Today is Patricia Polacco’s birthday, so I wanted to give a shout out to a great book by her, Thank You, Mr. Falker. This story is autobiographical in nature and based on her own struggles to learn to read. While today Patricia Polacco is an acclaimed author and illustrator, she was once, a little girl named Trisha, sitting with her family, when her grandpa spoons honey on to a the to symbolize that the knowledge that comes from books is sweet. Her excitement didn’t to learn to read soon became disappointment though as she found that letters nd numbers just looked like a jumble to her, as she fell further behind she turned to something else to escape, art and her family. At first her grandparents helped her feel safe and sheltered from her problems at school, but after their deaths, her mom got a new job and the family moved from Michigan to California where Trisha continued to be teased. The constant ridicule wore on her self-confidence and Trisha began to feel like she would never learn to read, she got by in class by memorizing what the kids around her read. Then in 5th grade a new teacher arrived and he recognized her talent in art, he stopped the kids from teasing her, and more importantly he realized that she couldn’t yet read. With the help of the reading teacher, Mr. Falker slowly but surely taught Trisha to read and gave her the keys to the knowledge inside of books. While the text clearly shows Trisha frustration, the illustrations back this up with images of Trisha’s feelings throughout. Her red rimmed eyes slowly give way to a look of wonder as she learns to read. This is an inspirational book to read, especially as Polacco became an author after her struggles. 

 

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Polacco is known for many beautiful stories, but her stories that come from her family are some of the most emotionally gripping ones that she writes. Patricia Polacco’s book Pink and Say is an emotional retelling of the Civil War, but also a heartbreaking story of friendship between two boys from two different races. Sheldon Russell Curtis, a young white Union soldier from Ohio, is injured and left for dead, until Pinkus Aylee, a young African American Union soldier picks him up and carries him for days. Pinkus takes Sheldon, Say, to his mother, Moe Moe Bay’s house where she nurses him back to health as the two boys bond while sharing stories of the war and comparing their lives. When the marauders come, disaster follows, and the boys are soon captured and sent to Andersonville a Confederate prison. Patricia Polacco learned the story of Pinkus from her father beacuse Sheldon was her great-great-grandfather. This is a tragic story of great love, but also of great loss, and the importance of accepting people no matter what. The powerful pictures highlight the depth of emotion, the fear, the pain, the sadness, while still showing the historic setting. The details and vivid colors engage the reader with the story. The illustration of Pink and Say grasping hands in Andersonville is especially poignant. The story of Pinkus reminds the reader that heroes are everywhere and memories made can last beyond a lifetime.

Published by Sarah BooksBeforeBandaids