The Matchbox Diary

The Matchbox Diary
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
March 12, 2013
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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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Memories That Left Their Mark on History
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Written entirely in dialogue, this beautifully arranged book features incredibly well-written yet concise immigration history, told from a grandfather's personal perspective. A granddaughter comes to visit her elderly, Italian grandfather, and she picks out an old 'diary' made up entirely of old matchboxes in an empty cigar box. Within each matchbox is a token from his childhood--and every item has a significant, important story to match it. As you read it, you're exposed to very real, very stark images in the impeccable illustrations which convey each difficult step on her grandfather's journey from Italy to America and his family's life, trying to make a living once here. The illustrations are painstakingly well-done, and look almost like photographs in their attention to detail and beauty. I am excited and happy to have this lovely book in our library to use as an incredible visual and historical addition to what we learn about our history and the many nationalities that comprise what we call "Americans."
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