Book Review - The Junkyard Wonders

As part of this week's focus on positive portrayals of children with special needs in literature, I am taking a minute to discuss author/illustrator, Patricia Polacco's newest book - The Junkyard Wonders.

Author/Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Publisher: Philomel (July 8, 2010)
Reading Level: 3rd to 6th grade
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

When young Trisha finds out her class at the new school is known as “The Junkyard,” she is devastated. She moved from her old town so she wouldn't be in a special class anymore! But then she meets her teacher, the quirky and invincible Mrs. Peterson, and her classmates, an oddly brilliant group of students each with his or her own unique talent. And it is here in The Junkyard that Trisha learns the true meaning of genius, and that this group of misfits are, in fact, wonders, all of them.
Based on a real-life event in Patricia Polacco's childhood, this ode to teachers will inspire all readers to find their inner genius.

About a month ago, I had a rare experience of seeing author/illustrator, Patricia Polacco at a Literacy Tea held in Carlsbad, California.  I didn't care that I had to drive 2 hours to get to the event.  Polacco lives in Michigan and does not fly.  Since she managed to come out by train, I could tolerate 2 hours both ways in a car.  As I listened to her speak about her life and her stories, I realized that I was experiencing a piece of literary history.  

Polacco has written many of her books from a deeply personal place and The Junkyard Wonders is no exception.  In some ways the sequel to Thank You, Mr. Falker, this books looks at Trish who has left California for Michigan to hopefully be someone different.  However, when she arrives at Room 206 and learns that the other students in the school refer to her class as the "junkyard".  Through the loving and wise, Mrs. Peterson, Trish and her classmates learn that just as a real junkyard is a place of wonderful possibilities so are they.  With the use of "tribes", Mrs. Peterson divides the class into small learning communities that must explore the junkyard and create something special.  Trish and her group settle on creating a plane.

Of course, the book wouldn't be complete without some kind of conflict.  The school bully is determined to foil the Wonders attempt to fly their plane.  Yet the children in Mrs. Peterson's class do not allow this to become an obstacle but instead pull together to do what they have said they would.  In honor of one of their classmates who has recently passed away, the students of Room 206 learn an important life lesson.

Be prepared to whip out a tissue when reading The Junkyard Wonders.  It is a tender, and moving story about what a group of children can do under the guidance and support of a loving, and wise teacher.  Every teacher new and old should read any of Polacco's tributes to teachers (Thank You, Mr. Falker; Mr. Lincoln's Way; or The Junkyard Wonders) and be reminded what is truly important in teaching.  As I think back to the children that I have instructed, I hope that I was that kind of support and tender heart when they needed. 

To celebrate this and several other wonderful books, I am hosting a give away.  One lucky reader will get a chance to win a copy of either -   Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper or The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon or The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco. 

Rules of the Giveaway
1.  All participants must be 13 or older.
2.  Contest ends on Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 11:59 P.M. PST.
3.  This contest is open to international participants.
4.  Please remember to comment on the post but do not leave personal information.  Any comments including personal information will be deleted.
5. Only one entry per person.

Good luck with the contest.