This is a letter I recently wrote to our favorite childrens author after discovering some new books of hers. I somewhat vaguely reference the content of some of our favorite stories in the letter, so if you don’t understand, you’ll just have to read the books. Consider this my wholehearted endorsement of her.
Dear Mrs. Polacco,
I feel as though I’m sitting down to write an old friend instead of a stranger. You and your books have been a part of my life since I was a small child of five or six. My father – of six daughters and no sons – has a great appreciation for childrens literature. But he has exacting tastes. He never purchased a book that he wouldn’t mind reading to us over and over, judging them on their artwork as much as the story. There were few “Golden Books” on our shelves and Disney characters were banned from our literature. Still, we had two towering shelves in our bedroom filled to capacity. Many were purchased at garage sales and thrift stores – with so many mouths to feed there wasn’t much extra money.
My Poppie came across “Thundercake” at a garage sale one day and loved it for the story and the painted illustrations. There’s no doubt he purchased it for under 10 cents. He always drove a hard bargain when it came to used books. It had stray crayon marks on the hardback cover and a strangers name in the flyleaf, but it quickly became one of our favorites. Thunderstorms are a daily occurrence on summer afternoons in south Louisiana. My younger sister, Jordan, and I would sit at the big living room window listening to the thunder, counting aloud, and watching for lightning to follow to determine how far the storm was.
After we discovered “Thundercake” your books were added to our library gradually through school book fairs and catalogs. They were gifts at holidays and birthdays. My daddy made a tradition of reading to us each night as he’d done with my older sisters (we were the babies of the family). He would squeeze his 6’4” frame into one of our twin beds with a little girl on each arm and fall asleep reading to us. I don’t think I ever heard the end of “Pink and Say” until I was fifteen and finished it on my own (with tissues of course!). Poppie would fall asleep in the middle of the story without fail.
Before long our family adopted the phrase, “Such a person, such a person.” It was high praise in our minds to be endowed with that title. The “Tooth Angel” was known to write us notes that she left with our Susan B. Anthony silver dollars and I recall more than one occasion she told me I was “such a person.” That always set my little-girl-heart glowing.
Jordan and I are grown up now and sharing an apartment where “Thundercake” is a part of our personal library. My older sisters have scattered the country with their families and produced two grandchildren for my parents – more girls, of course! We are the only ones that remain close to home. Jordan is a page at the local library and was delighted to discover that you’ve written more books than we knew existed. We already own a dozen or more, but stopped collecting when we got into our teens. I’ve made my parents swear to keep and add to their childrens library to entertain grandchildren – the ones they have and the ones Jordan and I hope to give them someday.
Jordan found “The Junkyard Wonders” at the library a couple of weeks ago. She held onto it until we had occasion to visit my parents so we could read it together. The other night we all sat around while Jordan read aloud to us with her best librarians’ cadence. Her voice broke when she reached the end of the book. We were all crying – including my dear, tender-hearted Poppie. When she got to the last page she could only read haltingly, choking back sobs over the success each of you “Wonders” have achieved. You have long been our favorite childrens’ author, but you have won our affections all over again with this treasure.
After finishing “The Junkyard Wonders” we sat around recalling memories that surround your books. “Mrs. Katz and Tush” was dear to me because of my love for cats. “Rechenkas’ Eggs” stirred our mischievousness and we were known to often decorate my mothers’ eggs and place them back into the refrigerator, uncooked. We made real Thundercake for the first time at Fathers’ Day last summer, topped with fresh Louisiana strawberries. Before eating it we sat around with our friends, laughing while one of them read the book to us with a horribly botched Russian accent that sounded more like Arnold Schwarzenegger than a Babushka. Your books are the center of sweet memories indeed.
So, thank you, for memories past and the ones to come. Thank you for sharing your imagination and your heart with us. Mrs. Polacco, you are “such a person” to us and we will cherish your stories for generations to come.
With love on behalf of the Ward Family,