Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Review: The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman /Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline #DiverseBooks
"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.
This is the tale of a great-grandfather and great-granddaughter, getting to know one another through oral stories. The grandfather tells his story of his hardship life in Italy and coming to America. Along the way he keeps an unusual diary that only he could tell the story.
I thought this was an incredibly sweet way of telling yet another kind of "diary book" but this is no ordinary diary or ordinary immigration story. It goes to show that no matter what one person is capable or not capable of doing, in this case reading and writing, that their story can still be told. I thought it was amazing that this young boy knew that he needed to remember where he came from and his trip along the way. He managed to collect small things in such a way that he would never forget.
I enjoyed the telling as each matchbox was opened. Although this book would be considered a picture book, I thought it could have been expanded even more. None-the-less, I liked what was told.
The illustrations were by far what makes this book. Most of the photos are done in heavily muted browns and yellow. This has been purposely done to show oldness, age, and a time gone by. The incredible details of each matchbox were only something of a master illustrator.
Overall, I really liked this book and it is one that I think should be in schools and homes. It is one that will remain timeless. 5 stars.
Disclosure: I picked up a copy of this book at my local library. The reviews here are 100% my own and may differ from yours. ~M.M. aka Naila Moon
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