imagine how it would feel to be Eli's Aunt Chip, the Triple Creek librarian, when people stopped reading to watch TV. Television was the center of their lives and they always had it on. Pretty soon even school teachers were replaced by television.

Although Aunt Chip still faithfully showed up to work every day, no one came. Finally the library was demolished and replaced by a giant TV tower, and Aunt Chip took to her bed. She told told the mayor and the townspeople there would be consequences to replacing books with television.

When Eli arrived on the scene, he loved his Aunt Chip. He did think it strange she'd not left her bed since he'd known her, but she told wonderful stories. Finally he asked her one day where she got her stories. She replied, "Some come out of thin air. Some come out of my dreams. Some come right out of books!"

Eli asked how you would get a story from a book. All he'd seen books used for were patching holes in the street, sitting on, building things, and even shoring up the dam. Never for reading. This is when Aunt Chip discovered that not only Eli, but no one else in the town could still read. So she showed Eli the inside of a book and explained about writing.

'Now look at this. Those are words. They tell about ideas, dreams, and feelings. They take you to places far from here....Books are a treasure. All you need is the key.'
Patricia Polacco Is a Storyteller with Heart: A Review
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay, edited on PicMonkey


I don't want to give the story away, but Aunt Chip leaves her bed and the town soon learns the consequences of their rashness in closing the library and replacing books with television. I think the ending will make you happy, and you will love what happens to Eli. This book is not a tear-jerker like the others I reviewed. Give it to anyone who thinks reading isn't important.

I finally found a video of someone reading this aloud, so if you don't mind a spoiler, enjoy the story.


Give a Child You Love a Patricia Polacco Book 

Here are more of my favorites. There's a story for almost any child in this group of books. You can find more detailed reviews of the books below and many others, as well as more about Patricia Polacco's life and inspiration in "Patricia Polacco and Her Books" at Books to Remember.  You will also find study guides and readers' theater scripts for the most popular of her books.




Find more reviews for children's books here at Review This!

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Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

10 comments:

  1. Aunt Chip is right .... "Books ARE a treasure". Barbara, I can see why you love Patricia Polacco's books. This is a delightful review of a fascinating author and the stories she tells.

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    1. I had too many favorite books to review them all here, and I found even more published since I stopped selling that I was able to enjoy on YouTube. For every child she has at least one story that's a perfect fit.

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  2. Polacco definitely sounds like an author after my own heart too! I love stories that teach lessons as well as entertain. She sounds like a wonderful author/storyteller and her books sound fabulous, especially for children. Thank you for the introduction to this author and for the awesome book reviews.

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    1. Her lessons are subtle. Children will find it easy to identify with the children in the books, especially if they have the same kinds of problems or grief. All the books aren't problem oriented, though. Some are just happy shared experiences with other people and usually include a grandparent or other older person.

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  3. I love the sound of Aunt Chip, I wish I'd heard of Patricia Polacco books when my daughter was younger as I know she would've eaten them up! I'm very grateful that she would rather read a book instead of watch television because as Aunt Chip says "books are a treasure".

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    1. If it weren't for news, I'd love to get rid of our set. One my own I'd rarely have it on for more than an hour a day, but my husband seems to need it on most waking hours he's home. I no longer have a place to read in peace.

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  4. I love Patricia Polacco's books! I was introduced to them by the school librarian when I volunteered at my daughter's school. She prized them because they were low vocabulary, high interest. We had so many kids in that school who struggled with reading, and these books were easy for them to read without being too "babyish," as the kids would say.

    I loved the stories because they touched my heart. I haven't read them in years now. I really should do again.

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    1. So many more have been written in the past few years at least half are new to me. I just may watch the videos. That makes me stop and really pay attention.

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  5. Another great author for those in between years of readers. I will put these on my radar for my grandchildren. She sounds like a wonderful author and I can see why you were completely taken by her. Thanks Barbara for reviewing these books!

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  6. I've never heard of this author and series til now - and I spent a lot of time reading to my kids when they were young - am sorry I missed these books - thanks for the review, I'll keep this for future gift ideas

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