Title: Thank You, Mr. Falker
Author(s): Patricia Polacco
Illustrator/Photographer: Patricia Polacco
Publisher and Year: Philomel / 1998
Number of pages: 37
This book is mainly a window into the life of the little girl in the story, who we learn at the end is really the author, Patricia Polacco. Through this window, she gives us a view into her difficult life growing up, struggling with learning to grade all the way up until fifth grade because of unresponsive teachers the bullying that she faced as a result.
The power distribution in this book initially makes the little girl seem very weak, naive, and afraid, as she well is before she meets Mr. Falker. While she is depicted as weak and scared, the bully children who torment her are shown as dominating and intimidating, oftentimes just plain frightening, though they too get beaten down to a lower level of power by the end of the novel as Mr. Falker comes to Patricia’s rescue. Mr. Falker himself, though not really depicted as extremely “powerful”, is however shown as being an extremely gentle and comforting figure who is somewhat larger than life, and through these kind influences, has much power to do good indeed.
The main character and her family in this novel are white and seem pretty well-off as an average middle class family, though interestingly in the scene where the family moves to California from their farm, the father is obviously not in the picture as only the girl’s mother and brother are ever seen/mentioned. There is cultural diversity seen in many of the classroom illustrations though, and the girl’s grandparents appear to be from some kind of European descent going by the way the grandmother is illustrated.
Perceptually, one could gather that the book is about a little girl who experiences difficulty in school and bullying, as well as other troubles that go along with those situations. Symbolically, a main symbol in the book is dripping honey on a hand-me-down family book, given to each child on their fifth birthday, signifying the sweet joys of learning to read and how they must penetrate all the pages of the book in order to be completely understood. Mr.
Falker himself is symbolic as a savior of sorts for Patricia, as she felt hopeless and alone in the world until he came along and gave her hope and confidence that she would learn. Not only that, but he came through on his word, working tirelessly with her for months until she could read a whole paragraph in a chapter book by herself. Ideologically speaking, some characters come off as better off than others, at least initially. Patricia is anything but, and thinks the same of herself because she’s been bullied into thinking it so many times by her classmates,
but by the end, she’s on top of the world and overjoyed at her progress. Mr. Falker is depicted right off the bat in the first scene in which he appears as quite perfect; tall, good-looking, well-dressed in bright colors with a fancy butterfly tie. This image of him basically doesn’t change through the book, though he does become more humanized by his desire to help Patricia.