Prather’s Pick: An inspirational book for young people
This week’s book has a message for children (perhaps even adults) who have a problem speaking to audiences. It doesn’t matter whether the audience is made up of classmates or people who have come to watch a performance, some young people just freeze up. It’s terrifying for them.
“Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece” is an inspirational book by best-selling author Patricia Polacco. It’s her newest book that’s based on her own personal experience. Polacco has written and illustrated ninety picture books for children.
The story begins in September when school starts. Trisha (short for “Patricia”) is excited because her new English teacher, Mr. Tranchina, inspires her to read and write. In fact, she writes like crazy. But then one day, M. T. asks the class to read their family essays to the class. That’s something that Trisha thinks she cannot do.
Trisha knows that she has to read the essay so she gets up in front of the class and tries. Her knees knock. Her heart is beating. She can’t move her lower jaw. The class stares at Trisha, but Mr. T. encourages her. He says that her classmates are her friends. But no matter what — Trisha’s voice just won’t come out. Mr. T. lets Trisha take her seat.
Later that day, however, something happens to change everything, but Trisha doesn’t know it at the time. Mr. T. introduces her to Mr. Wayne, the drama teacher. Mr. T. has told Mr. Wayne that Trisha has trouble speaking in front of the class. He thinks maybe Mr. Wayne’s class can help; they’re working on a winter play.
Trisha’s mother, a teacher herself, was an actress at one time. She thinks it’s wonderful that Trisha is part of the drama class. She thinks that maybe Trisha will be able to get up in front of an audience and speak a part; Trisha thinks she can’t.
At first, Trisha is in charge of painting the scenery. Mr. Wayne has written “Musette in the Snow Garden,” the play that he kiddingly calls his masterpiece. Trisha loves the class. She even participates in some of the exercises with other class members.
Then Mr. Wayne announces the parts. Kathleen Burns will play the lead, Musette. Mr. Wayne tells the students that they have to memorize the parts, but some don’t. However, Trisha knows everybody’s lines. As she paints she listens to the rehearsal, and one day when a cast member misses a line, she says it out loud. That’s when Mr. Wayne makes her the prompter.
Then the impossible happens! Kathleen Burns is gone! The family moved away without telling anyone, and the role of Musette is left without an actress. The class members think Trisha should take the lead; after all, she knows all of the lines. Trisha doesn’t think she can do it. She just freezes up when she looks out where the audience will be seated.
The class members beg Trisha, and Mr. Wayne doesn’t give up. The ending is heartwarming, indeed.
Most of Patricia Polacco’s picture books are based on true stories from her family’s Russian heritage. “The Keeping Quilt” is an example.
“Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece” is published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of the Penguin Group. This 2014 book costs $17.99 in hardcover. It is also a new book in the children’s room at the library.