Did you know that many of Patricia Polacco’s books are drawn from events from her childhood, a childhood spent in a large extended family full of immigrants? When you read Polacco’s work, you understand how deeply important her family and its history is to her. You can tell that she embraces differences and diversity and appreciates intergenerational relationships. One of her over 115 children’s books, Chicken Sunday is one of my favorites from Polacco, and one that exemplifies her embrace of others, alike or different, young or old.
So why do I love Chicken Sunday? First, you need to know that this story of kindness, generosity, and perseverance not only models those characteristics, but is also beautifully diverse. Based on Polacco’s childhood time in Oakland, California, we learn that Polacco, a young girl from a Ukranian immigrant family, is lovingly welcomed to be a part of Miss Eula’s family — a Black, Baptist family that included Polacco’s “brothers” (by virtue of a “solemn ceremony we had performed in their backyard”) and her “gramma” (because her babushka had recently died).
Next, you need to know about the richness of Polacco’s illustrations — be sure to notice details like the tangle of telephone wires on the dedication page (dedicated to one of her friends depicted in the story), actual family photos on china cabinet around Miss Eula’s house, religious and cultural artifacts on the walls. Polacco also captures incredible depth of emotion in her character’s faces and eyes, allowing us to connect more authentically to the story.
And y’all, Polacco’s language is as rich as her illustrations! With phrases like “She had a voice like slow thunder and sweet rain” and “laughed from a deep, holy place inside,” her works are exceptional models for budding writers.
But, let’s not use Chicken Sunday just as a model for writing and illustrating, though. Let us all try to learn from how Polacco and her neighbors lived. Maybe we can open our homes and our families to those in need of company. Maybe we can help our children learn to look past adults’ exteriors to learn their stories. Maybe we can give generously when it seems we don’t have much to give, simply to make someone else happy. And, maybe we can do all of these things despite differences in race, in religion, in age, in ethnicity, in heritage… Wouldn’t that be nice?