The Children's Book Compass

New Polacco Book

Posted on: October 9, 2010

The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco. (2010).  Philomel.  Pages not numbered.  Grades 3 to 8.  Picture Book.

Polacco’s Thank You, Mr. Falker remains one of my favorite books about a teacher who helped Patricia  learn to read.  In a time when teachers feel  unappreciated, Polacco once again shows the way a dedicated teacher can change students’ lives.  The teacher in this story, Mrs. Peterson, inspires her class on the first day of school by reading the dictionary definition of genius.  Then she tells them to “Post it on your mirrors.  Look at it every day.  Memorize it!  The definition describes every one of you.”  The class is called “the junkyard” because as one of the boys tells Patricia the students in it are considered “different, odd. Like stuff in a junkyard.”  Mrs. Peterson divides the class into tribes to work together on projects.  The children become fast friends and do everything together even after school.  They also protect each other from bullies in the school.  When the children are especially discouraged about being picked on by other kids on the playground, one of the boys tells Mrs. Peterson, “We’re throwaways, junk, and everyone knows it.”  Mrs. Peterson calls them her “Wonders,” and takes them to a junkyard to see that it is “a place full of wondrous possibilities!” There she tells them to “collect everything that you think could be made into something new.  Remember, Wonders, here’s your chance.  Forget what the object was … imagine what it could be!”  Patricia’s tribe finds an old, torn-up model plane.  They work hard to make it fly from the roof of the school at the school fair.  Accomplishing their goal is a triumph because they experience and overcome many difficulties.  This book is a testimony to teachers whose high expectations can inspire children to achieve.  The illustrations provide colorful, animated extensions of the text.  A postscript at the end tells about some of the “Wonders” as adults.

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