Growing up, one of my all-time favorite authors was Patricia Polacco. And if I was ever forced to choose my favorite of her books that lined my pink polka-dotted bookshelf, my answer would have been Thank You, Mr. Falker. When I read this assignment, I decided to go back and look at it after all these years to see if I still thought it was “all that.” And, honestly, I think I love it even more now.
Patricia Polacco illustrates all of her books herself. Each page’s illustration beautifully coincides with the writing. If you didn’t love the characters just from reading the story, you would definitely love them after flipping through the physical book. Each page is yet another colorful painting that makes you want the characters come alive just so you can give them a hug.
However, it’s not just the illustrations that make Patricia Polacco’s books so great. Thank You, Mr. Falker begins with Trisha’s grandfather giving her a book with a dollop of honey on top of it. He tells her to taste the honey and Trisha responds that it tastes sweet. Her grandfather answers, “‘Yes, but so is knowledge, and knowledge is like the bee that made the sweet honey, you have to chase it through the pages of the book!'”
Throughout the rest of the book, Trisha’s grandparents pass away and she finds herself feeling very alone and struggling with reading. It isn’t until Mr. Falker comes along and understands why she is struggling and appreciates her and tells her that she is smart that she finally begins to feel comfortable with herself again. The story ends with Trisha learning how to read and running up to her room, putting a dollop of honey on the same book that her grandfather had a few years before, and saying those same words out loud to herself.
Thank You, Mr. Falker is a work of creative non-fiction. Of course, I didn’t realize this when I was in fourth grade, pouring over its pages. I barely even knew the difference between non-fiction and fiction. Now, going back to one of my childhood favorites, I can better understand how brilliant it is. Thank You, Mr. Falker is a true story about how Patricia Polacco learned how to read. The book comes full circle, starting with a happy, carefree girl, then depicting a hard struggle she had to go through, and coming back to the happy place she began at. Her “happy place” is represented by the honey on the book, and her struggles are outlined by conversations with bullies and descriptions of how worthless and unappreciated she felt.
I would love to emulate Patricia Polacco’s work. I think that it is fun and easy to read, but also really timeless and important. She perfectly captures the voice of young Patricia in third person, something which isn’t easy to do. Her illustrations create a child-friendly dynamic, but the theme is one that any person can relate to–the idea of not fitting into a certain set of standards. I find Patricia Polacco’s Thank You, Mr. Falker to be an excellently written book and also intellectually/artistically engaging.
Sadly, my copy is at home on my (no longer pink polka-dotted) bookshelf, but I did find a youtube video of someone reading it out loud so you can see the illustrations!