[Originally posted on October 20, 2011 here]
The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco
When I picked my second-grade twins up from school yesterday, their teacher (also a friend of mine), tearfully told me about this book she had just finished reading to the class, and she urged me to take it home and read it, so I did.
Young Trisha has a learning disability and is the target of teasing and bullying. She longs to go live with her dad and grandma in Michigan and make a fresh start, where nobody will know how dumb she is. In Michigan, however, she is bewildered and crushed to find herself in a “special” class, just like in California where she lived with her mom.
Enter Mrs. Peterson, the teacher of this class – known as The Junkyard for its misfits, oddballs, and seemingly discarded kids. Her introduction misleads the reader into thinking she is a harsh character, until she explains the definition of genius to her class:
“Genius is neither learned nor acquired.
It is knowing without experience
It is risking without fear of failure
It is perception without touch
It is understanding without research
It is certainty without proof
It is ability without practice
It is invention without limitations
It is imagination without boundaries
It is creativity without constraints
It is……extraordinary intelligence!”
… and tells them that this describes each of them.
And thus follows an uplifting narrative about how these kids find their own worth, and their own special genius.
This story, inspired by the author’s own true-life experiences, is a wonderful parable about diversity, tolerance, and the value of all people, no matter what their differences or limitations might be. I love that my kids’ teacher is sharing these principles in her classroom. A wonderful story for teachers and parents alike to share with elementary school- age children.