BOOK REVIEWS

The Matchbox Diary Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-10-14 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 47 user ratings
ISBN:0763676381
LANGUAGE:English

"There seemed to be more sentiment than substance and believability to this story, but the device of the matchboxes was an intriguing way to structure and pace things. It held my attention. Historical fiction/family history is an interesting combo of two known genres.

While I enjoyed the hyper-realism of the matchboxes and objects, the photorealism of the figures was uninteresting. I would have preferred something more stylized. When a picturebook artist tries to copy photography it makes me think there's something they're trying to hide or apologize for--that they don't know enough about painting and drawing to come up with something different than photography. The compositions were good, but again not showing a sense of imagination. This is the kind of thing that will make the book more annoying to me the more I think about it over the next few days.
" said.

"Although he couldn't read and write, an Italian immigrant finds a way to keep a record of the events in his life. He places a token of an event in a small matchbox, and then stashes them in a cigar box. When his great-granddaughter comes to pay her respects and get to know the old man, she is fascinated with all the things he has. When she chooses the cigar box, he uses its contents to tell his story about life back home and then coming to the United States where he and his family faced prejudice and mistreatment. Eventually, he goes to school, becomes a printer, and later, opens his own bookstore. As the girl is drawn closer to her relative through the stories, she expresses a desire to keep a diary of her own. The story is tenderly told, and is perfectly supported by the lovely acrylic and gouache illustrations that almost seem to emit light while showing perfectly the emotions of the book's characters. " said.

"In this story, a little girl discovers her great-grandfather’s diary. It is not a typical diary, but a special “Matchbox Diary”. Each tiny box contains a little memento that her great-grandfather uses to tell his story. The young girl learns about his childhood and immigration from Italy to the United States. He goes on to tell her of some of the struggles he faced establishing a new life in America with his family.


This historical picture book relays a fictionalized family history. The grandfather in the story tells of his childhood and the experiences that led him to keep a matchbox diary. He shares his life story with his grandchild while opening tiny matchboxes containing little pieces from the past. The illustrations revealing the past resemble old black and white photographs while the present scenes in the story are in full color. This is a rich and heart warming story of a grandfather’s cherished life memories.
" said.

"The Matchbox Diary is a story about a great granddaughter who is discovering what her great grandfather's life was like in Italy. It was very interesting to hear his point of view about growing up and immigrating to America at a young age. The story discusses how the great grandfather would keep little momentos from his life as a diary. This connects to the little girl because she is only five years old and can not read or write.

This story could be used in a 3rd-5th grade classroom for both social studies and reading purposes. Teachers could use this in social studies to look at an immigrant's experience traveling from Italy to America. The book touches on the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and discrimination.

Teachers could also use this story in a reading class to discuss predicting or inferencing. The illustrations show what is in the matchbox and students can use the clues to predict or infer why the great grandfather hid what he did in the box.
" said.

"The word 'immigration' caught my eye when looking at books in the library. It was a cute story of an Italian great grandfather telling his great granddaughter was life was like for him in Italy and traveling over to America. He had an unique way to keep his memories, since he could not read or write at the time. Also, it discussed the struggles and successes that him and his family had when they first moved to America. It's a good story that middle grade students can discuss (even the illustrations), just wished it had a little more energy or deeper meaning to it. " said.

" Wonderful! What a lovely story, and beautiful illustrations! " said.

" A great-grandfather shares his immigration story through the matchbox diary he kept before learning to read. " said.

" Moving story from one of my favorite writers, Paul Fleischman, combine perfectly with warm, detailed, beautifully made illustrations from one of my new favorite illustrators, Bagram Ibatoulline. Four well-deserved stars so far. Highly recommended. Can you say Caldecott? " said.

December 2018 New Book:

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