A lot can be learned about Patricia Polacco just by reading her books,
since most of them are inspired by incidents and people in her life.
She was born in Michigan in 1944, and lived in various towns in Michigan
until here grandmother, with whom she and her mother had been living,
died. (Patricia's parents had divorced when she was three.) She recalls
that living on a farm with her Babushka (grandmother) in Union City was
a magic time, and that her Babushka and her other grandparents were some
of the people who inspired her most in life. We share some of Patricia's
life on the farm in the books Meteor! and Thunder Cake.
After her parents' divorce, her parents each moved back in with their
parents. During the school year, Patricia lived with her mother. She
spent her summers with her father. This arrangement kept her in constant
touch with her grandparents as a young child, and her work show the
influence of these inter-generational relationships. Many of her books,
if not almost all, show a special relationship between an elderly person
and a child. You will see this in Chicken Sunday, Babushka's Doll, Thunder
Cake, Mrs. Katz and Tush, Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair,
and The Bee Tree.
In 1949, after her Babushka's death, Patricia, her mother, and her brother
Richard, moved to Coral Gables, Florida and stayed there for almost three
years before moving to Oakland, California. It was here, while living on
Ocean View Drive, that Patricia began to interact with people from many
different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Her neighbors, Stewart and Winston
Washington, and their gramma, Eula Mae Walker, treated her like a relative.
She sometimes attended the Baptist church with them, even though she was
Jewish. She would then share a meal with Eula and her family after church,
usually fried chicken, and this became part of the book Chicken Sunday.
Patricia mentions that she was a poor student in elementary school
and had a tough time with reading and math. She didn't learn to read
until she was almost 14. It was then that she discovered she had a
learning disability called dyslexia. Until then she had feared she was
just dumb, and the teasing she got from others just reinforced that fear.
But a teacher discovered what was wrong, and after she learned to read,
Patricia caught up with the other students academically and was even able
to go on to the University with a Fine Arts major and to actually finish
up with a Ph.D in Art History. Between the time she finished her studies
and started writing books, she worked at restoring art pieces for museums,
and then spent some years raising her two children, Steven and Traci.
At the age of 41, Patricia Polacco began to write her children's books.
She says she was raised hearing stories -- not seeing them. Between her
mother people from Russia and the Ukraine, her father's people from Ireland,
and Eula Mae's family, she heard the stories of many different cultures.
And she soon began to tell stories herself. Since she had always been
good at art, it was natural to illustrate the stories she started writing
down. She has enjoyed her career as an author and artist and says the
imagination which helped her think up her stories was helped to grow by
the stories she heard growing up and also by the fact that her family
did not have a television. She believes the television voices and
pictures overpower one's desire to create one's own pictures and develop
one's own stories. When Ms. Polacco talks to children and aspiring writers,
she encourages them to turn off the TV and develop the creativity they have
Find all available listings by: Patricia Polacco
Illustrated by Patricia Polacco
- Appelemando's Dreams
- Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair
- Babushka Baba Yaga
- Babushka's Doll
- Babushka's Mother Goose
- The Bee Tree
- Betty Doll
- Boat Ride with Lillian Two Blossom
- The Butterfly
- Chicken Sunday
- Christmas Tapestry
- "G" is for Goat
- The Graves Family
- I Can Hear the Sun
- In Enzo's Splendid Garden
- John Philip Duck
- Just Plain Fancy
- The Keeping Quilt
- Luba and the Wren
- Mr. Lincoln's Way
- Mrs. Mack
- Mrs. Katz and Tush
- My Ol' Man
- My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother
- Oh, Look!
- Picnic at Mudsock Meadow
- Pink and Say
- Rechenka's Eggs
- Some Birthday!
- Thank You, Mr. Falker
- Thunder Cake
- Tikva Means Hope
- The Trees of the Dancing Goats
- Uncle Vova's Tree
- Welcome Comfort
- When Lightning Comes in a Jar
Casey at the Bat, Author: Ernest Lawrence Thayer
Content provided by: Barb's People Builders.