Children's Authors/Patricia Polacco

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Biographical Information[edit | edit source]

Michigan State Flag
Patricia Polacco was born July 11, 1944 in Lansing, Michigan. Her parents divorced when she was very young and so she lived with her mother and grandparents on their farm in Union City, Michigan until she was 5. She would spend the school year with her mother and then the summer with her father who also moved back in with his parents. Her grandparents had a big influence on her life and as a result of this, throughout her stories there is frequently an elderly person in the story and something that can be learned from that person and their relationship. Her family was full of storytellers and many of her stories come from the stories that she heard as a young girl.
After her babushka (grandfather) died, she and her family (including her brother and mother) moved to Florida where they stayed for 3 years and then moved to Oakland, California and this is where she grew up, but she always returned to Michigan every summer to see her dad.
Elementary school was very difficult for Polacco. She learned at the age of 14 that she had a learning disability: dyslexia. Because of this, she struggled to learn to read until that time. In fact, it was one of her teachers that discovered this problem. Later, she wrote a story about this experience called, Thank You, mr. Falker. Despite her difficulty with reading, she showed an early talent for drawing and art.
She went on to earn a degree in Fine Art and earned a PhD in Art History as well. She also is the mother of two children, Steven and Traci.
She didn't start writing children's books until she was 41 years old. As mentioned, her family is full of storytellers and she attributes her storytelling ability to hearing so many stories growing up. Many of her stories and ideas come from the experiences she has had throughout her life or are stories that she has heard while growing up. In her books, she usually writes a short introduction or something similar to tell the reader where the story originated. This is one reason that people are drawn to her books and find them so engaging.
An interesting fact on writing the stories is that Polacco has 12 rocking chairs throughout her house. When she is trying to write, she sits in one of these rocking chairs and dreams up the story.
Rocking Chair for Writing Stories
She has since moved back to Union City, Michigan where she lives now.
Her books are filled with illlustrations that truly catch the attention of her readers. She also has characters from many different cultures which allow her to help readers explore and experience these different cultures. This style of wirting and illustrating makes her books very appealing to audiences and has brought her over a dozen awards for her books. She has become a favorite of many children and adults alike.

Books of Interest[edit | edit source]

Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare, published in 2006, is a fun book about the relationship between a brother and a sister who dare each other to take part in each other's extracurricular activities after a great deal of teasing. Patricia Polacco uses a great deal of figurative language as well as a perfect description of how Trisha, the sister, really feels about her brother, Richie. She is also the illustrator and does a wonderful job with the illustrations and allowing the reader to focus on the characters and their facial expressions so we feel the emotions of the characters.
Thank You, Mr. Falker, published in 1998, is a great read to help any teacher feel that their job is well worth it. Also, this is a great book to help students with learning difficulties to relate to the main character because she struggles with learning to read. Her writing is poetic and musical. She uses descriptive words to give the reader the sensation that they are participating in the story. And as with most of her books, the characters are real and easily relatable.
Pink and Say, published in 1994, is a wonderful book. From the moment the reader will open this book, they will be engaged. This story was told to Patricia Polacco by her father. It is a story about two soldiers in the Civil War: one white and one black. The white soldier, Say, was wounded and the black soldier, Pink, came across him and carried him to his home where his mother nursed him back to health. This is their story and a story to help others remember Pink. Polacco is a masterful storyteller. She takes this story that she has heard growing up and brings it to life through her descriptive vocabulary and great use of dialogue that helps the reader feel like he/she is hearing them speak for themselves.
Thunder Cake, published in 1990, is a wonderful story about Patricia as a young girl and her grandmother. It's a story of how her grandmother taught her not to be afraid during thunderstorms. This book uses onomatopoeia to help us hear the thunder as the storm gets closer. Polacco does a beautiful job helping the reader connect with the young girl, Patricia. The story is engaging because she begins it by telling us the background of the story. The reader also gets a sense of the beautiful relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter.
Taking Lemons and Making Lemonade
The Lemonade Club, published in 2007, is a book about turning the lemons in your life into lemonade. Or, in other words, this is a story that teaches to take life's challenges and make them positive. Also, this is a wonderful book about friendship. In this book, she uses well written dialogue that helps the reader connect with the characters. She also uses precise vocabulary as she describes the friend's relationship with each other and their teacher. Finally, Polacco uses the illustrations to further express the feelings of the characters throughout the story. Her illustrations help the reader feel what the characters are feeling.
Chicken Sunday, published in 1992, is a story taken from her childhood. This is a great story about three friends and their experience in trying to earn enough money to purchase an Easter hat for 2 of the friends' grandmother, after being falsely accused of some wrongdoing. They become friends with the shopkeeper who gives them an opportunity to make a little money. This is a great story that shares a beautiful relationship between young children and their elders. She is able to tell a story so that we, the audience, can relate and connect which makes it engaging. Polacco uses figurative language effectively as well as precise vocabulary as she describes the three friends' experiences.

Comparing These Texts[edit | edit source]

As mentioned in the biographical information, we can see the recurrent theme of children and their relationship with their elders. Out of the stories mentioned above, Thunder Cake and Chicken Sunday both carry this theme. In addition to this, her stories are told from real life experiences either of her own or of her own family members. Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare; Thank You, Mr. Falker; Thunder Cake; The Lemonade Club; and Chicken Sunday are all stories taken from her own life or experiences within her own family. Pink and Say is a story told to Polacco by her family from an experience that one of her ancestors had. This type of storytelling is interesting to the reader and makes it easy to relate to the characters and connect with their experiences.

References[edit | edit source]

Bloem, P.L. and Manna, A.L. (May 1999). A chorus of questions: Readers respond to Patricia Polacco. The Reading Teacher, 52(8), (802-808).
Polacco, P. (1992). Chicken Sunday. New York, NY: Philomel Books.
Polacco, P. (1994). Pink and Say. New York, NY: Philomel Books.
Polacco, P. (2006). Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare. New York, NY: Philomel Books.
Polacco, P. (1998). Thank You, Mr. Falker. New York, NY: Philomel Books.
Polacco, P. (2007). The Lemonade Club. New York, NY: Philomel Books.
Polacco, P. (1990). Thunder Cake. New York, NY: Philomel Books. retrieved on April 20, 2011. retrieved on April 20, 2011. retrieved on April 20, 2011. retrieved on April 20, 2011.