Spotlight On: Patricia Polacco

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Patricia Polacco holds a special place in my heart because it was one of her books that first made me love picture books.  The book is entitled “Thank You, Mr. Falker.”  I discovered it during my first year teaching.  It is about a little girl who has trouble learning in school and is really embarrassed because her classmates tease her.  Eventually she ends up in Mr. Falker’s class.  Mr. Falker takes the time and effort to discover what is holding the little girl back.  This story is so real and touching.  I had a hard time getting through it for a while without crying, because I found the teacher so inspiring.  A lot of Patricia Polacco’s books are similar.  They are usually personal narratives that have a way of pulling the audience in by connecting them with the experiences and emotions of her characters.

According to her website, Polacco was born in Michigan and spent most of her time with her cherished grandparents on a farm.  She then moved a couple of different places before setteling in California.  Her parents divorsed and she would spend the school year with her mom and the summer with her dad.  The neighborhood where she grew up was very diverse.  Polacco had a very hard time in school and didn’t learn to read until she was 14.  The reason that all of this information is relevant is because the characters of her books have similar experiences.

Another aspect of Patricia Polacco that is important is her passion to help children learn to read and write.  She visits about 300 schools a year to help encourage students!

Here are a few examples of her work:

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  • “Emma Kate” is about a little girl with an imaginary friend
  • “Mr. Lincoln’s Way” features a boy, who is a bully,  and he has prejudice thoughts regarding his African-American principal
  • “My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother” is about siblings who learn an important lesson
  • “The Bee Tree” shows a close relationship between a little girl and her grandfather in an exciting chase around town.  There is also a lesson learned
  • “The Keeping Quilt” is another one of my favorites!  I used to read this to my class every year.  It is about a family’s effort to represent their family by creating a family tresure.  Here is Polacco reading the book at a school with the ACTUAL quilt!

Web Resources:

  • http://www.patriciapolacco.com/ – This is Polacco’s site.  It features write-ups on all of her books, her upcoming speaking engagements, an interview with her regarding her book “In Our Mothers’ House,” and more.  She has a lot of teaching connections to her books as well.

Spotlight On: Author Allen Say

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Allen Say is an author who many people are not too familiar with, but should be.  He has written and illustrated many picture books, primarily geared toward elementary-age children.  Many of his books can also be used to teach upper elementary and middle schoolers important life-lessons and historical diversity.  His artistic style is so unique with its rich and vivid tones that his books are easily recognizable.  Say’s subject matter is usually semi-autobiographical.  He was born in Japan in 1937.  His father was a Korean orphan raised by a British family and his mother was Japanese, born in California.  Say’s books often feature Japanese characters in cross-cultural situations and experiences.

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Some of Allen Say’s work:

  • Tree of Cranes (Review to Come)
  • Allison
  • Emma’s Rug
  • Grandfather’s Journey-1994 Caldecott Medal Winner (Review to Come)
  • Home of the Brave
  • Stranger in the Mirror
  • Tea with Milk
  • The Boy of the Three Year Nap (Illustrator)- 1989 Caldecott Honor

Additional Web Resources: