When you come across a children’s literature author with over 50 books to her credit, you expect that the author writes serialized books, the likes of Curious George, Franklin, and Berenstain Bears. You expect a few of the books to lack the luster of the others. You expect to tire of the author’s voice. In all these ways and more, Patricia Polacco exceeds expectation. She has written well over 50 individualized books, each one desirable, thoughtful, and her style and writing are a joy to read again and again.
I was recently reminded of the gift Polacco’s writing is to children’s literature when I found a book in the library by her that I had not read before. We checked it out and as soon as we got home, all sat down and read Mr. Lincoln’s Way. Although written sixteen years ago, Mr. Lincoln’s Way is an extremely timely and significant book. For any parent or teacher looking for tangible, sincere ways to discuss the racial tensions present in our world, this is an excellent book to start with. By the end, many of us were in tears (myself included) and we were all silent for several minutes after the book was finished. A reaction I have come to expect from a Patricia Polacco book.
Her stories are steeped in the muck and mire of harsh realities, realities she does not back away from. Instead, she writes a path of hope, unity, and acceptance right through the muck. At the end of her books, you will find yourself deep in thought: thinking about the nuanced difficulties of our world, thinking about your part in creating or abating those difficulties, and thinking about how grateful you are that someone gives voice to these issues in a way that communicates to children and adults alike.
My personal favorites from the Patricia Polacco collection are John Philip Duck, The Bee Tree, The Lemonade Club, Thank you, Mr. Falker, and now Mr. Lincoln’s Way. As soon as I am back at the library, I will be checking out Pink and Say to read next. With so many excellent books to her name, every reader’s favorites list will differ and I would love to hear what yours would include.