Author Study: Patricia Polacco
Patricia Polacco, born Patricia Ann Barber, is best known as a children’s author and illustrator to over 115 books. Polacco was born in America to Irish and Ukrainian immigrant parents in 1944. The author is known for weaving her cultural heritage into her books, for example her “Babushka” series. Polacco describes her family as fantastic story tellers as storytelling is part of both her Irish and Ukrainian culture. The author has said, “My fondest memories are of sitting around a stove or open fire, eating apples and popping corn while listening to the old ones tell glorious stories about their homeland and the past. We are tenacious traditionalists and sentimentalists…. With each retelling our stories gain a little more Umph!”She to this day still uses some of those same stories, as well as personal experiences from her childhood, as inspirations for her children’s books.
Polacco had a rough start with reading and did not actually learn to read until she was 14. She was later diagnosed with dyslexia and was able to excel in reading from then on. She went on to study in the U.S., England, France, Russia, and Australia earning her BA in Art, an MFA, and a Ph. D. in Art History. During her Ph. D. program she specialized in iconographic history, specifically Russian and Greek painting. Styles that are seen reflected in a lot of the illustrations within her books. Polacco’s first book Meteor! was published in 1987 and started receiving awards for her work the following year in ’88. She has since been honored with countless awards every year since.
Patricia Pollaco currently spends her days working as an activist for many child-centered organizations and tirelessly supports the National First Amendment Rights Coalition. Pollaco also works as a highly sought after keynote speaker and workshop leader all across the country and Eastern Europe. She is in the process of writing adult-oriented books and trying her hand at playwriting.
Books Read & Analyzed:
Babushka Baba Yaga
Thank You, Mr. Falker
The Keeping Quilt
Name: But before I begin…
Definition: The author consistently uses “But” as the first word of a new page.
Example: Meteor! pg.19 “But most folks simply stood and stared at the wondrous meteor…”
Thank you, Mr. Falker pg. 25 “But one day at recess, Eric followed her to her secret hiding place.”
**The same strategy could be found on pgs. 5,14, 23 & 29 as well in Thank you, Mr. Falker**
Personal Example: But this day was not like every other day.
-Use it to provide deeper contrast of ideas.
Definition: a word whose name is associated with the sound it makes
Example: The Keeping Quilt pg. 25 “…English sounded to her like pebbles dropping into shallow water. Shhhhhh…Shhhhhhh…Shhhhhhh.”
Meteor! pg. 8 “…horribly loud BOOM.” pg. 22 “They turned on all the machinery. CLICK…..CLICK…..POP…..WHIZZZZZZ, PEWPRY…..PEWPRY, it went.”
Personal Example: Once the sun rose high in the sky, Annie came in from the front porch, letting the screen door close behind her with a loud CREEEEEEN.
-Used for playfulness in writing and to highlight specific sounds.
Name: “Close Echo Effect”
Definition: The repetition of words or phrases very close together to create an echo effect in the text (Wondrous Words 28).
Example: Babushka Baba Yaga pg. 11 “‘I have no money to pay you,’ Natasha answered sadly. ‘I need no money.'”
Babushka’s Doll pg. 7 “‘No, my dear, I played with her only once.’ Only once.”
Personal Example: I wanted to run from my house. Run from my town. Run from my responsibilities.
-To emphasize emotion and create rhythm when reading.
Name: “One-Sentence Paragraph”
Definition: A sentence set off as its own paragraph for emphasis. (Wondrous Words 38).
Example: Babushka Baba Yaga pg. 19 “She left, never to return.”
Babushka’s Doll pg. 29 “And Natasha turned out to be quite nice after all.”
Thank you, Mr. Falker pg. 9 “School seemed harder and harder now.”
Personal Example: The lost treasure returned to its dark depths, never to be seen again.
-To make an idea or line more impactful.
Sources Used for Background
“Patricia Polacco.” Scholastic. Scholastic Inc., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2017
“Patricia Polacco.” Amazon.com: Patricia Polacco: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle. Amazon.com Inc., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.
Literary Strategy “One-sentence Paragraph” Mini-Lesson
- Class, yesterday we focused our read alouds on the author Patricia Pollaco. Now that we looked at some of her books as readers, we are going to think about them as writers. So first I am going to read off some lines from different books and I want you all to think about these questions and jot down your thoughts: can you tell what is happening in the scene from one line? What emotion is being conveyed? What does it make you think of? How does it make you feel? (Examples below)
- The 5th Wave84 “Time for the world to end.”
- Perks of Being a Wallflower102 “I never wanted to, you have to believe me.”
- If I Stay 47 “She never came back.”
- Looking for Alaska 96 “There was always a truth to be told.”
- The lines I just read to you are examples of a literary device called a “One-sentence Paragraph.” This device is commonly found in Polacco’s books, for example: “She left, never to return.“ Babushka Baba Yaga 19
- Polacco commonly uses a ‘One-sentence Paragraph’ as the very last or first line in a chapter, at the bottom of a page, or at the end of a story. What are some people’s thoughts on why she would do this? What is she trying to do?
- If we want to think like writers, like Polacco, we have to talk about what the purpose is behind this tool, how does Polacco use it? “One-sentence Paragraphs” are effectively used by authors to make an impact in some way. It could pull at the reader’s emotions, reveal a plot twist, the punch line to a joke, or act as a cliff-hanger. It is used to trigger a feeling, cause a reaction, or prompt the reader to think further about an idea.
- “One-Sentence Paragraph”
- A literary device that a writer could use to heighten an emotion, idea, or a plot point. It provides emphasis to the idea within the line and draws the eye because it is set off by itself.
Below are 3 examples of “One-Sentence Paragraph.” Two are taken from Polacco’s books and the third is an example of my own:
- In Babushka’s Doll 29 after Natasha learned her lesson on patience and became better behaved, the book ended with this final one-sentence paragraph:
“And Natasha turned out to be quite nice after all.”
- In Thank you, Mr. Falker 9 our main character’s grandma just passes away. The woman that used to help her with school, the author finishes this page with a single line:
“School seemed harder and harder now.”
- Voglino’s Ex. This one-sentence paragraph could be the last line at the end of a chapter book about pirates or explorers.
“The treasure returned to its dark depths, never to be seen again.”
- I want everyone to get with their workshop buddy and I’ll come around to pass out some of Patricia Polacco’s books. In your pairs, I want you to find an example of a ‘One-sentence Paragraph and identify what the author is trying to convey. Then with your partner, I want you to rewrite the line you found to convey a different message. For example, if your one-line paragraph was used as a punch-line, rewrite it as a plot twist or a cliff-hanger. We will then come back together as a group and each pair will share their revised line.
- During group time, prompt discussion by asking: Do you notice any similarities in how Polacco uses this device? Are they more frequently used at the bottom of the page or the top? How does she use them: an emotional trigger, plot twist, punch-line, cliff-hanger, other ways? How was the process of rewriting your own? What did your process look like?
- Now that everyone has rewritten a single-line paragraph, I want everyone to take out the writing they have been working on. First, reread what you have written and then take a few minutes to make a list of ‘One-sentence Paragraphs’ that could fit within your writing. The single-line paragraph could take the place of another line already written within your story, or it could be a new addition. If you get stuck you can look back at some of Polacco’s books or other books in our classroom library.