Tikvah Means Hope by Patricia Polacco

Tikvah Means Hope by Patricia Polacco


Publishing: Doubleday, New York, 1994.

Description: Mr. Roth, his two neighbors Duane and Justine, and his cat Tikvah, are preparing for the Jewish celebration of Thanksgiving by building a Sukkah. When they go to the market for supplies, a fire breaks out in the area and all of their neighbors must seek shelter in a local gym for a few days. Upon returning, the neighborhood is in poor shape, except for the Sukkah, which is perfectly intact. Mr. Roth proclaims it a miracle, and even more of a miracle when he finds the missing cat, Tikvah, in the hut. He explains that her name means hope in Hebrew.

Programming: This would be great to read when discussing Jewish culture, or even around Thanksgiving to discuss the way that other cultures give thanks. Students might build (or draw) their own Tikvahs and fill them with the things they are thankful for.

Ginger and Petunia by Patricia Polacco

Ginger and Petunia by Patricia Polacco


Publishing: Philomel, New York, 2007.

Description: Virginia “Ginger” Vincent Folsum is a very rich and classy lady. Petunia is her pet pig. Ginger does everything to take care of Petunia. However, when Ginger has to go to London and her house-sitter does not show up, Petunia takes over the duties- and wardrobe!- of her owner, with uproarious results. 

Programming: This is a fun story about how pets can sometimes be our best friends. Many students may be surprised by the fact that people actually keep pigs as pets in their houses. I would definitely include some information or videos about pigs as pets, especially their need to role in the mud because their skin is sensitive to sunlight. This might lead to other discussions about people who have non-traditional pets, such as fish, birds, rabbits, snakes, etc. 

The friendship theme could also be explored. Why did Petunia take over Ginger’s responsibilities? What kinds of things do students do for their pets? etc. 

The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco

The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco

Publishing: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2012.

Description: Patricia Polacco struggled in school for several years until someone figured out that she was dyslexic. This is the story of her art teacher, Miss Chew, and how her caring helped Patricia start to see that she was not unintelligent, she just saw the world a little differently.

Programming: This would be a great book to read to any students that are struggling, because Polacco’s story is inspiring. It might be included with a whole class’s lessons on learning diversity. In a public library, patrons might write or draw their own favorite teacher.

My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco

My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco

Publishing: Simon and Schuster, New York, 1994

Description: Patricia and her brother, Richard, are always competing. It seems like Richard wins at everything, and can always brag that he is four years older and will always win at that too. When Patricia sees a falling star she wishes that she could do something better than her brother. The next day at the fair she does: she rides the merry-go-round longer than Richard. Only, when she gets off she immediately passes out and Richard is the one who carries her home and fetches the doctor. Patricia realizes that she is lucky to have a brother like Richard after all.

Programming: This book is very relatable for students who have siblings. They might talk or write about a time when they got into a fight with either a sibling or a friend.

Polacco lists some suggestions for discussion questions and activities on her own site. My favorite includes having each student make a list of things they love about their sibling. (Only children could talk about friends or other relatives)


“G” is for Goat by Patricia Polacco

“G” is for Goat by Patricia Polacco


Publishing: Puffin, New York, 2006. 

Description: This alphabet book is cleverly themed around goats. For example, the “b” is for billy goat, “v” is for “vet” and “k” is for kid. 

Programming: This would be good for a unit about farms, farm animals, or just to mix into a class who is first learning their ABCs because it centers around a specific topic. 

Oh, Look! by Patricia Polacco

Oh, Look! by Patricia Polacco

Publishing: Penguin, New York, 2004.

Description: Several goats from the farm find their way out of the gate and through, under, around, and between several obstacles, until they see something that sends them back home on the exact path they took to get there.

Programming: This would be a wonderful tie-in for a study of prepositions because it uses a variety of them: between, through, around, under, etc.

Babushka’s Doll by Patricia Polacco

Babushka’s Doll by Patricia Polacco


Publishing: Simon and Schuster, New York, 1990

Description: Natasha is an impatient little girl who constantly asks her Babushka to do things for her. One day Natasha notices a beautiful doll sitting on a high shelf. Natasha’s babushka says she only played with the doll once as a child, but tells the girl she can play with it while the babushka goes to the market. As soon as her babushka leaves, the doll comes to life and Natasha must cater to her every whim. When the babushka comes back and finds Natasha crying, she tells her she must have had a bad dream and that she can play with the doll anytime she wants. Natasha tells her that once is enough. 

Programming: This would be very cool if lumped together in a series about toys or dolls. The class could talk about different toys, or specifically types of dolls, found in different countries and time periods. You could even order your own blank white dolls and allow students to decorate their own with markers or puff paint, as seen here: http://www.lilblueboo.com/2011/09/puffy-paint-dolls-monsters-a-tutorial.html

Boys might be more interested in this if they can decorate them as monsters as the picture shows. Other tie-ins would be the russian word “Babushka” and Natasha’s lesson in patience. Team building activities might reinforce students’ own patience.