Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco is an autobiographical picture book of a young girl’s struggle to learn how to read. Trisha’s grandfather followed the Jewish tradition of dropping honey on to a book when she turned five. The whole family in a single voice told her,
Knowledge is like the bee that made that sweet honey, you have to chase it through the pages of a book.
Trisha loved to listen to stories and draw pictures; however, first grade was pure torture for her. The letters made no sense, and sounds were no better. Trisha was convinced that she was dumb.
By the time she became a third grader, school was a miserable experience. The worst came from kids who laughed at her. Patricia Polacco writes and illustrates her books, so this picture of her when she was teased clearly shows her tortured days.
Of course, Trisha hated school but continued to be passed on to the next grade each year. But her fifth grade year a new teacher arrived and Mr. Falker would not tolerate students making fun of Trisha when it was her turn to read.
We learn that Eric bullies her every day, so she finds a place to hide during recess, a place to feel safe. When Mr. Falker catches Eric teasing in her hiding place, Eric is marched off to the principal’s office.
And then with the help of a reading teacher Mr Falker discovers strategies to help Trisha with her dyslexia. After many tutoring sessions after school, Trisha finally learns to read.
The irony of this story? This child who could draw but not read for so many years is now an award winning author and illustrator of over 50 children’s books.
This is a great book for older children because you can read it aloud in a few minutes and then ask some reflective questions for a discussion or journal writing.
- Have you ever felt dumb at school? Did others make fun of you? Describe your feelings.
- Have you ever bullied or made fun of someone who was not successful at school or struggled in a certain subject?
- Have you watched someone bullied? How did you feel? What did you do?
- What is dyslexia?
- Could you help someone who struggles to read? Have you tried?
- How do Patricia’s drawings in this book help the reader understand how Patricia feels?
This is one of those books that I can read and reread and still feel the pain of this young girl. Read this to a child you know or volunteer to read it at an elementary school.
I am thankful for teachers who inspire children to find their strengths and also find ways to stop bullying and teach children to respect each others’ differences.