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WHEN LIGHTNING COMES IN A JAR by Patricia Polacco

WHEN LIGHTNING COMES IN A JAR

By Patricia Polacco

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: June 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-23164-1
Publisher: Philomel

Tradition abounds in this tale of a Michigan family reunion. The narrator recollects a childhood gathering in detail, including spirited descriptions of bag races, storytelling, and Jell-O. After Gramma reveals the mystery of catching lightning in a jar, the narration shifts to the present, demonstrating how ritual is passed through the generations. The author herself is pictured in the center of the new generation’s gathering, telling stories—how fitting—and teaching how to catch lightning in a jar. Polacco (Mr. Lincoln’s Way, 2001, etc.) combines enthusiastic written imagery with effective watercolor-and-pencil illustrations to create a mood of excitement. A background of cool blues and greens in this rural setting contrasts with the bright, vibrant characters. The action-packed scenes are full of animated expressions and lively movement. Although the upbeat tone is primarily inspired by the illustrations, the large amount of text, and its lack of rhyme, suggests older readers. Though sentimental at times, this is a warm story of bridging the generation gap through heritage and togetherness—and it’s fun to see the author illustrate herself as an adult. (Picture book. 6-9)