Tucky Jo and Little Heart
Patricia Polacco is a picture book writer with the rare ability
to combine image and word in a way that makes characters in complex
situations accessible (in fact, irrisistable) to child and parent
alike. The arrival of her newest offering at the Orono Public Library
children's wing (where I volunteer) always makes for a red letter
day. Tucky Jo and Little Heart is no exception.
When Polacco encountered a WWII reunion at a hotel in Virginia
she was invited to join the soldiers who were exchanging stories.
When she returned home she she had been so inspired and touched by
their accounts that she sought out veterans in her own village. Tucky
Jo and Little Heart is the narrative of a man named Johnnie Wallen.
Kentucky Jon grew up in rural Kentucky. As a young man he took
pride in his county fair prize winning sharp shooting and intended to
spark "...the sweetest little ol' gal, Freda Hall, from over
Like many in his generation, he had his plans interrupted by
America's entrance into WWII. He enlisted underage and was eager to
go into battle. The unending combat and the killing and suffering he
saw changed his mind and made him mighty homesick to be back with his
family and eat his mom's good cooking.
"...To think that I wanted in on all this fightin'...Now I knew
there ain't no glory in war. But I was in the army and it was up to
me to take a stand and fight for my country."
One day, using a machete to cut down underbrush and vines to
clear land for an air strip, he was exhausted and covered with
stinging insect bites. A little native girl showed him how to use
plant sap to tame the bites. That was the beginning of a friendship
that grew to include his unit and her village. He was even able to
get her people evacuated before the jungle was bombed.
Kentucky Jon was sure he'd never see that little girl again.
Fate had other plans.
Although Tucky Jo and Little Heart is a picture book it can be
used with older kids with questions such as:
*Kentucky Jon's attitude toward war changes when he is personally
involved in battle. Do you think this still happens today to
servicepeople? What factors might lead to unrealistic expectations?
*Kentucky Jon and his unit see the civilians as people and develop a
relationship with them. Today's drone warfare takes away this element
of personal contact. What effect will it have on military people and
the civilians of their country and the nation they are fighting in?
On a personal note, I'm about to head in to UMaine to run errands and
go to the Wilson Center dinner and event. It would take more than a
little snow to make me miss out.
A great big shout out goes out to Sarah and her crew who every
Wednesday with lively programming and scrumptious food make the Wilson
Center (where I got married 26 1/2 years ago BTW) a mighty fine place
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod