July 15, 2013
I Can Hear the Sun by Patricia Polacco
I Can Hear the Sun
written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco
Those of us who love Polacco’s books are in for a new treat with I Can Hear the Sun.
Stephanie Michele is an animal keeper at Lake Merritt nature preserve in California. One day she spots a little boy who sits on the bench. He’s always alone and he never speaks. He just watches the geese.
The geese are Stephanie Michele’s favorites too. She invites the boy, Fondo, to help her feed the geese. Fondo lives in a nearby children’s home. Soon he is helping put out feed, and grass and cleaning the ponds. Then he spots one goose who doesn’t move around as well as the others. The little goose in blind and must be hand fed. Before long, Fondo has taken over her care. He holds her and rocks her and she follows him everywhere.
When other adults ask Stephanie Michele about Fondo, she explains that she has been listening to the sun. It tells her what is in the hearts of people and animals and what they need to thrive. Its the same way that she understands the geese.
She soon realizes that Fondo also speaks to the geese. When she asks, he admits that he can also hear the sun. But he doesn’t do well in school. When the teachers give him special tests, he flunks one after another. They tell him that he will be sent away.
But there is someplace that Fondo is wanted and the geese invite him to fly away with them.
Polacco’s books are always about family and connection, but this one reminded me a lot of the Native American tales in which the boundary between the human and animal worlds is elastic. Animals speak and very special people can cross from one to the other. My initial reaction was that the youngest readers would be confused by this elasticity but on reflection I think that it is older readers who will have a problem. Younger reader except many things that seem to fantastic for us which is too bad. We miss a lot, but we can begin to catch up when we pick up this book.