Patricia Polacco with student
Patricia Polacco with quilt

Patricia Polacco

Children's Book Author and Illustrator

“For Me, Art Is Like Breathing!”

“I didn’t read until I was 14. I didn’t dare have dreams. Why would I? They’d never happen for me,” says the amazing Children’s Book Author and Illustrator Patricia Polacco to her Elementary and Intermediate audiences. “At school, being called to read out loud in front of the class felt like facing a firing squad.”


Despite the painful years she endured being bullied at school, Ms. Polacco started putting her experiences onto paper through words and illustrations. To date, she has published more than 150 books and is beloved worldwide for her stories including Thank You, Mr. Falker, The Keeping Quilt, and Thunder Cake. She also drew from the stories she heard myriad times from her grandmother and other relatives. With an Irish father and a Russian/Ukrainian mother, Ms. Polacco reveled in the stories she heard, many passed down through the generations. “My grandmother called it ‘fire talking.’ Each night, we’d sit in front of the fire, eating popcorn, sometimes fudge, and she would explode into stories,” she says. “We’d always ask her if a story was true and she’d respond in her thick Russian accent, ‘Of course it is true story ... but it may not have happened.’”

“The truth of a story is the journey each person hearing or reading it takes along the way ... the joy, the grief, the injustice, the justice.”
— Ms. Polacco

A 2007 Lab School Gala awardee 12 years ago, Ms. Polacco shared her own stories of growing up with learning differences and how she wished that there had been a place like Lab for her. Looking at each face in the audience, she adds, “And now I look at all of your beautiful faces, and I think, Who will you be? What will each of you give the world through your uniqueness? So, listen up! This old lady is counting on you! Boy, are you going to land on your feet!”


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