cover image Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece

Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece

Patricia Polacco. Putnam, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-399-16095-0

In Polacco’s world, children confront fears and solve problems with the help of loving adults, their exchanges captured with exceptional powers of observation; in this story, she recalls overcoming a paralyzing fear of speaking in public. Young Patricia has memorized the entire school play, and she’s comfortable in her role as prompter, but when the lead actress moves away, someone must step in. “Patricia, you have to, you just have to,” the cast members plead. Horrified at the thought, she allows herself to be coached by the charismatic theater teacher, Mr. Wayne: “Patricia, let the play take you.” Polacco (Thank You, Mr. Falker) draws herself tormented by anxiety on opening night, gasping in the wings, then, miraculously, letting the play take her: “I was Musette, and the more I said, the easier it got.” Readers will feel the exhilaration of the standing ovation she receives and the warmth of Mr. Wayne’s praise: “Tonight, you’re my masterpiece.” Saddle shoes, stick-out skirts, and her English teacher’s brush cut all contribute to the period setting. Even the shyest readers may find themselves inspired. Ages 5–8. (Aug.)