Posted tagged ‘Patricia Polacco’

A Classic Story for a New Generation

September 14, 2010

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” ─ Emilie Buchwald

As a librarian, I love to get kids excited about reading. I’m always on the lookout for new books that promote the love of reading, but I have some classics that are perfect stand-bys. The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco is one of them. I’ll be reading it to my second grade students today.

When young Mary Ellen gets tired of reading, Grampa takes her on a hunt for a bee tree through the Michigan countryside. Along the way, they meet a bevy of characters that join in the quest to find the bee tree and fresh honey. The characters have interesting names and distinct personalities that make for a great read aloud. There’s Mrs. Govlock and Baby Sylvester, Einar Tundevold, Olav Lundheigen and the Hermann sisters, Petra and Dorma. There’s “Klondike” Bertha Fitchworth, Feduciary Longdrop, goats, geese, and traveling musicians. It’s a mouthful of fun to read!

When the cast of characters finally reach the bee tree where the honey is hidden, Grampa has everyone build a smoke fire to quiet the bees in order to collect pieces of honeycomb. Afterwards, the crowd enjoys biscuits, honey, tea, and music. My favorite part of the story is when Grampa shows Mary Ellen not only how to savor the sweet honey after the chase, but also how to savor the sweetness found when reading books…“adventure, knowledge and wisdom.”

Polacco’s illustrations add to the merriment of the book, and the ending is a perfect jumping-off point to discuss the importance of reading and the magic that can be found in books.


It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

August 10, 2010

Geniuses are like thunderstorms. They go against the wind, terrify people, cleanse the air. ─ Soren Kierkegaard

For the past few nights we’ve been flashed, crashed, and poured upon. That crack of thunder that wakes me from a deep sleep is unsettling. I’m not one for fierce rainstorms–especially when there’s lots of lightning.

When my daughter was small, she felt the same way. After the first loud boom, she would appear in our bedroom, clutching her stuffed Jenny doll with a look of fear in her eyes. We’d make a little bed for her on the floor next to us and tuck her in tightly. Then we’d watch the lightning light up the room and listen to the thunder until it finally faded away. For years, that was our thunderstorm ritual. Then one stormy night she didn’t appear. I found her sleeping soundly in her room, holding her Jenny doll. I went back to our bedroom where my husband was snoring, and I was left to watch the lightning and wait for the thunder to disappear all by myself.        

Young and old sometimes need reassurance during noisy thunderstorms. I have two books I like to share when this happens. One is The Storm Book in which a boy and his mother talk about the storm as it passes over country, city, and seashore. At the end, there is a delightful surprise. It’s a Caldecott Honor book written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham. The other book is Thunder Cake written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco. In this story, Grandma helps her granddaughter conquer her fear of the coming storm by having her gather ingredients to bake a cake.

There is also another book about a rainstorm which I haven’t had a chance to read yet. It’s called Waiting Out the Storm by JoAnn Early Macken and illustrated by Susan Gaber. It received a starred review from Booklist, and I’m betting it’s a winner.

My daughter is no longer afraid of thunderstorms. In fact, she loves them. When I asked her why, she said, “You feel the force of nature. It’s the anticipation and excitement of what that storm will bring. It’s always different…”

The next time we have one of those fierce thunderstorms I’m calling her to tuck me in tightly and stay with me until the thunder fades away.

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