Friday, September 30, 2005

Patricia Polacco

I have a favorite children's author, and it's Patricia Polacco. Without even having to think about it, I can name my three favorite Patricia Polacco books: Thunder Cake, Thank You, Mr. Falker, Pink and Say. Make that four! I can't leave out The Keeping Quilt. Okay -five! Chicken Sunday is a fabulous Polacco book, too. Once maybe 12 years ago my mother visited my classroom of second graders and read Chicken Sunday to my class. Funny how one remembers a small detail like that from so long ago. I can't read Pink and Say out loud to my classes because I can't get through it without crying. It's a Civil War story, and it is probably one of the few stories that children talked about long after we read it at school. On the playground one day as I walked around, several girls came up and held my hands as we walked. The one on the outside said, "I'm holding the hand of the hand of the hand that's holding Ms. Shaw's hand." If you read Pink and Say you'll know what she was referring to. She was making a text to self connection (That's teacher terminology). It means she GOT a particular point of the story. She understood it well enough to translate it into her own experience.
Thunder Cake contains a recipe for a chocolate cake that contains TOMATO PASTE (yes, that's right - tomato paste)...and it's delicious! Over the years my classes have made it many times. One year I had a child in my class who was fascinated by the weather. I think he was traumatized a couple years earlier when the entire school had to sit in protective positions in the hallway for over an hour during a tornado warning. He handled his fear by learning as much as possible about weather. Whenever I wanted to know the weather forecast, I just asked Billy (name changed to offset the remotest possibility of identification) -- and he always could tell me what the high and low temps would be and whether there was any rain forecast for the upcoming weekend. I remember he particularly enjoyed Thunder Cake since it dealt with how one family handled an approaching thunderstorm.

Patricia Polacco spoke at a conference I attended a few years ago, and brought the real keeping quilt - the one the book is based on. Often at conferences, the attendees must sit through boring speeches. That wasn't the case for Patricia Polacco's speech. I hated for her to stop talking. I wished she would keep on telling us more. Her story is incredible and tender. Thank you, Mr. Falker is based on her own story as a struggling reader. Hearing her tell the story in person was a touching and memorable experience.

1 comment:

Joan said...

I am unfamiliar with this author. I will find one of these books to try next Wednesday with my mentee.