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Junkyard Wonders
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Junkyard Wonders

5.0 7
by Patricia Polacco

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As in Thank You, Mr. Falker, Polacco examines her childhood, her confused awareness of herself and her schoolmates as different--"retards," according to their common nemesis--and her teacher, an imposing and passionate woman who changes their lives. Mrs. Parkinson makes her mark immediately in a class of children who involuntarily shout (Gibbie, who has Tourette's), do not speak (Ravanne, a foster child), or don't seem able to learn fast enough (Polacco herself). Stung when the "normal" kids call their class "the junkyard," the students accompany Mrs. Parkinson to a real junkyard, where she urges them to find treasures and build something new: "Forget what the object was... imagine what it could be!" Like her earlier autobiographical stories, this tale of Polacco's group and of the model plane they restore ("This baby is goin' all the way to the moon!") thrills, saddens, touches, and inspires, all at once. The death of their kindest classmate and loyal guardian, Jody, whose too-rapid growth defeats his heart, is the most difficult moment in this complex and deeply felt book. Not to be missed. Ages 6-9. (July)
Polacco’s inspiring story will touch children and teachers alike, especially those in “special” classes.
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Based on the author's own childhood experience, this story will affirm children who are labeled as different and perhaps inspire the rest to look with different eyes. Wanting to escape the stigma of being in special classes, our young protagonist lobbies to live with her dad and grandmother for a year so she can attend a new school where classmates do not already know about her reading problems. But on the very first day of school, she is confronted with prejudice as she is sent to the "junkyard" where all the different kids go. The "junkyard" kids aren't "allowed" to sit with the other students at lunch and are bullied on the playground. However, their teacher, Mrs. Peterson, sees something wondrous in each and every one and by the time the science fair rolls around, these differently-abled students get to demonstrate their special gifts to the whole school. Because the children's issues range from Tourette's to dyslexia to selective mutism and even growth hormone disorders, there is diversity represented even within the diversity of special and gifted students. There is a short afterword by the author that describes some of the adult accomplishments of Polacco's own "tribe" of friends. Use this resource to stimulate discussions of diversity, bullying, stereotyping and/or self-esteem. Text is enhanced by full-color, page-and-a-half illustrations by the author. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Based on true events, this inspiring story celebrates the extraordinary influence a teacher can have on her students. As Trisha enters a new school in Michigan, she hopes she won't be relegated to a "special" class. At her old school, she had trouble learning to read. On the first day, she is disappointed to learn that Room 206 is known as the junkyard. Fortunately, their teacher, Mrs. Peterson, doesn't allow her students to feel like misfits. She divides her "Junkyard Wonders" into tribes, creating a sense of unity among them. One day, the children visit a local junkyard where they discover "a place full of wondrous possibilities" and collect objects for a class project. Trisha and her tribe retrieve an old model plane, which they refurbish. The whole class looks forward to the science fair when they will fly the plane from the roof of the school in remembrance of a classmate who has died. The school bully tries to foil their plans, but in the end the Junkyard Wonders launch the plane and watch it soar up into the stratosphere. The touching story is accompanied by Polacco's trademark illustrations in which a motherly Mrs. Peterson presides over her busy classroom. The children's expressive faces convey their devotion to her and to each other. Pair this title with Lester L. Laminack's Saturdays and Teacakes (Peachtree, 2004), another nod to a fondly remembered past.—Linda L. Walkins, Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Brighton, MA

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.74(w) x 11.24(h) x 0.50(d)
660L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

"I was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1944. Soon after my birth I lived in Williamston, Michigan and then moved onto my grandparents farm in Union City, Michigan.

"I lived on the farm with my mom and Grandparents until 1949. That is when my Babushka (my grandmother) died and we prepared to move away from Michigan. I must say that living on that little farm with them was the most magical time of my life...and that my Babushka and other grandparents were some of the most inspirational people in my life.

"My parents were divorced when I was 3, and both my father and mother moved back into the homes of their parents. I spent the school year with my mother, and the summers with my dad. In both households I was the apple of my grandparents' eyes! I would say that these relationships with my grandparents have most definitely influenced my life and my work. You probably have noticed that in almost every book that I write there is a very young person who is interacting with an elderly person. Personally, I feel that this is the most valuable experience of my life....having the wonder of knowing both children and elderly people.

"The respect that I learned as a very young person certainly carried over into my life in later years. I have always like hearing stories from these folks. My genuine curiosity for the wonder of living a very long life prepared me to accept the declining years of my own parents.

"To get back to the farm in Union City...this place was so magical to me that I have never forgotten it! This was the place where I heard such wonderful stories told...this was the place that a real meteor fell into our font yard...that very meteorite is now our family headstone in the graveyard here in Union City.

"Did I tell you that I now live in Union City? This is after living in Oakland, California for almost 37 years. But, you see, every year I'd come back to Michigan to see my Dad and family.


"In 1949 we left the farm to move, first to Coral Gables, Florida. I lived there with my Mom and my brother, Richard, for almost 3 years. Then we moved to Oakland, California. I remained there for most of my young life on into my adulthood. We lived on Ocean View Drive in the Rockridge District. What I loved the most about this neighborhood is that all of my neighbors came in as many colors, ideas and religions as there are people on the planet. How lucky I was to know so many people that were so different and yet so much alike.

"It is on Ocean View that I met my best friend, Stewart Grinnell Washington. We are best friends to this day! He has a younger brother, Winston and three sisters; Jackie, Terry and Robin. When I was a student in elementary school I wasn't a very good student. I had a terrible time with reading and math. As a matter of fact, I did not learn how to read until I was almost 14 years old. Can you imagine what it was like to see all my friends do so well in school and I wasn't! I thought I was dumb. I didn't like school because there was this boy that always teased me and made me feel even dumber. When I was fourteen, it was learned that I have a learning disability. It is called dyslexia. I felt trapped in a body that wouldn't do what everybody else could do. That was when one of my hero's, my teacher, found what was wrong with me and got me the help I needed to succeed in school. Of course, now that I am an adult, I realize that being learning disabled does not mean DUMB AT ALL! As a matter of fact, I have learned that being learning disabled only means that I cannot learn the way most of you do. As a matter of fact, most learning disabled children are actually GENIUSES! Once I learned how to read and caught up with the rest of my fellow students, I did very well.

"I went on to University, majored in Fine Art, then went on to do a graduate degree and even ended up with a Ph.D. in Art History. For a time I restored ancient pieces of art for museums. I eventually became the mother of two children, Steven and Traci, and devoted much of my days to their education and upbringing.

"I did not start writing children's books until I was 41 years old. Mind you the "art" has always been there for me most of my life. Apparently one of the symptoms of my disability in academics is the ability of draw very, very well. So drawing, painting and sculpture has always been a part of my life even before I started illustrating my books. The books were quite a surprise, really. Mind you, I came from a family of incredible storytellers. My mother's people were from the Ukraine and Russia...my father's people were from Ireland. My extended family,(Stewart's family) were from the bayous of Louisiana...also great story tellers. When you are raised on HEARING stories.....NOT SEEING THEM, you become very good at telling stories yourself. So at the age of 41 I started putting stories that I told down on paper and did drawings to help illustrate them...I guess the rest is history.

"I have enjoyed a wonderful career of writing books for children . Who could have guessed that little girl that was having such a tough time in school would end up an illustrator and author. Children and adults alike ask me where I get my ideas...I get them from the same place that you do....MY IMAGINATION... I would guess the reason my imagination is so fertile is because I came from storytelling and, WE DID NOT OWN A T.V.!!!!!!!!! You see, when one is a writer, actor, dancer, musician; a creator of any kind, he or she does these things because they listen to that "voice" inside of them. All of us have that "voice". It is where all inspired thoughts come from....but when you have electronic screens in front, of you, speaking that voice for you... it DROWNS OUT THE VOICE! When I talk to children and aspiring writers, I always ask them to listen to the voice, turn off the T.V. and


"Now that I have moved back to Union City I am intending to open my house and community and invite people to come there to take part in writing seminars, story telling festivals, literature conferences and various events that celebrate children's literature."

Born Patricia Ann Barber in Lansing, Michigan, to parents of Russian and Ukrainian descent on one side and Irish on the other, Patricia Polacco grew up in both California and Michigan. Her school year was spent in Oakland, California, and summers in her beloved Michigan. She describes her family members as marvelous storytellers. "My fondest memories are of sitting around a stove or open fire, eating apples and popping corn while listening to the old ones tell glorious stories about their homeland and the past. We are tenacious traditionalists and sentimentalists.... With each retelling our stories gain a little more Umph!"

Studying in the United States and Australia, Patricia Polacco has earned an M.F.A. and a Ph. D. in art history, specializing in Russian and Greek painting, and iconographic history. She is a museum consultant on the restoration of icons. As a participant in many citizen exchange programs for writers and illustrators, Patricia Polacco has traveled extensively in Russia as well as other former Soviet republics. She continues to support programs that encourage Russo-American friendships and understanding. She is also deeply involved in inner-city projects here in the U.S. that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict and encourage art and literacy programs.

The mother of a grown son and a daughter, Patricia Polacco currently resides in Michigan, where she has a glorious old farm that was built during the time of Lincoln.

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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The Junkyard Wonders 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
grandmateacher More than 1 year ago
This wonderful story should be read to every child! Everyone is unique and a junkyard wonder in their own way. Fabulous illustrations in Patricia Polacco's great style!
LiteracyMaven More than 1 year ago
This amazing book can be considered the sequel to "Thank You Mr. Falker" by the great Patricia Polacco. It follows the autobiographical Tricia the following year, when she attends a new school and is placed in a special education class. Though the children are shunned by other members of the school community and their class is called the "junkyard," their teacher makes them see the potential and possibilities in who they are and how they can follow their dreams. The book has sad moments as one of the students dies as a result of a physical disability, but the end of the book is so powerful and moving that it should be required reading for all teachers and older students. Highly recommended as a read aloud in the classroom and at home especially for the teachers and parents of special needs children, but you do not need to have children to appreciate the impact of this outstanding piece of children's literature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great story of the impact of a teacher on her students
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My 8-year old granddaughter asked for books by Polacco. I bought the book as a gift for her. I chose this one because I am a retired learning disabilities teacher.
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