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An Evening With Patricia Polacco

Alright, I suppose it was more of a “Late Afternoon With Patricia Polacco”, but that doesn’t have the same ring. ‘Round these parts (the Mitten state) If you ask a elementary school librarian who would be on at the top of their Michigan author visit list, nine times out of ten you would hear the following “Chris Van Allsburg or Patricia Polacco“. And the tenth person would probably say “Patricia Pollacco and Chris Van Allsburg”.

Ms. Polacco, author of numerous well illustrated and heartfelt titles (Thank You Mr. Falker, The Lemonade Club, Mr. Lincoln’s Way, Pink and Say), is a well loved figure of children’s literature. When I saw she was appearing at a local high school last week, I jumped at the chance to see the author/illustrator for the first time.

The only problem was that the event started at 4:00pm. After my school day ended, I hit the road as quickly as I could. I still missed the first few minutes.


Polacco had already begun her reading of “The Keeping Quilt” as I took my seat. She read through the text and expanded on each page, adding details. The story was appropriate for such a gathering, as it provided a chance for the author to discuss her family and background. She even pulled out the real keeping quilt to show the audience.


Whether from practice, talent, or a combination of the two, Polacco held the audience’s attention for the duration of her hour and a half on stage. She flowed smoothly from one topic to the next, slipping in and out of family accents seamlessly. From the recent election, to her appreciation of redheads (and how she has “five more books in the works” based on her redheaded brother), to her current killer of a deadline, the subject matter covered was wide. But no story hit home more than her own struggle with reading.


As Ms. Polacco retold the true events that inspired “Thank You, Mr. Falker”, those in attendance were transfixed. And when she went on to describe her chance meeting with Mr. Falker 30 years later? Cue the water works. A pretty amazing story.

Presentation finished, the author headed out to the hall for a book signing. Only I didn’t remember to bring a book. Good thing there were copies available there. Only I didn’t have much cash. Good thing there were paperbacks available. First rule of attending an author event: bring said author’s book. I gotta remember that.

All in all, a great way to spend an evening. Okay, late afternoon.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Yes, bring the author’s books! But not too many… I just saw John Green a couple weeks ago and forgot to bring books, and didn’t want to buy a hardback. Its ok, though. I just like seeing the author live–I’m not too obsessed by getting the books signed. I got to see Ray Bradbury a while back and even shake his hand, but couldn’t bear to wait in that line. Sometimes I get pictures, sometimes not, but just getting to see them and maybe talk with them is the best part.

  2. Scope Notes says:

    I agree that the seeing, hearing, and meeting parts are what’s valuable. In the past, I’ve asked for pictures with authors, and I didn’t this time. I always feel like it’s putting them out to unexpectedly pose for a photo, but I think it’s very cool to have a record of meeting an author I like. Maybe next time I’ll have more guts.

  3. bestbookihavenotread says:

    I’ve have gotten to see Patricia Polacco speak three times over the years and she has kept me hanging on her every word each time. I find her as amazing to listen to as I do to read her books. Someday I hope to make the trek to the mitten state to see her farm for one of her summer open houses. Thanks!

  4. We had Ms. Polacco several years ago and she was a true delight. I wasn’t the librarian then, but we actually had LIVE goats in the story pit that day. AWESOME!

  5. Scope Notes says:

    Bill, I can only hope to have farm animals in my library some day. That sounds like a blast. Was Ms. Polacco reading “Oh, Look!” by chance? I know goats are featured in that one.