Reading Rockets recommends the following books by Patricia Polacco.
Babushka Baba Yaga
Baba Yaga, the feared but misunderstood witch who rules the forest, disguises herself so that she can experience the joys of a grandmother just like the village babushkas. Others learn that appearances and rumor are not the way to judge a person — even a witch.
When Natasha visits her grandmother, Babushka lets her play with a very special doll. The demanding child quickly learns that having demands made by someone else can be very trying indeed! Natasha behaves differently upon Babushka's return in this imaginative, handsomely illustrated tale that gently teaches.
Love and caring extend across generations and cultures as a young Jewish girl from a Russian background and two African-American boys work creatively to get their gramma, Miss Eula, an Easter hat. Illustrations detail the warmth of the relationships as well as the subtleties of their different backgrounds.
On a warm summer evening, a meteor crashes onto their Michigan farm, changing Grandma and Grandpa’s lives forever. This, another rich story based on Patricia Polacco's wealth of family stories, is enlivened by her animated, expressive illustrations.
Mrs. Katz and Tush
In this special Passover story, Larnel Moore, a young African-American boy, and Mrs. Katz, an elderly Jewish woman, develop an unusual friendship through their mutual concern for an abandoned cat named Tush. Together they explore the common themes of suffering and triumph in each of their cultures.
My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother
Her older brother, Richard, says he can do everything better – even come through for his sister when she falls off the carousel and needs stitches. Sibling rivalry is humorously but realistically portrayed here in both text and illustration as the author draws on her days growing up on her grandmother’s Michigan farm.
Pink and Say
Both Pink, the son of black slaves, and Say, a poor, white boy, fought in the Union army during the Civil War. Only Say survives the Andersonville Prison to tell of their remarkable friendship and how Pink saved Say and taught him how to read. This poignant story, complemented by Patricia Polacco's signature illustrations, is based on a story from the author’s family.
Thank You, Mr. Falker
Learning how to read isn't easy for Trisha. But with the help and support of a wise new teacher, she begins to blossom. Told with warmth and sensitivity, and illustrated in Polacco's signature style, the story of a girl overcoming dyslexia is based on the author's own experience.
The Bee Tree
When Mary Ellen gets bored with her reading, Grandpa knows a hunt for a bee tree is just what she needs. Half the town joins the exciting chase, but it's not until everyone returns home that Mary Ellen makes a discovery of her own: Sometimes, even the sweetest of things must be worked for.
During the Nazi occupation of her small French village, Monique discovers the little “ghost” in her room is really Sevrine, a Jewish girl being hidden with her family by Monique’s mother. Polacco based this movingly told and handsomely illustrated book on a story from her family.
The Keeping Quilt
A quilt started by the author's great grandmother is passed on through the generations to chronicle and recall the family's history.
The Trees of the Dancing Goats
Polacco has a warm, colorful illustrative style she applies to what at first seems the simple story of a Jewish girl, Trisha, and her Christian neighbors, whose bout with scarlet fever at Christmas threatens to ruin Trisha's Hanukkah. Trisha and her family respond with a loving gesture that is rewarded in kind.
Many children are frightened by the noise of a storm. Here, a grandmother’s caring and her stories help a girl overcome her fear of thunderstorms. Expressive, informal illustrations are reminiscent of folk art, and complement the warm story.
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