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Polacco to give KIPCOR peace lecture

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- Patricia Polacco, children’s author, artist and storyteller, will speak on "The Heroes of My Life," at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, April 18 in Memorial Hall on the Bethel College campus in North Newton. The lecture is part of the 2003-04 Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) Peace Lecture Series. Admission is free and open to the public. Since beginning her writing career at age 41, Polacco has written and illustrated more than 30 children’s books, including "The Keeping Quilt," recipient of the 1987 Sydney Taylor Book Award.

"From the first time people encounter Polacco’s books, they are magnetized by them," said Elizabeth Friesen, North Newton, a long-time educator who has played an integral role in bringing Polacco to the area. Before retiring from full-time teaching, Friesen promised her third grade class at Sunset Elementary School in Newton that she would try to bring Polacco to Kansas.

Born to parents of Russian-Ukrainian and Irish descent, Polacco spent her school years in Oakland, Calif., and her summers near Union City, Mich. Her Oakland neighborhood was full of people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. Some of these childhood neighbors became models for characters in her books. Storytelling family members, particularly her grandparents, also influenced Polacco.

"My fondest memories are of sitting around a stove or open fire, eating apples and popping corn while listening to the old ones tell glorious stories about their homeland and the past," recalled Polacco.

Studying in the United States and Australia, Polacco earned a master’s degree in fine arts and a doctoral degree in art history, specializing in Russian and Greek painting and iconography, at Ohio State University. Polacco is a museum consultant on the restoration of icons and is involved in inner-city projects that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict and encourage art and literacy programs.

Many of Polacco’s books have earned awards, including "Thank You, Mr. Falker," a 1998 Parents’ Choice Award-winning, autobiographical tale about a special teacher who helped Polacco learn to read. The Boston Area Educators for Social Responsibility awarded "Chicken Sunday" the Children’s Literature and Social Responsibility Award in 1992, and the Jane Adams Peace Association and Women’s International League gave "Mrs. Katz and Tush" the Peace and Freedom Honor Award in 1993 for its "effective contribution to peace and social justice."

"Patricia Polacco's rich and delightful tales and vivid illustrations encourage children and adults alike to explore how persons of different cultures and abilities relate to each other. They also inspire us to pass on our traditions and values of our own families," said Friesen.

This final lecture in the 2003-04 KIPCOR series is made possible in part by the Peace with Justice Task Force and the Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church.

In addition to delivering the KIPCOR lecture, Polacco will make visits to schools in Newton, Goessel and Wichita. These visits are also made possible by the Kansas Arts Commission, Kauffman Museum, USD 373, USD 411, Chisholm Trail Credit Union, The Chimney Specialists, Parent Teacher Organizations and friends in North Newton, Newton, Hesston and Halstead.

For information, contact Gary Flory or Jean Isaac at (316) 284-5217.

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