I was only recently introduced to picture book author and illustrator Patricia Polacco, a gap in my kidlit education and appreciation if there ever was one. Ms. Polacco writes rich traditional family stories about children and their cultural heritage. Often the stories are based on or come from the Russian/Irish family history and traditions of Ms. Polacco’s birth family.
“My fondest memories are of sitting around a stove or open fire, eating apples and popping popcorn while listening to the old ones tell glorious stories about the past.”
Thunder Cake, the author tells us in the introduction to the book, “is the story of how my grandma—my Babushka—helped me overcome my fear of thunderstorms.” Babushka tells the little granddaughter in the story to come out from under the bed and count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder to see how far away the storm is. Then, they will know how long they have to bake a thunder cake “and get it into the oven before the storm comes, or it won’t be a real Thunder Cake.”
The impending thunderstorm becomes an occasion for celebration and for facing down fears as the girl and her Babushka gather the ingredients for the thunder cake. Babushka teaches her granddaughter to draw on the courage that she has within herself while depending on the loving support of her Babushka.
If you want to enjoy the entire story now, here it is, read by the author:
I just added Thunder Cake to my library, and I’m pleased to think of my patrons enjoying the story together. It even has the requisite recipe for “Thunder Cake” on the last page—a cake recipe with a secret ingredient. Who could resist?
I have two other books by this author in my library: Mrs. Katz and Tush and The Keeping Quilt. There are several others I would like to have, including The Blessing Cup, An Orange for Frankie, Christmas Tapestry, Pink and Say, The Bee Tree, Chicken Sunday, and Rechenka’s Eggs. In fact, I guess I’ve became a Patricia Polacco fan.