When I subbed last week I was pleased to be re-introduced to the books of author and artist Patricia Polacco. I love Ms. Polacco's wonderful stories and amazing artwork.
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
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
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
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.
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