Award-Winning AWB (Award-Winning-Books) 2015 Books GB Challenges Grey and Golden, Young and Fleeting Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Of Lace and Cups: Lives of Great Grandmothers and Family Legacies in Patricia Polacco’s Picturebooks


Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year. Our reading theme for March/April is “Grey and Golden, Young and Fleeting: Ruminations on Mortality and Transient Lives.”


Patricia Polacco has always been one of my favourite author-illustrators. She has a knack of capturing the beauty and essence of her family stories in such an accessible way that the story becomes a shared experience to all readers wherever they may be in the world.

IMG_0386Fiona’s Lace

Written and Illustrated byPatricia Polacco
Published by: A Paula Wiseman Book: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This is the story of Patricia’s father’s great-grandmother Fiona who once lived in a poor village called Glen Kerry in Ireland as a child. Their difficult circumstances forced Fiona’s parents to move to the United States of America to build a better life for the entire family – a transition that most people from their small town is doing, even if it meant working as a maid for a family in America and leaving their home behind.


As they moved to a foreign land, they brought in their heart the story of how Fiona’s parents met and the lovely lace that brought them together. When they finally saw their new home, they were devastated at how poor their neighborhood was and how they have to work off their passage from Ireland.


Not only were they forced to demean themselves working in the domestic service, they had to take on additional jobs in the evening for them to earn something as they pay off their debts to their masters. It was Fiona’s exquisite skills in lace-making that eased their financial burdens and allowed them to see beyond the drudgery of their everyday work. Fiona worked tirelessly into the evening, showing remarkable resilience and selflessness.


However, tragedy struck when a fire burned down the buildings where they stayed in. Whether Fiona’s family survived this calamity and how the lace played a significant role in their survival, I shall leave for you to discover. A riveting story of how family stories and a little bit of singed lace can indeed save people’s lives.

The Blessing CupIMG_0376

Written and Illustrated by: Patricia Polacco
Published byA Paula Wiseman Book: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013.
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This story is about Patricia’s great-grandmother, Anna, who lived near Tver in Russia when she was a little girl before her family moved to America. As Jews, they were hunted down and chased away by the czar’s soldiers.


Homeless and scared, Anna’s family took only a few of their valuables as they moved from one hiding place to the next, relying on the kindness of strangers. One of the precious things that they took with them was the magical tea set – a marriage gift to Anna’s parents from Aunt Rebecca in Minsk. According to Aunt Rebecca:

This tea set is magic. Anyone who drinks from it has a blessing from God. They will never know a day of hunger. Their lives will always have flavor. They will know love and joy… and they will never be poor.


I liked how the concept of ‘wealth’ and ‘poverty’ here are redefined and viewed from the lenses of family and togetherness. While their struggles and the horrors they had to go through as Jews were portrayed as they were exiled from their homes,


… it was not the highlight of the story. I was struck more by the kindness of Uncle Genya, their eventual passage to America, and how the blessing cup has survived along with the family and passed down from one generation to the next until it finally found its way to Patricia’s own married hands:


Truly a beautiful story of family legacy and love that endures.


2014 Sydney Taylor Book Award for The Blessing Cup

#AWBRead2015 Update: 35 of 35


#nfpb2015 Challenge Update: 21 of 25

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

2 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Of Lace and Cups: Lives of Great Grandmothers and Family Legacies in Patricia Polacco’s Picturebooks

  1. I haven’t read all Patricia Polacco’s work, but I love, love, love THE BLESSING CUP 😀


  2. I love how you work your book choices into themes and how you set them up. Thanks for sharing this.


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