13 Fun Ways Patricia Polacco’s Books Support Readers and Writers

Patricia Polacco is one author who provides us with quality literature with so many life lessons. Check out this post for author study ideas. Title image

Patricia Polacco is one of the best children’s book authors around. If you pause for a moment and think about your favorite authors from childhood, you can probably come up with a few. Maybe it was Dr. Seuss or Gary Paulsen, or perhaps you loved Clifford and Curious George. As a reading specialist, I quickly developed a love of Patricia Polacco’s work. The connection she forms to struggling readers is just huge. More important than connecting to them is the fact that with hard work and perseverance, she was able to overcome many of her challenges. This is huge for the students I’ve worked with.

By the time students reach fourth and fifth grade, they often perceive themselves as failures and doubt things will ever get better. No matter how often we tell them that we believe in them and that they can do it, they’ve had too many setbacks to believe us. Sound familiar? If so, I would encourage you to begin working in her books.

Books by Patricia Polacco

Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

The first book to start with must be Thank You Mr. Falker.  This book sets the stage for the rest of her work. In it, Patricia shares how she learned that she had dyslexia. She did not learn to read until she was twelve years old I believe (so most children realize that their struggles may not be so bad).  I can not read that book without tearing up, and I am sure you are likely the same. With this set, the skills I focused on were author’s craft and visualizing. The writing prompt is focused on bucket filling.

The Keeping Quilt

Book two for me would be The Keeping Quilt. The reason I’d use this one second is that it gives more information about her family’s immigration to the United States and her connections to Russia. When I use Patricia Polacco’s books with my students, I typically study her life as well. Patricia’s family traditions are part of her other books, and the students need a little background on the Ukraine.

Chicken Sunday

If you read Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco, you’ll certainly see Patricia’s Russian/Ukrainian influence in this story. You might explore the topic of immigration with paired nonfiction books about Ellis Island. In this book, there are references to  several artifacts including pysanky eggs, and of course, family traditions.

Christmas Tapestry

Depending on the time of year, you may opt for Christmas Tapestry instead. In this book, two Holocaust survivors are reunited at a local rundown church that’s been given new life when Pastor Jonathan comes to town. It is based on a true story, and it too weaves in family traditions from Patricia Polacco’s childhood.

My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother

Once you’ve given your students a bit of background on her life, then the books will all fit together. Most will have bits of information tied to her life. My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother is one of my favorites because kids truly relate to it. Sibling rivalry and making bets are part of every kid’s childhood, but I love that character change and how Richie and Patricia start off fighting, but unite as brother and sister in the end.

Some Birthday by patricia polacco

Although I haven’t created a unit for Some Birthday, it is a favorite of mine. In this book, Patricia’s bummed out that no one seems to remember her birthday, and just when she thinks it’s all over, the family surprises her in a very fun and unique way.

When Lightning Comes in a Jar

When Lightning Comes in a Jar is a great one for family traditions. It’s about Patricia’s family reunion. You meet many family members in this one, and it’s a great one for the end of the year or summer school. Of course this family reunion would not be complete without catching fireflies.

Thunder Cake

Patricia’s grandmother was a very important part of her life. She encouraged Patricia at times when she really needed it, and she helped Patricia overcome several challenges. In Thunder Cake, Patricia is terrified of storms. Her grandmother helps her get through this fear by making thunder cake with her.

The Bee Tree

Another challenge for Patricia was learning to read of course. Like Thank You Mr. Falker, The Bee Tree includes Patricia’s grandparents and their role in her life. Most schools have Grandparent’s Day, so you might use these around that time. The Bee Tree is an anology about the sweetness of reading.


Bully is one I’d include with Patricia’s school experiences. I partnered with our guidance counselor and IT specialist to use this unit. Our guidance counselor extended the themes of bullying in group guidance lessons, and our IT specialist addressed internet safety and misuse. Of course, I worked with my kids on comprehension and writing activities with these themes as well. In my opinion, this unit was the most beneficial to my students.

The Junkyard Wonders

Bully is one I’d include with Patricia’s school experiences. I partnered with our guidance counselor and IT specialist to use this unit. Our guidance counselor extended the themes of bullying in group guidance lessons, and our IT specialist addressed internet safety and misuse. Of course, I worked with my kids on comprehension and writing activities with these themes as well. In my opinion, this unit was the most beneficial to my students.

Mr. Lincoln’s Way

In addition to Junkyard Wonders, The Art of Mrs. Chew and Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece feature Patricia’s experiences at school, but there’s one more that I really like too. It’s Mr. Lincoln’s Way. Each hits at different points in Patricia’s life, and as I’m writing this up, I can not recall the order. You might preview them or check on Patricia Polacco’s website [here] to learn more about each book as well as about her biographical information.  Mr. Lincoln’s Way features a very special administrator who takes a little boy under his wings and helps him find success at school. I just see so many kids in his face. Sometimes it takes something special to help children find success.

For the Love of Autumn

Patricia’s books are not all tied to her life, but you’ll see her writing style is consistent with unrelated titles too. I love the sweetness of For the Love of Autumn, and this book works well for most any child who loves animals. Teachers love it because it tells about the life of a teacher too. It’s a great choice for problem solving.

Just Plain Fancy

Another title I have enjoyed using with my students is Just Plain Fancy since most are unfamiliar with the Amish way of life. It provides an opportunity for students to learn cultural difference and appreciating each other.

I’ve shared a brief bit of information on my favorites, but what are yours?  Maybe your list would be the same, or maybe you’re favorite list would include a few others. I know one day I will add Pink and Say and Rechenka’s Eggs to my list. I may also create something for Betty Doll.  Oh, I just love her writing, and I hope you do too.

 Patricia Polacco Author Study Bundle

I offer thirteen titles in the author study below. You receive both PDF and Digital options in the set and can honestly pick and choose the books you want to use and the activities in any order. I use some activities with small groups and put some options into stations during the guided reading block. It is a pretty comprehensive. Here is what a few customers have said:

feedback on my patricia polacco bundle

Wow! This bundle is worth every penny. My high schoolers in special education are doing a fall author study on Ms. Polacco. This bundle has saved me so much time and energy, so that I can focus on hybrid instruction. Thank you so much!

The Coral Seahorse

Activities to Use with patricia polacco’s Books

Other Author Study Posts You Might Like:

No matter which of Patricia Polacco’s books are your favorites, I think we can all agree that she is a phenomenal author. The themes in her books are such an inspiration to students. I hope that you’ll take time to use a few of these recommendations and help your student love her work too.


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Thirteen Ways Patricia Polacco's Books Support Readers and Writers Pin


Carla is a licensed reading specialist with 27 years of experience in the regular classroom (grades 1, 4, and 5), in Title 1 reading, as a tech specialists, and a literacy coach. She has a passion for literacy instruction and meeting the needs of the individual learner.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Tammy

    I love Patricia Polacco..especially her book Thank you Mr. Faulker. This is a yearly read aloud in my class. I would love to win this product! What's a great resource!

  2. RS

    I love The Keeping Quilt book. Love your author study bundles and would love to win this product, excellent resource.

  3. I love your pinterest board….I am always looking for ideas to keep my library students active and engaged.

  4. I love so many but some of my favs are Thank you, Mr. Falker, Mr. Lincoln's Way, and My Rotten Red Headed Older Brother. Thank you for the opportunity to win! πŸ™‚

  5. Your pinterest board is just full of amazing things! Thanks for all the ideas for extending my 2nd graders comprehension.

  6. I like Thank you, Mr. Falker, Thunder Cake, and The Keeping Quilt to name a few. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the opportunity!!

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