The Matchbox Diary

( 1 )

Overview

Newbery Medalist Paul Fleischman and Bagram Ibatoulline tell a breathtaking immigration tale with appeal across generations.

"Pick whatever you like most. Then I’ll tell you its story."
When a little girl visits her great-grandfather at his curio-filled home, she chooses an unusual object to learn about: an old cigar box. What she finds inside surprises her: a collection of matchboxes making up her great-grandfather’s diary, harboring objects ...

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Overview

Newbery Medalist Paul Fleischman and Bagram Ibatoulline tell a breathtaking immigration tale with appeal across generations.

"Pick whatever you like most. Then I’ll tell you its story."
When a little girl visits her great-grandfather at his curio-filled home, she chooses an unusual object to learn about: an old cigar box. What she finds inside surprises her: a collection of matchboxes making up her great-grandfather’s diary, harboring objects she can hold in her hand, each one evoking a memory. Together they tell of his journey from Italy to a new country, before he could read and write — the olive pit his mother gave him to suck on when there wasn’t enough food; a bottle cap he saw on his way to the boat; a ticket still retaining the thrill of his first baseball game. With a narrative entirely in dialogue, Paul Fleischman makes immediate the two characters’ foray into the past. With warmth and an uncanny eye for detail, Bagram Ibatoulline gives expressive life to their journey through time — and toward each other.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
If you can’t read or write, how do you remember the important moments of your life? An elderly man explains to his great-granddaughter that he created a diary of objects, each saved in a matchbox. One matchbox holds an olive pit from his native Italy, given to him by his mother to suck on when the family had no food. A fish bone reminds him of grueling work in canneries (“always a man watching to make sure we weren’t slowing down”). But there are also matchboxes that hold a ticket to a baseball game, as well as pieces of coal and moveable type that represent how the man finally achieved literacy and a comfortable life. Fleischman’s voice for the girl’s great-grandfather is instantly engrossing, free of self-pity and resonant with resilience and gratitude. Ibatoulline, who previously worked with Fleischman on The Animal Hedge, is in equally fine form: his characters’ emotionally vivid faces speak of hard lives and fervent dreams, and his sepia-toned scenes never lapse into sentimentality. A powerful introduction to the American immigrant story, and fine inspiration for a classroom project. Ages 6–10. Illustrator’s agent: Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Writing entirely in dialogue, Fleischman employs a natural and believable matter-of-fact tone that provides a fresh view of the immigrant experience, as the humble objects and their stories form the beginning of a loving bond between the little girl and her great-grandfather. Ibatoulline’s illustrations, done in acrylic gouache, are extraordinarily detailed and expressive. Modern scenes appear in warm, amber-toned colors, while framed sepia vignettes depict past memories as if part of a family album. Captivating and powerful.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Small-scale objects tell a large-scale, European coming-to-America story in this beautiful offering from two celebrated children’s book creators...An excellent title for sharing and discussion, this will resonate with the many kids who will recognize how small, ordinary things can become treasures.
—Booklist (starred review)

Fleischman’s voice for the girl’s great-grandfather is instantly engrossing, free of self-pity and resonant with resilience and gratitude. Ibatoulline...is in equally fine form: his characters’ emotionally vivid faces speak of hard lives and fervent dreams, and his sepia-toned scenes never lapse into sentimentality. A powerful introduction to the American immigrant story, and fine inspiration for a classroom project.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Ibatoulline’s sepia-toned illustrations beautifully express this immigrant’s tale from Italy to Ellis Island and the start of a new life...This lovingly crafted picture book tells an amazing story that is uniquely American. Through unsentimental, yet warm and touching dialogue, Fleischman successfully shares a powerful journey that captures the hardships, self-reliance, strength, and simple joys that characterized early immigrants. It provides an inspirational introduction to the immigration story that captures the humanity of the journey.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

The illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline can create images so exquisitely realistic that they could be mistaken for photographs. The remarkable verisimilitude of his work is on beautiful display in the sepia-toned pages of THE MATCHBOX DIARY...Though migration can be a sentimental subject, there is nothing mawkish in this fine story of aspiration and human dignity.
—The Wall Street Journal

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
A young girl selects a box from many at her great-grandfather's. It is a cigar box filled with matchboxes; he says it is his diary because he could not read or write. Each box has a memento instead. His story begins in Italy, where the family waits for the father to send tickets to join him in America. Next they sail across the ocean and finally arrive. Luckily, they are all admitted. They go to work in canneries from place to place. Finally her great-grandfather can go to school. He becomes a typesetter, then opens a bookshop and sells antiques. The girl hopes to be able to write her own diary some day, but meanwhile she can begin to collect her own mementos as he has done in his matchboxes. The visual story is told in sepia-toned, full page, naturalistic scenes resembling old photographs set in thin frames. Vignettes on opposing pages show the open matchboxes. The illustrations provide considerable details of the path of the family, first in southern Italy, then on board the ship, including a raging storm, and finally in America. Acrylic gouache paintings portray the kindly old man and the bright-eyed youngster. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—An Italian-American immigrant shares his childhood memories with his great-granddaughter. The twist of this tale is that his memories have been kept in a "diary" of saved objects that commemorate the important events of his life. As a poor child who could neither read nor write, this now-elderly gentleman found a unique way to preserve his memories by saving the objects in matchboxes. Among the many items were a box of sunflower seed shells that counted the days from Naples to New York, a fish bone to remember the long days the entire family had to work in the canneries, and a ticket stub from his first baseball game. The journey unfolds prompted by the child's curious questions. Her inquiries provoke the descriptive vignettes of an earlier time and yet frame the story through the eyes of a youngster of today. Ibatoulline's sepia-toned illustrations beautifully express this immigrant's tale from Italy to Ellis Island and the start of a new life. They also provide a wonderful contrast to the warm-colored illustrations that depict a loving, appreciative relationship between an elderly man and a young child. This lovingly crafted picture book tells an amazing story that is uniquely American. Through unsentimental, yet warm and touching dialogue, Fleischman successfully shares a powerful journey that captures the hardships, self-reliance, strength, and simple joys that characterized early immigrants. It provides an inspirational introduction to the immigration story that captures the humanity of the journey.—Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY
Kirkus Reviews
The story of one person's life is the very essence of history, transcending time, distance and generations. A little girl and her great-grandfather meet for the first time and attempt to get to know each other. The child is intrigued by the curiosities she sees in a collection of matchboxes. These matchboxes represent the memories of the old man's life, a tangible diary, undertaken as a substitute for the written form at a time in his life when he was illiterate. Bits and pieces contained within call forth events, emotions or people that were important in his life's journey, from his early childhood in Italy to the difficult voyage to America and the struggles of his immigrant family in the new world. An olive pit, a pen nib, a fish bone, a piece of coal and more tell of poverty, dreams and perseverance. Writing entirely in dialogue, Fleischman employs a natural and believable matter-of-fact tone that provides a fresh view of the immigrant experience, as the humble objects and their stories form the beginning of a loving bond between the little girl and her great-grandfather. Ibatoulline's illustrations, done in acrylic gouache, are extraordinarily detailed and expressive. Modern scenes appear in warm, amber-toned colors, while framed sepia vignettes depict past memories as if part of a family album. Captivating and powerful. (Picture book. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763646011
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 3/12/2013
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 60,957
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: AD420L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Fleischman won the Newbery Medal for Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices and a Newbery Honor for Graven Images. He is the author of numerous picture books, including The Animal Hedge, also illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, and The Dunderheads and The Dunderheads Behind Bars, both illustrated by David Roberts. Paul Fleischman lives in Maine.

Bagram Ibatoulline has illustrated many acclaimed books for children, including The Animal Hedge by Paul Fleischman; On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Great Joy, both by Kate DiCamillo; The Serpent Came to Gloucester by M. T. Anderson; and Hana in the Time of the Tulips by Deborah Noyes. He lives in Pennsylvania.

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Customer Reviews

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