The terrible fear of speaking in public in front of others—no words will come out, no terror like it—is given passionate form in Polacco’s latest, based, as her books often are, on an event from her own life.
The Patricia of the story is the author herself as a girl, who loves to read and write but is reduced to quivering silence when asked even to read aloud. Her beloved English teacher sends her to the drama teacher, Mr. Wayne, where she takes refuge in painting scenery and listening to every word of dialogue and stage direction. Soon she is acting as prompter, as she holds the entire play in her head. When the girl playing the lead suddenly moves away without a word to anyone at the school, everyone knows only Patricia has all the words. Mr. Wayne gives Patricia the tools she needs on stage: breathe, move, “let the play take you.” And she does! The last page tells how Polacco’s Mr. Wayne helped her overcome her deep shyness, allowing her now to speak to many with joy and energy. Her usual pencil-and-marker–patterned dots, flowers and stripes adorn the exuberantly dramatized figures of teachers, students and heroine.
Like Polacco’s Thank You, Mr. Falker (1998) and others, an inspiring tale made all the more so by its roots in life. (Picture book. 7-10)