Monday, April 2, 2012

Patricia Polacco Rocks My Socks

That high-pitched noise you hear is me squealing like a little girl with a new puppy. Why, you ask? THIS is why!

I apologize to anyone expecting something even remotely shelver-related today, because this is just me geeking (FREAKING!) out!

Patricia Polacco is the bomb-dot-com. Do people still say that? I don't know and don't care, because whatever people are saying right now, that's what this woman is. Her books are fantastic. Okay, you say say, why is she so fantastic?

Subjectively? Because they were a HUGE part of my childhood. I don't have too many clear memories from my tyke days, but I do remember running (literally, when I could outpace my mom) to the kids' section, running my finger across the spines until I got to the P's, and wishing with all my heart that there would be a new Polacco book to check out. New Polacco books were an occasion on par with opening Easter baskets or birthday presents. "Patricia Polacco" was probably the first author I learned to look for, with Dr. Seuss being in close second. All other books were called by what the books were about ("the Spot books," "the Curious George books," etc.). My mom to this day refuses to part with any of our Polacco books, because she plans to read them with her (for the moment very nonexistent) grandchildren.

Objectively, I can come up with a few more reasons. First of all, click on the link above and look at her artwork. It's so very different from the other books I see on the shelves at our store. The pictures aren't particularly bright or eye-catching; in fact, in many cases, they're rather muted. But the details are wonderful, and even as a kid I could feel how well the pictures fit the words I was reading. She makes something as everyday as a hand or a cat or an Easter egg look beautiful. Also, she illustrates the books herself. How cool is that?

Second, the stories are great. As a kid, I was used to reading about anthropomorphic OCD ducks (Henry's Awful Mistake, anyone?), Disney characters, and cute little farm animals. None of those were bad, mind you. I loved my other books. But Polacco's books were just so different. She brings a lot of her Russian/Eastern European heritage in, as well as her childhood on a farm, which are two things that this white bread, suburban kid knew nothing about.

The Polacco books I remember most fell into one of two categories: either they were Russian folklore books or books that showcased the magic of everyday life. There was no Cinderella, no Beauty and the Beast, not even a Rumplestiltskin. As fun as those stories were, who needed them when there was a freaking Babushka Baba Yaga to save the day? It was surely no surprise to my mother when I spent the rest of my elementary and middle school years scouring the tiny mythological section of our library. As for the everyday stuff, even that was fascinating. I knew nothing about living on a farm or discovering a fallen meteorite or reading family history in a quilt or even eating something as awesomely named as thunder cake.

I could go on, I really could, but then you wouldn't have time to read the books yourself, would you? So off with you! Go to your nearest library or bookstore as quickly as your feet can carry you. The Art of Miss Chew won't be out until April 12, but below are a few suggestions to get you started until then. In the meantime, if you have any fond Polacco memories, or childhood book memories in general, please share them in the comments.

My favorite Polacco book: Babushka Baba Yaga 

My mom's favorite Polacco book: Chicken Sunday

A book for Passover and for being sad in a good way: Mrs. Katz and Tush

For the summer storms to come: Thunder Cake

For anyone who's ever wished on a "falling star": Meteor!