This picture book that was newly released this March, is an exemplary tool in teaching children about literacy and immigration. Newbery Medal winner Paul Fleischman and illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline have created a masterpiece in storytelling.
“Pick whatever you like the most.
Then I’ll tell you its story.”
A young girl visits her great-grandfather that she knows very little about, and discovers a cigar box filled with matchboxes. Each matchbox contains a small memento which has a story behind it. As the story progresses, the great-grandfather tells his history via the items in the matchboxes. He informs his great-granddaughter that he could not read or write, but wanted to keep a “diary” of his experiences.
As the items are shared between the two, the great-grandfather is able to share his unique experiences as an immigrant from Italy and his journey to Ellis Island. The story depicts the hardships immigrants faced on their journey to America.
The exquisite sepia-toned illustrations add to the story and highlight the time period in which the story is set. The pictures have so much detail; they mimic real photographs, which contribute to the personal history of the tale being shared between the two family members. The pictures from the present time are in color, the ones from the past in black and white.
The wisdom of the great-grandpa coupled with the child’s eagerness to learn make this a truly enjoyable story to share with a loved one. In addition, it can serve as a useful aid in teaching the importance of literacy and struggles of immigration.
Suggested book: Aunt Flossie's Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard
Age range: 6-9 years