And that (in a nutshell) is what is so beautiful about Patricia Polacco's books and why readers have fallen in love with her work time and time again.
She writes about family...namely her family but the stories sing with the natural seasons and rhythms that happen in all families.
The book pictured here When Lightning Comes in a Jar is one of my family's Polacco favorites. At least it is mine. It's one Polacco book that I pull out every summer to read to the children right before our annual family reunion. I'm sure my photos reveal my love for this Polacco book and some of you recognized this.
And so today, though our family doesn't do Jell-O salads and meatloafs at our family reunions, in honor of Polacco and the gift of family she has given our family, I baked a meatloaf Polacco-style:
"There they were as we unpacked them---zillions of meatloafs. They were all different, too. Each auntie had her own recipe, including Aunt Bertha, who made one with a hard-boiled egg in the middle. When we cut it, there was a perfect slice of egg. Like a giant eye." ~ When Lightning Comes in a Jar
And so I hid a hard-boiled egg in the middle of today's meatloaf and, of course, one of my children who is not as sentimental as I am just had to make the statement: "Oh, Mom! you didn't!"
Another child was happy to eat the egg.
For Polacco's books are like little jars lined-up on our pantry shelves. They are full of good stuff.
What does your family do to store memories? Do they:
- "eat scruptious Jell-O and meatloaf"?
- share recipes?
- "play baseball and croquet"?
- "scrawl new measurements" of growing cousins on doorjambs?
- "look at photo albums"?
- remember members who "gave (their) life for (their) country in a war far away"?
- laugh and cry over stories?
- catch fireflies in jars at the end of the day?
And, then "when the sun is low and the shadows long" do you "sit and fan (y)ourselves in the shade of the maple trees?" with "a new crop of children...gathered at (y)our knees" without "father, grandmother, aunts and uncles...no longer here" and "tell their stories and bring them back for fleeting moments."?
Polacco's books are treasures that show us how to capture those stories, those recipes, those stars, and the lightning and store them in jars for future generations.
Before we move on to our new featured author, I'd like you to encourage your children to write and illustrate (using the example they've seen and read in Patricia Polacco's books) their own family story. It can be about someone's birthday party, a family reunion, a fishing trip, an heriloom quilt, a grandmother who helped you bake a cake, or a rotten red (or black or blonde or brown)-headed older brother who perhaps isn't so bad afterall. Look through a family photo album and encourage your child to pick an event and write and illustrate their own story.
If your child has difficulty with this sharing or gets discouraged as some children do over writing assignments, offer to write the story while they narrate it to you. Then have them illustrate it. This is one really cool way to capture that "lightning in a jar" and store it forever on your family's shelf of memories.
Store their story in their Author Fiesta binder. In this way your children will have "full bellies, tired bones and flickering jars in their laps. Their hearts will be overflowing. Full of lighning, put there by folks who loved them even before they were born."