August 2017


The Junkyard Wonders

by Patricia Polacco

When young Trisha finds out her class at the new school is known as “The Junkyard,” she is devastated. She moved from her old town so she wouldn’t be in a special class anymore! But then she meets her teacher, the quirky and invincible Mrs. Peterson, and her classmates, an oddly brilliant group of students each with his or her own unique talent. And it is here in The Junkyard that Trisha learns the true meaning of genius and that everyone in this group of misfits are, in fact, wonders.

A Note from the First Lady:

August is always a busy month, as students go back to school and routines return to normal. The beginning of a new school year can be exciting, brimming with possibilities; but it can also be nerve-wracking, as we try our best to adapt to changes and new experiences.

This heartwarming story, based on real-life experiences from the author’s childhood, brings you through a school year in a very special class called The Junkyard. This group of underdogs, with guidance from their remarkable teacher Mrs. Peterson, spends the year learning to persevere in the face of adversity. As you return to school this year, I hope this book reminds you to never give up, as you too are a wonder of unique strengths and gifts.       

Keep up the great reading!

Crissy Haslam
First Lady of Tennessee

Fun Family Activities

Character Development: Trisha experiences a variety of feelings about her new school throughout the story. Write a paragraph about what Trisha thinks and feels about her new school and new class at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. What causes her feelings to change throughout the book? What happens to Trisha’s self-esteem at her new school?

Themes in the Text: Mrs. Peterson asked her students to memorize the “Definition of Genius”. Find the “Definition of Genius” in your copy of Junkyard Wonders and re-read it. Why do you think Mrs. Peterson asked them to learn this poem? How did Mrs. Peterson encourage her students? What kind of impact do you think Mrs. Peterson had on Trisha’s life and the lives of her classmates? Have you ever had a teacher that has had a positive impact on your life?

Think Outside the Box: Why does everyone call Mrs. Peterson’s class the Junkyard Wonders? What is special about each student in the class? Think about things you might find in an actual junkyard that might have other special uses! Make a list of items you’d find in a junkyard and next to them list multiple unique ways that you could use them. How many possibilities can you come up with for each one? 

Further Reading: Patricia Polacco has written many books about various topics! To follow Trisha on her next experience in school, read Thank you, Mr. Falker or The Art of Miss Chew. Each of these books, including The Junkyard Wonders, is based on experiences or people in the author’s life! To explore other topics and go on adventures with some new characters, check out Babushka’s Doll, The Lemonade Club, or Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln from your local library.