by Nancy Bo Flood on October 24, 2013

Post image for THE  MATCHBOX DIARY

THE MATCHBOX  DIARY by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Choose one. 

Great-grandfather asks his great-granddaughter to pick “what you like the most.  Then I’ll tell you its story.”

What will she choose?  An old jewelry box … a case of fine fountain pens … a mirror?

The young girl makes an unusual choice – an old cigar box full of empty matchboxes.  Well, not exactly empty.  Each matchbox holds a surprise.  Her great-grandfathers explains that when he was a child he could not read or write but he wanted to keep a diary, a journal of memories of his travels from a home far away, across the ocean, to the strange land of America.  Each matchbox contains one item that holds a special memory.

In The Matchbox Diary, Newbery Award winning author Paul Fleischman creates a story told entirely in dialogue that quickly captivates readers and listeners of all ages with poignant stories of cross-generational relationships and the deep connections that form among them.

            “What’s in the little boxes?”

            “My diary.”

            “What’s a diary?”

            “A way to remember what happens to you.  Usually it’s a book people write in… but I couldn’t read or write. So I started this.  Open the first one.”

            “What is it?

           “An olive pit.  I put it in my palm, and I’m right back in Italy….”

With the opening of each matchbox, Great-grandfather and his great-granddaughter share a discovery of  family and history.  The journey is delightful.

Award-winning children’s book illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline provides key details in his illustrations. Ibatoulline, himself, has experienced the hard journey of immigration.  Scenes of the present are painted with soft inviting colors; scenes from the past are created in the fading tones of sepia and framed so the reader, like the great-granddaughter, imagines old photographs carefully displayed in a family album.

            Great-grandfather’s immigration story is shared with intimacy and warmth – a beautiful experience to share with a child.

If I were given the choice to choose one book, I would choose this one.

Linda Boyden October 25, 2013 at 11:40 am

A very intriguing book. Thanks again, Nancy, for showcasing books that make us think.

Nancy Bo Flood October 25, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Thank you for “stopping by” and for your lovely note as well. This book takes us on a remarkable journey of immigration, and, yes indeed, makes us think, reflect, and wonder at the courage of those who made such an unknown journey. Nancy Bo Flood

Sheila Welch October 27, 2013 at 9:00 am

Hi Nancy,

Lovely review! I’ve been trying to piece together some of my own family’s history, but I have no box full of treasures. My mother had many stories that she told, however my recollections of them is fuzzy. My father’s mother came from Ireland and had a terrible trip across the Atlantic. She was only sixteen and traveled alone. I wish they could all tell me their tales again. I’m a better listener now.

Sandy Whitton October 27, 2013 at 11:57 am

Hi Nancy.
I love seeing your entries. I feel as if we are sitting and having tea out of tiny little cups!
Fun memories.
Write me and fill me in on everyone.
Love, sandy

Nancy Bo Flood October 27, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Thank you, everyone, I have enjoyed reading and re-reading each comment. Stirs up good memories and inspires reflection. I just discovered an incredible book, The Stamp Collector, which I will review here next month. Books! Aren’t they wonderful!

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