Written by Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Candlewick picture books never disappoint! The Matchbox Diary, written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, offers second grade readers and up a synergistic blend of old world charm and contemporary youthful innocence and curiosity through an immigration tale with illustrations that will appeal across generations. The Matchbox Diary reminds me of another classic picture book called One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II written and illustrated by Lita Judge.
Ibatoulline’s illustrations are so realistic they look like they could walk off the pages on which they are printed. Through his illustrations Ibatoulline not only captures the heart of the relationship between the little girl and her great grandfather in present day, but he also conveys the challenges and hardships that most immigrants faced when leaving their home country to enter a new one. Each spread consists of an illustration of the object on one side and on the other side is an illustration of an old photo that tells the story behind the object.
Fleischman utilizes a diary of objects versus a writing journal since his young protagonist (great grandfather) can not read or write in English or Italian when he first arrives into the United States. Because he wants to remember every detail of his journey, he collects small objects that represent his experiences and places them in a matchbox for safe-keeping and sharing with future generations.
Fleischman got the idea for The Matchbox Diary from New Hampshire artist, Gary Hamel who exhibited a matchbox diary of a recent trip he had made to Italy. Fleischman was so intrigued by the idea, he got Hamel’s blessing to borrow and reinvent his matchbox concept.
I see endless uses for The Matchbox Diary in the classroom where second grade teachers and up can tap into core subjects like language arts using this book as an aid. Parents and grandparents can use this book to open up a dialogue on their own immigration story. We all come from somewhere, right?