Many of our students at Cloverleaf know what it’s like to be different than their peers. Seeing difference as a positive attribute is not easy. The reality is that we are all different. As adults, we know that being different is natural and good. Children need to know that their differences can be gifts. The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco explores this shift in mindset through rich language that evokes strong emotion and a message that guides children to view their realities and worlds in whole new lights.
The main character, Tricia, is a young girl who is excited to start attending a new school. No one at the new school knows she has dyslexia. No one at the new school knows that she is different. Tricia is devastated when she realizes that her new class in her new school is a special class that everyone calls “the junkyard.” Her devastation slowly morphs into appreciation as she gets to know her new teacher, Mrs. Peterson, and her classmates. Her classmates are all amazingly different. One of her new peers is mute, one has a disease that causes his body to grow extraordinarily quickly, and one had Turrets syndrome. This group of students was known by the other students as the junkyard kids. Amongst her junkyard friends and through the loving tutelage of Mrs. Peterson, Tricia finds her inner genius.
This book is a great choice to read aloud to students. Polacco’s writing provides students with the opportunity to determine the meaning of words based on context. Best of all, this story is auto-biographical; Palocco has dyslexia. She provides an epilogue that gives readers an update of all of her friends we are introduced to in this lovely book. Patricia Palocco is the author of over 50 books. As an educator, I can only hope to have the impact on my students that Mrs. Peterson had on Polacco.
Other titles to check out from Patricia Polacco: