The Junkyard Wonders

April 14, 2011

Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite authors. Her writing is warm, full of meaning, with hints of humor. The Junkyard Wonders is a memoir about her school days. Her book is a tribute to the inspiring teacher in all of us.

Mrs. Peterson began her school year with a note of expectation that all her students would acquire.  With a dictionary in her hand, she read the definition of genius to the class of special children.

Genius is neither learned nor acquired.

It is risking without fear of failure.

It is creativity without constraints.

It is … extraordinary intelligence!”

Your heart will sail as she tells her students to memorize it, to look at it every day. “The definition describes every one of you.”

Patricia was placed in a special class. The class had been dubbed “The Junkyard.” Mrs. Peterson believed in her students’ potentials despite their challenges. For learning, she placed the class into tribes. The tribes worked on projects together throughout the year. The five kids in Patricia’s group became very close.

Due to bullying and wanting her kids to see themselves as more than just the left-overs, Mrs. Peterson took the children to the junkyard. They were to create a new invention from the junk they collected. Patricia’s group created a plane that could fly. They decided to launch it at the science fair.

One boy, Jody, had a disease that caused his body to grow too fast. That spring, Jody’s heart gave out and he died. (Yes, I cried. Patricia knows how to pull at my heart-strings.) The plane was a tribute for Jody. The closeness, hard work, and genius propelled their plane into the sky.

I love the ending. Patricia Polacco has an epilogue about her tribe. The other three children grew and flourished into amazing positions – ballet school director, world renown fashion designer, NASA engineer, and Patricia became a phenomenal children’s author.  They attributed their success to their teacher, Mrs. Peterson.

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Junkyard Wonders:

  • Believing in yourself – overcoming hardship
  • Community – accepting and seeing possibility in everyone
  • Transitions – highlighting main events throughout the year
  • Character description
  • Strong emotional sense

Content Areas

September 22, 2009

Today I updated the Content Area page.  I have listed several books  featured in the blog within two categories:  science and social studies.  (Historical Narrative is a genre that I enjoy.)   When you click on the title, the link takes you to the blog page with other teaching possibilities.    Eventually, I hope to write about several math books that are good read alouds as well.  May you  find the update  useful.  🙂


September 7, 2009

As of today, I have created a new tab on Booksavors called INDEX.  I have been working on creating an alphabetized list of the books I have written about.  When you click on the title of the book, you will be linked to the page in the blog with the summary and teaching points for the book.  I hope that you will find this feature helpful to you.  Please let me know your thoughts.  Thanks.

Hello School Year

August 11, 2009

August 11 and the new year has begun.  Tomorrow the students will be entering the school doors full of energy.

Today, I was asked for several books to help begin the year.  As I have rearranged some of my books, I had to search a little for some of the books.  I made a mental note to share an idea.  Earlier in July, I shared about copying the cover of a book and placing it in your file – with the location of the book for reference.  Today, I was reminded that sometimes you need to make several copies of the book cover.

For example, one book was The Night Before KindergartenThe Night Before KindergartenFirst I went to my cumulative tale section of books.  Not there.  I proceeded to my pattern book section.  Not there.  Easy reader section.  Not there.  School books section.  Not there.  Then, I remembered that Natasha Wing was the author and checked in my authors file drawer.  Not there.  By this time, I’m trying to rack my brain as to where the book could be.  Nothing is more frustrating that knowing you have the book and then not locating it.

After a prayer and a sigh, I decided to check my writing file drawer and see if I might have placed it in a folder labeled “Night Before” books, as Natasha Wing has written several.  Sure enough.  There was the book.  Along with the book was the cover of several other books that were in different files (i.e.  Night Before Valentine’s Day is in the February folder).   Although I do not teach lessons on how-to-make a “Night Before” book, I decided to put the folder there because it was a frame of reference.

I share this experience to remind you that as you begin the school year, remember to make several copies.  We have so many components to keep track of in our day.  Placing the book in the bin that you think for sure you’ll remember – may work today but not necessarily tomorrow.  So… make extra copies of the cover and place it in several files.  I even went and placed the copied cover in the bin with the books that I might think it should be in.  Having the reference will definitely help save you time in the future!

The Library: My Friend

July 8, 2009

I love coming to the library.  Books appeal to me like chocolate, soothing!  I am in New York at a teen nationals competition with my children and have found some quiet time to write. I directly went to the library, a quiet and welcoming place.  Sitting down here at the computer, I notice a new book next to it, a title I have not read.  Wow!  It’s awesome.  I’ll be blogging on it in the near future.  It’s called Sneezeby Alexandra Siy and Dennis Kunkel.

The library can become a good friend to you.  On my journey of “learning” books, the library is my source.  I challenge you to go to the children’s section in the library and look for some books.  Our local library has a special section for the new books.  I usually look there first.  Then, find a spot to savor the book.  Meaning, read the book to enjoy.  Then, begin to look at the text with a writerly eye.  What words do you notice?  What did you like about the text?  And then, why did you like that specific part – was it the words, craft, font, humor, emotion?  Carry sticky notes so that you can tab the pages.  I love getting small ones to note the specific writing you like.  Many times I cannot name what I like.  I just like the way the words have been used.  I usually write those in my notebook (with quotes and author’s name) to remember the sound.  After a while of savoring the words, a craft will come to me – or I’ll name it my own unique trait.  What matters is that I notice the technique.  Do the same.  You’ll begin to notice more and more craft by doing this practice.  Which by the way, this practice is “savoring a book”, just like a life savor’s flavor lingers in your mouth.

Katie Wood Ray explains more in her book, Wondrous Words.

Now, since I cannot buy all the books that I savor, I will copy the cover with a sticky note on the front, listing the craft/skills that will help my teaching.  I also note where to find the book. This step is very important! Eventually, I hope to purchase the book, but at least I have a written memory of the book.   I then place the copy in a file that has a craft that I have named so that I can find it again.

Try it and let me know how it goes.