In the story "My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother", Polacco writes about her annoyance with her older brother Richard.
Patricia is tired of her brother always being able to beat her at things and then bragging about it. She wishes that just
once she could be the best at something - anything! Richard can run faster, spit farther, burp louder, and climb higher than
Patricia. One night, while sitting and visiting with her grandmother, she learns how to wish on a falling star. Of course,
her wish is to find something that she can be the best at. The following day, a traveling carnival comes to town, and Patricia
finally discovers what she can best her brother at; riding the merry-go-round! She is able to stay on it longer than Richard
can. But, when she finally gets off, she falls and is cut by some broken pop bottles. Richard carries her home and runs to
fetch Dr. Lee. Patricia realizes that maybe her brother isn't so bad after all!
Publisher's Weekly says, "Polacco's flair for storytelling shines in this tale filled to the brim with a family's
anecdotes. The text rings true with the authentic battling words of childhood spats." Polacco tells the story in simple
language and actions that children can understand. She shares her feelings about her brother and readers can easily relate
to her plight. Her writing style is inviting and the story reads smoothly and is heartfelt. Jan Liberman of Children's Literature
writes, "the poses and facial expressions are so child-like that they highlight the universality of this story of relationships."
In the story "Chicken Sunday", Patricia and her two childhood friends, Stewart and Winston, sell "pysansky"
eggs to earn money. Based on her childhood memories of her best friend, Stewart Grinnell Washington, they hope to use the
money to buy his grandmother - Miss Eula Mae - an Easter hat that she has admired from Mr. Kodinski's hat shop. The story
is titled "Chicken Sunday'" because fried chicken, collard greens, corn on the cob, hoppin' john, and fried spoon
bread was the meal Miss Eula Mae made after church on Sundays. The story shares how PAtricia and her friends show thoughtfulness
and determination to show someone they care for them. Lee Bock of the "School Library Journal" writes, "dominant
themes of trust and acceptance are beautifully expressed with Polacco's signature illustrations." Polacco approaches
the story from a chil's point of view and shares her experiences growing up in California. When you are reading the story,
you will notice that the picture frames in Miss Eula Mae's house contain real pictures of Stewart;s family, personalizing
the story for the author. The dialogue of the story is very natural and suited to the characters. The mood of the text mirrors
the feelings and emotions of a real child from excitement, to fright about getting into trouble, to relief about being able
to sell the eggs to buy Miss Eula Mae the hat. In a starred review by Dorothy Houlihan of the "School Library Journal",
the author states, "Polacco's tale resonates with the veracity of a personal recollection and is replete with vivid cisual
and visceral images." Many of Polacco's stories explore the relationships between different generations and cultures.
Another story that explores this kind of relationship detween different generations is "Thundercake". This
story relates Patricia's memories of growing up on her grandparent's farm in Union City, Michigan. The text explains how
Patricia's grandmother, or 'Babushka", helps her overcome her fear of summer thunderstorms. As a storm rumbles in the
distance, Babushka distracts Patricia from the events outside by asking her to help her make a "Thundercake". The
thundercake is a special recipe for her grandmother's luscious chocolate cake. She goes with Patricia to gather eggs from
'"mean old nellie peck hen", milk from "old kick cow", chocolate, sugar, and flour from the dry shed,
and tomatoes and strawberries from the trellis. Babushka shows Patricia that she can't be afraid of a little old thunderstorm,
because look at all the other brave things she did to get the ingredients for the cake! This story is another example of
a tale that involves a topic familiar to most children - being afraid of a thunderstorm! The reviews of this story are mixed.
Publisher's Weekly says, "although the book's concept is good, it does not fulfill its promise." However, Debra
Bridtico of "Children's Literature" disagrees. She writes, "bright folk art illustrations help Polacco present
a convincing tale that turns a frightening experience into an adventure and celebration."
"Thank You, Mr. Falker", is another story based on Polacco's childhood. It relates the story of Trisha, and
how she struggles with reading in the fifth grade. Trisha was always teased about her reading by other kids. Her teacher,
Mr. Falker, understood and got her the help she need to oversome her learning disablility - dyslexia. The reader relates
to the story because at one time or another in their life, every child has been teased about something and had their feelings
hurt. Once again, Polacco uses language that can be understood by the youngest and oldest of readers. She has a style that
conveys deep emotion and detail, baring feelings that are had by everyone at some time in their life. Publisher's Weekly
says, " Young readers struggling with learning difficulties will identify with Trisha's situation and find reassurance
in her success".
To hear the stories "Thank You ,Mr. Falker " - read by actress Jane Kaczmarek and "My Rotten Redheaded
Older Brother" - read by actress Melissa Gilbert, please visit