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 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 AffairThis 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.'
|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 BookHere 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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