Penelope Anne Cole
Penelope Anne Cole enjoys writing children’s stories to be read aloud. “Reading to children is the best way to help them love literature.” Ms. Cole has taught and tutored at every grade level, K to 12, and community college. She also reviews children's books. When not writing or reviewing children’s books, Ms. Cole enjoys dog walking, reading, gardening, church, and choir activities. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a member of the California Writers Club: Fremont Area Writers, SF Peninsula Writers, and South Bay Writers, and is a Reading Therapist with Read America. Ms. Cole reviews books at
See reviews of Ms. Cole's books at
Her website is www.penelopeannecole.com
Contact Ms. Cole for School Author Visits, locally in-person, or by SKYPE.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Wednesday Wow - Patricia Polacco's Children's Books
I'd first discovered her during my student teaching and especially loved her book Thunder Cake, where the grandmother uses her "thunder cake" recipe to comfort, distract, and teach her granddaughter during a thunderstorm:
"Grandma consoles her frightened granddaughter by telling her that the dark clouds of the impending storm are nothing more than the ingredients for a Thunder Cake."
Other books I read then were Just Plain Fancy, about an Amish girl who's tired of everything being "plain" and longs for something "fancy:
"Naomi Vlecke lives with her farming family in an Amish community in Pennsylvania. The Amish first came to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s, and to this day preserve a religious and "plain" life-style. As part of her household chores, Naomi looks after the chickens with her little sister, Ruth."
I also read Rachenka's Eggs, a wonderful Easter "miracle story:
"Babushka, known for her exquisite hand-painted eggs, finds Rechenka, a wounded goose, and takes her home. When she's ready to try her wings again, Rechenka accidentally breaks all of Babushka's lovingly crafted eggs. But the next morning Babushka awakens to a miraculous surprise."
So I wasn't a stranger to Patricia Polacco's work. It was wonderful to be reacquainted with her books and I happily read a few more:
The Bee Tree, a wonderful story involving much of the village chasing bees!
"When Mary Ellen gets bored with her reading, Grandpa knows a hunt for a bee tree is just what she needs. Half the town joins the exciting chase, but it's not until everyone returns home that Mary Ellen makes a discovery of her own: Sometimes, even the sweetest of things must be worked for."
I read Babuska Baba Yaga, about the longing to be loved and a part of a family: Baba Yaga is a witch famous throughout Russia for eating children, but this Babushka Baba Yaga is a lonely old woman who just wants a grandchild to love.
I read Thank You Mr. Falker, about a wonderful teacher who discovers a secret, a terrible truth, that turns a young girl's life around:
"When Trisha starts school, she can't wait to learn how to read, but the letters just get jumbled up. She hates being different, and begins to believe her classmates when they call her a dummy. Then, in fifth grade, Mr. Falker changes everything. He sees through her sadness to the gifted artist she really is. And when he discovers that she can't read, he helps her prove to herself that she can - and will!"
I also read (and cried over) The Keeping Quilt, a wonderful story about Ms. Polacco's own family heritage:
" We will make a quilt to help us always remember home," Anna's mother said. "It will be like heaving the family in backhome Russia dance around us at night. And so it was. From a basket of old clothes, Anna's babushka, Uncle Vladimir's shirt, Aunt Havalah's nightdress and an apron of Aunt Natasha's become The Keeping Quilt, passed along from mother to daughter for almost a century. For four generations the quilt is a Sabbath tablecloth, a wedding canopy, and a blanket that welcomes babies warmly into the world. In strongly moving pictures that are as heartwarming as they are real, patricia Polacco tells the story of her own family, and the quilt that remains a symbol of their enduring love and faith."
I read My Rotten Red-Headed Older Brother, about sibling rivalry and "friendly" competition:
"Tricia can't stand her rotten redheaded older brother Richie, who cain do everything better than she can. So when her grandmother tells her a wish made on a shooting star will come true, she knows exactly what to wish for -- to be able to do something, anything, better than Richie. When a traveling carnival comes to town, Tricia decides what that something will be -- she'll ride the merry-go-round longer than Richie. And that's how she finds out just what wishes -- and rotten redheaded older brothers -- can really do."
These wonderful books had me in tears -- relating to the strong emotions presented, the beautiful family life portrayed, and the moving messages that Ms. Polacco puts in her books. Many of her books are autobiographical, telling the stories of her life, family history, and heritage. She has other books that tell meaningful stories, but I especially love the ones that are personal, about her life and family. I recommend them wholeheartedly and unabashedly (you'll probably find some that touch your hearts as well.)
Here is her website for more information on her books, activities, events, fun stuff, etc.:
From Patricia Polacco's Amazon Page:
"Born Patricia Ann Barber in Lansing, Michigan, to parents of Russian and Ukrainian descent on one side and Irish on the other, Patricia Polacco grew up in both California and Michigan. Her school year was spent in Oakland, California, and summers in her beloved Michigan. She describes her family members as marvelous storytellers.
"My fondest memories are of sitting around a stove or open fire, eating apples and popping corn while listening to the old ones tell glorious stories about their homeland and the past. We are tenacious traditionalists and sentimentalists.... With each retelling our stories gain a little more Umph!"
Studying in the United States and Australia, Patricia Polacco has earned an M.F.A. and a Ph. D. in art history, specializing in Russian and Greek painting, and iconographic history. She is a museum consultant on the restoration of icons. As a participant in many citizen exchange programs for writers and illustrators, Patricia Polacco has traveled extensively in Russia as well as other former Soviet republics. She continues to support programs that encourage Russo-American friendships and understanding. She is also deeply involved in inner-city projects here in the U.S. that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict and encourage art and literacy programs.The mother of a grown son and a daughter, Patricia Polacco currently resides in Michigan, where she has a glorious old farm that was built during the time of Lincoln."
Tags: Patricia Polacco, art, family heritage, personal stories, children's books, Russia, farm life, family life, children, brothers, sisters.