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Patricia Polacco Author and Illustrator
Background Patricia . . . • Was born in 1944 in Lansing, Michigan to parents of Russian and Irish heritage. • Lived with grandparents and parents. • Grew up in Michigan, Florida, California. • Lived next door to Stewart Washington in California and unofficially adopted his family as her own. She incorporated their stories from the Louisiana Bayous into her own works. • Married Enzo Polacco, whose parents were Italian Jews from Poland.
A Budding Storyteller . . . Patricia is from a family of storytellers. Her babushka (Ukrainian grandmother) would tell tales of magic and mystery. She and her brother would ask “Bubby, is that true?” And she would reply, “Of course it’s true….but it may not have happened.”
Illustrator Patricia . . . • Earned a Ph.D. in Art History in Australia. • Once worked restoring ancient icons in museums. • Illustrates all her own books. • Fills in penciled outlines with markers, acrylic paint, oil paint, pastels, and inks. • Sometimes includes photographs of characters in her illustrations.
Student Because of a learning disability, Patricia did not learn to read until she was 14. She wrote this book about the teacher who taught her to read.
Dreamer Patricia keeps two rocking chairs in every room. She explains that as she rocks, “Thoughts boil in my head. They catch the air and fly. I feel like Applemando.”
Multiculturalist In Chicken Sunday, as in many of her books, Patricia’s characters learn from one another’s various religious and ethnic backgrounds. Children and the elderly are particularly prominent.
Memorialist In An Orange for Frankie, a young boy learns to share with his less fortunate neighbors. Basing the story on her own family, Polacco again emphasizes the importance of valuing differences.
Humorist The Graves Family is about a strange family whose neighbors slowly learn to appreciate their uniqueness. Polacco’s characters again learn to appreciate the differences among them.
Plan of study: Books • This thematic unit will emphasize the importance of difference. • We will begin with a read-aloud of Chicken Sunday, followed by An Orange for Frankie and Thank You, Mr. Falker • Next, we will do a guided reading of Thundercake. • Then students will do paired reading of Polacco books of their choice. I will provide all the Patricia Polacco books I can acquire. • The unit will conclude with a read-aloud of Patricia’s autobiography, Firetalking.
Plan of Study-Activities • Students will explore Patricia Polacco’s website and find five facts about the author. • Each student will design a paper square to represent each story we discuss. We’ll put the squares together and display them on the wall in our own “keeping quilt.” • Students will find their favorite book on the Patricia Polacco website and do two activities recommended on the site. • We will create a “Book of Knowledge” recording new vocabulary and information about different cultures in Patricia’s books. • We will discuss the relationship between children and elderly adults. students will write about their relationship with an elderly adult or imagine a relationship with an adult in one of her books.