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Picnic at Mudsock Meadow


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About the Author

Studying in the United States and Australia, Patricia Polacco has earned an MFA and a PhD in art history, specializing in Russian and Greek painting, and iconographic history. She is a museum consultant on the restoration of icons. As a participant in many citizen-exchange programs for writers and illustrators, Ms. Polacco has traveled extensively in Russia as well as other former Soviet republics. She continues to support programs that encourage Russo-American friendships and understanding. She is also deeply involved in inner-city projects in the United States that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict and encourage art and literacy programs. The mother of a grown son and a daughter, she currently resides in Michigan, where she has a glorious old farm that was built during the time of Lincoln.


K-Gr 2-- The Mudsock Meadow kids are waiting for the wienie roast at the annual Grange Hall Halloween picnic. Nearby is Quicksand Bottoms, the marsh from which the ghost of miner Titus Dinworthy is reputed to rise each night. When Hester makes fun of William's explanation that the legendary ghost is nothing but swamp gas, he tries, but fails, to reclaim his dignity by besting her in the pumpkin-carving, seed-spitting, and pie-eating contests. But he finds a more courageous way to win Hester's admiration: by meeting the dreaded ghost face-to-face and debunking its myth. The watercolor illustrations, in harvest colors, are typical Polacco: exaggerations approaching the cartoonish, but belying too much loving reverence to be considered as such. A crew of gangly, wide-eyed country characters populate the pages. There's lots of energy within each picture, and it often bounces around from person to person as the characters make startled eye contact with one another. Polacco's artwork couldn't be better--simultaneously funny and poignant; packed with interest and good humor; and always a feast for the eye. The story feels golden and genuine. Its ending, though, is predictable, as opposed to the emotional punch line that gives her Chicken Sunday (Philomel, 1992), for example, its extra-special impact. This basic difference between the two books will invite comparisons, from which Picnic may emerge looking almost fabulous. --Liza Bliss, formerly at Leominster Public Library, MA

A cast of clamorous children and colorful adults vivifies Polacco's latest childhood memory. Know-it-all Hester is always the first to point out shy William's shortcomings. At the annual Halloween picnic, however, William--having suffered humiliation throughout pumpkin carving, pumpkin seed spitting and tug-o'-war--decides to get even. He jumps into the eerie, glowing swamp nearby and emerges with a scary look that wins the costume contest hands down--and Hester's admiration, too. Polacco's text has the easy-going rhythm of a seasoned storyteller. Memorable nomenclature makes the proceedings distinctive, while many homey details exude feelings of small-town coziness and simplicity. Humorous scenes, such as a crew of girls from the Wah Tan Yee Girls Auxillary, Wigwam

Polacco's artwork couldn't be better. -School Library Journal

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