We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2019 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.
This story is based on a real-life narrative from the unparalleled Patricia Polacco who has given tribute to the various influential teachers in her life through this series of picturebooks. Here is another title to add to the growing list. While this may be a fictionalized version of Tricia’s story, it is still grounded on a true story with real people who have inspired Patricia – and instrumental in turning her into the beloved writer that she is now.
Written and Illustrated by Patricia Polacco
Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons (2015).
ISBN: 0399166912 (ISBN13: 9780399166914)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
Tricia is dreading the school year, mainly because she has “Killer Keller” as her teacher in writing class. She is known to be tough as nails and very difficult to please.
I liked reading about some of Miss Keller’s writing assignments – which include describing their families and home life, listening to trees (oh, Mary Oliver would have loved this as a young girl), eavesdropping on lunchtime conversations to know more about dialogue, discussing a ‘found object’ of an older person and writing about its value/meaning.
I enjoyed how Tricia seemed initially excited and proud of what she has done – only to realize that it does not seem to be enough for Miss Keller. In the assignment about their families, Tricia apparently used the word love one too many times – hence, the students were introduced to a friend that would stand them in good stead throughout their writing class (and their lives!): the thesaurus!
This reminded me of my own Creative Writing teacher in the university who used to scoff at our short stories, decrying its lack of subtlety, and demanding us to write about love without using that word at all in our narrative. That was tough.
One of the things that Tricia discovered was how pain and tragedy can sometimes serve as creative juice that channels authentic energy in one’s writing. She was able to transform pain through words – and if Miss Keller had not pushed her into writing deeply, she would probably not have accessed that space within herself. Once again, Patricia Polacco has managed to blindside me with this story that moved me. Find it and hopefully you remember a Miss Keller in your life who helped you become a better and more nuanced writer.
#WomenReadWomen2019: Country – United States of America