The Junkyard Wonders

Multicultural Picture Book by Therese Seiler


  • Patricia Polacco was born on July 11, 1944 in Lansing, Michigan. She comes from a cultural heritage that is rich with an Irish, Russian, and Ukrainian background. She continues to travel the country, reading her books to children and sharing her unique story and diverse background experiences. She discovered that she had dyslexia at the age of 14, and her struggles and experiences are especially shown in her book The Junkyard Wonders. She remembers listening to the stories of her grandparents, sitting around the fire and eating apples and popcorn as a child. Her grandparents were a very influential part of her life considering that her parents divorced when she was three years old. When her family moved to California she experienced a neighborhood rich with cultural diversity. She spent most of her time in California, and then went to Michigan for the summers. Reading was something she always struggled with and she never lied reading in front of everyone because she was embarrassed. However, drawing was her strong suit, and that acted as a kind of confidence booster for her to be accepted by her classmates. After earning a degree in Fine Arts, she continued to receive a Ph.D. in Art History.
  • She had two children, and didn't actually start writing books until the age of 41. She says her stories came from her imagination. Growing up listening to stories as entertainment really helped to spark her imagination. She started by drawing pictures and eventually put words to the pictures. Today, she shares her stories with her overcame fear and her long known talent by writing and illustrating children's books. Research the author, illustrator, the customs/traditions, history, language, etc. of this particular book.

Evaluation of Book

  • 1. Honor and celebrate diversity.-This story shows diversity in the classroom, the various struggles that each student has and how the teacher uses these differences to help each student achieve success. The teacher reads a clip on what a genius is, and then continues throughout the story to help her students realize that they are all geniuses.
  • 2. Invite reflection, critical analysis, and response.-This story contains numerous outlooks on diversity. From learning struggles, to language struggles, and even cultural differences within the family. There are various obstacles that occur for this group of children, which leads them to solving these problems.
  • 3. Have an appealing format and be of endearing quality.-This book can easily be related to every child. Whether they struggle with school a lot or a little, every student knows how it feels to struggle with something. Children have lost loved ones, had divorced parents, and have hopefully been touched by inspiring teachers that changed their lives even at their young age. This book shows how a class comes together despite their differences, and they go on to achieve so much.


  • Diversity-being different, variety
  • Genius-a person having such capacity (potential)
  • (I will present these words on two separate posters with the word and definition and have the children draw what the words remind them of.)

Instructional Sequence

  • The teacher will begin by asking the children, "Have any of you ever been to a junkyard before?"
  • "What do you think you would find in a junkyard? Do you think you would find anything that you could use?"
  • The teacher will show picture of the woman and ask to students to describe the picture. "What do you see?"
  • The teacher will show the picture of the woman drawn with the trash and ask, "What is different about this picture from the first one? Are they similar?"
  • The teacher will explain that this picture is made out of trash, taken from one of the biggest open air landfills in Latin America (teacher will show Latin America on the map). The artist was born in Seo Paulo, Brazil, which was very close to this landfill. He grew up in a working class and very poor family, so he would search for any salvageable materials to reuse in the landfill, along with many other people as well. He received compensation (money) for an accident that he was in, and he used the money to go to college and earn a degree. He returned to his homeland to take pictures of the actual people (called catadores) who searched through the trash to recycle the items they found. Then he drew their pictures on huge canvases and used actual trash from the landfill to 'color' or fill in parts of the pictures. He wanted to raise awareness of how one person's trash is another person's treasure. He wanted to show the world all the good that these catadores were doing by recycling unwanted trash.
  • "Today we are going to read a book called 'The Junkyard Wonders' by Patricia Pollaco."
  • "What do you think this story is going to be about? Why? What do you see on the cover?"
  • Read pg. 1 and 2
  • "Have any of you ever had to move to a new school before? Do you think it would be scary?"
  • Read pg. 3
  • "What do you think a genius is?" She will take a few ideas and then write the definition on the paper labeled 'Genius'. She will explain that being a genius doesn't always mean you are the smartest person, sometimes you're just the most creative or different.
  • Read pg. 4, 5, and 6
  • "Why do you think they call Trisha's class the Junkyard?"
  • Read pg. 7, 8, and 9
  • "Do you think Trisha likes her class now?"
  • Read pg 10 and 11
  • "Why do you think Mrs. Peterson calls her students the 'Junkyard Wonders'?"
  • "Look around at our class. Do we look different? Do we have different colors of hair, eyes? Do we like different things? Are some subjects easier for us than others?"
  • "What would the world be like if we all looked and acted the same way? Do you think our world would be very exciting if everyone did all the same things, liked all the same things, wore all the same things?"
  • Read pg. 12
  • "Do you think the plane will make it to the moon?"
  • Read pg. 13, 14, 15, and 16
  • "How are the students similar to their plane?"
  • Skip pg. 17
  • Read pg. 18 and 19
  • "What do you think the students are going to do? What would you do?"
  • "Do you think they'll get to fly the plane?"
  • Read pg. 20, 22, 23, and 24 (skip pg 21)
  • "What did the students learn? What did Trisha learn?"
  • "Do you know what diversity means?"
  • "Why is diversity a good thing?"
  • "How would you make a difference in the world?"
  • "What do you want to do to change the world?"
  • The teacher will explain that the students are going to go to the 'Junkyard' (items collected by the teacher) and pick an item. The teacher will show the poster board with the countries drawn on it and have the students place their chosen trash on one of the countries.
  • The teacher will also have the two posters with "Genius" and its definition and "Diversity" and its definition and ask the students to write a word or phrase or draw a picture that would help them remember what the word means.

Wasteland by Vik Muniz

Vik Muniz was born and raised in Seo Paulo, Brazil in 1961. He came from a working class family, but made the most of the circumstances that came his way. He lived very close to one of the largest open air landfill in Latin America called Jardim Gramacho. Children, such as Vik, would go to the dump to find anything that was salvageable or could be reused. While trying to stop a fight, he was shot in the leg and received a high sum of money as compensation. After attending college and receiving a degree he sought out to change the world with his knowledge and his unique background. He took pictures of some of the actual people, called catadores, who look for trash to reuse, and then he used trash from the actual landfill to transform those pictures into an unprecedented type of art. He used this gallery called "Pictures of Garbage" to show the world how something as useless as garbage can be transformed into something unique and beautiful. He sought out to make the world more aware of people who live day to day barely scraping by, doing so much for so little. He has started many awareness groups and foundations to help the less fortunate. One catadores stated, “Sometimes we see ourselves as so small, but people out there see us as so big, so beautiful." (


  • I chose this particular book because I saw a great variety of intelligence and learning styles in my classroom. Some students were very high learners, and others were very low or right in the middle. This book really showed how being different is a part of who we are as humans. Some of the students in my class don't think being smart is all that great, and other students really struggle with certain subjects and oftentimes want to just give up. This book showed how one class came together, despite their differences, and learned how important it is to be different.
  • One of my biggest strengths during the read aloud was my 'Junkyard Wonder' activity at the end. I had to revise it the day of in order to make it work, so they each made their own 'Junkyard Wonder', wrote what they made and why it was useful, and then they got to present their creation to the class. The students were very excited to do this, and they all came up with extraordinary creations that blew my mind! Most of my questions during the read aloud worked very well, and the students had great answers that flowed from the question.
  • Using CHAMPS before my lesson is something I am going to do next time. Some of the students can forget their expectations, and my classroom management was very rocky. I did my best to quell any unwanted behaviors at the very beginning. When I presented my lesson it was well over 30 minutes, and I would've realistically probably been able to do it for 3 days or even as a week unit. I also believe that even though the book related well to my class, it was still probably too long for one day of reading. Differentiating is also something I want to work on. There is a very broad range of abilities in my classroom, and I feel as though I didn't ask enough questions about comprehension and focused too much on critical thinking and application. At the beginning of my lesson, I had decided not to show pictures because I thought that it would be distracting. However, I realized that some of the students were becoming a little disinterested, and when I did begin to show more pictures they were definitely more into the lesson. I quickly discovered that most of this class are visual learners and the lesson went a lot better after that.
  • Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically divers relative to my elementary students has helped me really see more clearly how these students view themselves, as well as how they see those around them. This lesson also showed me more clearly which students are low, medium, and high learners. This particular class seems very much like "The Junkyard Wonders". They all come from SUCH different backgrounds and home lives, family traditions, and parental involvement. The answers they gave for the questions I asked showed in some ways how confident they were as well and what kind of personalities they had. With all I've learned through this lesson, I also know that I will continue to learn so much more about my students.