cover image The Junkyard Wonders

The Junkyard Wonders

Patricia Polacco, Philomel, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-399-25078-1

As in Thank You, Mr. Falker, Polacco examines her childhood, her confused awareness of herself and her schoolmates as different—"retards," according to their common nemesis—and her teacher, an imposing and passionate woman who changes their lives. Mrs. Parkinson makes her mark immediately in a class of children who involuntarily shout (Gibbie, who has Tourette's), do not speak (Ravanne, a foster child), or don't seem able to learn fast enough (Polacco herself). Stung when the "normal" kids call their class "the junkyard," the students accompany Mrs. Parkinson to a real junkyard, where she urges them to find treasures and build something new: "Forget what the object was... imagine what it could be!" Like her earlier autobiographical stories, this tale of Polacco's group and of the model plane they restore ("This baby is goin' all the way to the moon!") thrills, saddens, touches, and inspires, all at once. The death of their kindest classmate and loyal guardian, Jody, whose too-rapid growth defeats his heart, is the most difficult moment in this complex and deeply felt book. Not to be missed. Ages 6–9. (July)