Patricia Barber Polacco (born July 11, 1944, Lansing, Michigan) is the author and illustrator of numerous picture books for children.
She struggled in school because she was unable to read until age 14 due to dyslexia; she found relief by expressing herself through art. Polacco endured teasing and hid her disability until a schoolteacher recognized that she could not read and began to help her. Her book Thank You, Mr. Falker is Polacco's retelling of this encounter and its outcome.
Her family is of Russian and Ukrainian descent on one side and Irish on the other. The early years of Polacco's childhood were spent at her grandmother's farm in Union City, Michigan, the setting for many of her published stories. She now resides on another farm in Union City, originally called The Plantation. Although Polacco's grandmother died in 1949, when Polacco was only 5, "Babushka" or grandmother in Russian, appears in several of Polacco's books.
After her grandmother's death, the family moved to Coral Gables, Florida, and then three years later to Oakland, California. Polacco's parents had divorced when she was three, and she and her brother therefore spent their early life living in two places: school years with their mother in the bustling environment of Oakland, California, and summers with their father and his parents on a farm in Michigan. Polacco was discouraged in school and did not learn to read until she was nearly fourteen. In junior high school, one of her teachers finally discovered that dyslexia was the reason for her lack of confidence. In high school, she became friends with Frank Oz. Polacco wrote "When Lightning Comes in a Jar" as a tribute to her babushka, and to her Detroit Tiger cousin Billy. Patricia Polacco attended Ohio State University and earned a Master's Degree in Fine Arts and a Ph.D. in Art History. Patricia Polacco did not start writing and illustrating her first children's book until she was 41 years old.
1992 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Golden Kite Award for Illustration for Chicken Sunday
1992 Boston Area Educators for Social Responsibility
Children’s Literature and Social Responsibility Award
Nov. 9th 1993 Jane Adams Peace Assoc. and Women’s Intl. League for Peace and Freedom Awards
Honor Award for Mrs. Katz and Tush for its effective contribution to peace and social justice.
Parent’s Choice Honors
1991 Some Birthday
1997 Video/Dream Keeper
1998 Thank You, Mr. Falker
1996 North Dakota Library Association Children’s Book Award for My Rotten Red Headed Older Brother
1996 Jo Osborne Award for Humor in Children’s Literature
1997 Missouri Association of School Librarians
Show Me Readers Award for My Rotten Red Headed Older Brother
1997 West Virginia Children’s Book Award for Pink and Say
1998 Mid-South Independent Booksellers for Children Humpty Dumpty Award
2014 Sydney Taylor Book Award for The Blessing Cup
Articles written about Polacco
Vandergrift, Kay E. "Peacocks, Dreams, Quilts, and Honey: Patricia Polacco, A Woman's Voice of Remembrance," In Ways of Knowing: Literature and the Intellectual Life of Children. Ed. By Kay E. Vandergrift. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996, pp. 259–288.
Vandergrift, Kay E. "Patricia Polacco," in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. ed. by Laura Berger. 4th ed. Detroit: St. James, 1995. 759–760.