Polacco tells another very personal story of an amazing teacher in this book. Trisha thinks she has a fresh start when she moves to live with her grandparents and father. She expects that she will no longer be in a special needs class anymore, but in her new school she is once again in a special class. At this school, the class is known as The Junkyard. Happily though, it has an incredible teacher in Mrs. Peterson. Mrs. Peterson begins the school year talking about what genius is, and continues to lead the class forward by inspiring them every day. She allows them to create their dreams, to realize that a junkyard is place of opportunity, and to achieve and grow. When tragedy strikes the class, they persevere on with their efforts as a tribute.
Polacco’s books are always heartfelt and vibrantly real. Here readers see that differences are not disadvantages and friends are not always the most likely but can be the longest lasting. The arc of the story takes readers through a wide range of emotions, from the dismay and shame of the special class to the achievements they realize to the loss they experience together. Her tributes to teachers and the difference the great ones make in children’s lives could not be more timely and more timeless.
As always, Polacco’s illustrations are bright and evocative. Obviously based on real people, the characters in the book are consistently portrayed and entirely unique from one another.
Highly recommended for all children, whether in special classes or not. I guarantee they will all long to be part of a Junkyard class by the end of the book. This would make a great book for elementary classrooms discussing diversity and differences. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books.
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