Patricia Polacco doesn't create a book unless she loves the story. Her own passion for a story drives the narrative of her books, and this is clear in her dramatic and touching art. She is known throughout the country for her school visits which inspire children to think of themselves as heroes and to be courageous in life. Some of her titles include: Pink and Say, Mr. Lincoln's Way, January's Sparrow, Thank You, Mr. Falker, Chicken Sunday and Junkyard Wonders.
Visit Patricia's website at www.patriciapolacco.com to learn more about her and her books!
If you are interested in having Patricia make an appearance at your school, library, or conference, please visit her website and follow the instructions there. For other Penguin authors, please use the online request form or email the Author Appearance Coordinator at authorvisits[at]us.penguingroup.com with possible dates, your organization, location, details about the day, and your contact information.
Author Appearance Q&A with Patricia Polacco:
What can a school, library, or conference expect when you are making an appearance? What might you do differently with audiences of varying sizes, ages, and interests?
My appearances are almost theatrical performances. I bring items for the children to see such as photographs and actual piece of meteorite, a family quilt, sometime spectacles, sometimes clothing, so that they can understand what I write about is family stories based in fact. All of these articles appear in various books. I talk about my writing process more as an aside or when answering specific questions that the children might ask. I always leave a drawing done specifically for their school and the children and urge the librarian to copy the drawing so it can be handed out to all students.
When I speak about Pink & Say, I touch them when they leave the room, for instance, so they understand that my great, great grandfather touched the hand of Abraham Lincoln. I show them very graphically that they are now 6 people away from Lincoln after they have touched my hand. This is just a sample of many things I do with the children.
For the very young children, pre-K to first grade, I tell stories, for example, Babushka's Doll. For the secondary group of children, second through fourth grades, I bring a piece of meteorite and tell them the story of how the meteor landed on our farm and how this piece of meteorite grants wishes when they touch it. At the end of the assembly, the children touch it on their way put the door. With this group, I also talk about my learning disabilities and being made fun of. I show them the Keeping Quilt and give them back story of how that book happened.
For kids from fifth through eighth grade, I still tell the meteorite story, but go into greater detail about the wishes they will make. The wishes are not what the world will do for them, but what they are going to do for the world. I give them a more intense view of my learning disabilities and bullying and they also hear about the Keeping Quilt.
For Ninth grade through high school, they are about as happy to see a children's author as have a root canal. So I disarm them by giving them a very poignant reading of Pink and Say. This makes the group then anxious to hear more of what I have to say. I give them the most intense view of all of the horror of discrimination, being teased, being bullied, and being learning disabled with an overview of how behavior of this in a school leads to every "ism" that is fracturing us as a society. I show them the Keeping Quilt, but in most cases, we get into very animated conversations as to what is happening in their personal lives and a rousing discussion of their choices.
In all cases, it is my responsibility to the children to "read" the room and judge what will be most appealing and instructional to the group. There is lots of laughter, energetic exercise, and even some tears.
What makes your author appearances unique?
Judging by the feedback I get from schools, they are impressed that I don't show slides. I don't talk about books and how they are made. Instead rather I try to inspire children to trust their inner voices, be creative, write their own books, and wonder about the universe. I would say I also want them to ponder their place in this world, how they treat each other and how they treat and respect our mother, the earth.
Do you enjoy making appearances for adult audiences? What do you do when presenting to adults?
Yes, very much. Generally, what adults want to know is my background, why I write what I write, and very personal insights that some say are inspiring.
I would add I think one of the things that has become my trademark is that I love talking to educators with the intent of inspiring them to understand that they are probably one of the most important group of people that we have in our society. 300,000 alone will be laid off in CA this year alone. God knows how many other states in which this is happening. I feel our educators and our educational systems in our country are under siege and defending their philosophies against outrageous criticism that should not be aimed at them. I have been in more classrooms than any legislator will ever walk into in their lives, and I see wonderful, caring, dedicated teaching out there. I am hopeful because of all the teacher's lounges that I have sat in in the last 25 years; I see more new and wonderful ideas, techniques and philosophies than ever before. I want our teachers to know they're doing an exceptional job.
What can schools and libraries do to ensure a successful appearance?
Read the Appearance Information Sheet we send them prior to my visit
What do you hope your audience will come away with from your presentation?
Inspiration. Realizing that they have an amazing voice of their own. And with hope.
What was your most interesting, favorite, or memorable appearance experience?
They all are all of the above, but I am completely amazed when through their art departments or music departments or drama departments take my stories, make them their own and create masterpieces.
In closing, looking into the eyes of all the children throughout these years and throughout our country is what gives me hope, will, and inspiration.
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