#WomenReadWomen2019 Books Early Readers Features Genre Lifespan of a Reader Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes Sisterhood and Female Bonds

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Tough Love From Patricia Polacco’s Writing Teacher

Patricia Polacco's "An A From Miss Keller."

Myra here.

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.

An A From Miss Keller

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

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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] Tough Love From Patricia Polacco’s Writing Teacher

  1. lindabaie

    This is a new one to me, Myra. I had a tough English teacher in high school, still remember her lessons & how much I learned from her. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] Patricia Polacco’s Tribute To Mr. Falker – Gathering Books

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