Celebrate being unique with The Junkyard Wonders

June 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm

The Junkyard Wonders written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco; published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.; 2010.

In the style of Thank You, Mr. Falker, author-illustrator Patricia Polacco calls upon personal experience to share the struggles and triumphs of a child with a learning disability.  Trisha has a very good reason to stay in Michigan.  Instead of going back to California to live with her Mom, just like always, she asks if she can stay with her father and Gramma for one school year.  They agree.  You see, Trisha has just learned to read, a lot later than her friends, and she’d like a fresh start at school, a chance to be like everyone else.  But when the school year starts, she finds herself in the Junkyard, a special ed classroom supporting children with a wide variety of disabilities.  After feeling sorry that she stayed, Trisha learns that everyone has a special gift and finds her class renamed the Junkyard Wonders.  What they discover, and create, exceeds anyone’s expectations.  Be sure to read the author’s note at the end of the story for a big surprise! 🙂

From the sky blue end pages to the hopeful illustrations and inspiring words, this book is an inspiration for anyone dealing with learning differences.  Parents, librarians, and educators can share this with typical peers and alternate learners alike.  What a terrific way to teach children of all abilities that differences do not define children nor do differences limit all abilities.  I struggled to find a book that teachers could read aloud at the elementary level to help classmates understand just what Polacco delivers in her book.  There are books about severely disabled, especially on the autism spectrum, that help teach tolerance to typical peers.  But what about stories to teach sensitivity for those with less profound disabilities?  This fits the bill.

So, absolutely this book belongs on a list of books about tolerance, disabilities, and acceptance.  I’d be sure to recommend it to parents and teachers alike at the beginning of the school year.  In fact, I’d be sure it was part of a back-to-school display in a public or school library.

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