South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Nationally known author Patricia Polacco visits with Phillips students


Phillips Elementary students Lynsey Brame and Zoe Nishimura explain what went into making the vest, skirt and apron the class gave to Patricia Polacco.

Earlier this spring, the nationally known author and illustrator, Patricia Polacco, spent the day at Phillips Elementary School.

Her books are read by children and adults who are moved by Pink and Say, warmed by The Trees of the Dancing Goats, and cheered by Thank You, Mr. Falker. She won the Golden Kite Award for Chicken Sunday and the Sydney Taylor Book Award for her classic picture book, The Keeping Quilt.

Ms. Polacco has a gift for transforming family stories into memorable picture books. Her success as a children's writer and illustrator is remarkable, particularly since she was a poor reader when she was a child. At 14, Ms. Polacco was diagnosed with dyslexia. Although she had a hard time at school, she grew up in a loving home filled with family stories, music, and multi-generations. Often, her stories show a young child interacting with an elderly person.

When Ms. Polacco met with the students, she shared many of her childhood experiences. She told them how mean her classmates were to her because she couldn't read and she also shared how loved she felt by her family.

She also let the students touch a piece of a meteor that, years ago, had fallen in her grandparents' yard. As the students left, she asked that they make three wishes when they touched it. Some of the students shared that their wishes have already come true.

Patricia Polacco accepts the outfit the Phillips students designed and made from their principal, Dr. Barbara Rudiak.

The students and staff at Phillips Elementary School spent the school year reading all of Patricia Polacco's books and working on projects that illustrated their understanding of her writing. They were all on display throughout the classrooms and halls on the day of her visit.

One highlight was the vest, skirt and apron that the students made under the direction of Gaye Hockenberry, the art teacher. Ms. Polacco was speechless when the students presented the work to her. She stated that in all of her many school visits, she never received anything as precious and plans to display it at her art center in Union City, Michigan.

An additional highlight of Ms. Polacco's day was having the opportunity to eat pierogies that were made by the parishioners of St. Mary's Russian Orthodox Church on South 19th Street.

Ms. Polacco's visit to Phillips was provided through funding from the CIPA Foundation and National City Bank.


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