The Matchbox Diary Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-07-09 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 47 user ratings

"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.
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"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.
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"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.
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"When a little girl visits her beloved great-grandfather at his home, she chooses a peculiar object to learn about. This object is an old cigar box that is filled with her great-grandfathers memories, each item meaning more than the last. Throughout the visit she learns about each object and its harboring story. Each item told about his life back in Italy, before he reached his new home in a different country. Each item was given by a different individual who allowed for new, precious memories to be spilled from this great-grandfather to his great-granddaughter out of love and compassion.
This book allows for the reader to see each portion of history as this great-grandfather travels through his journey from Italia to his new country. It explores the tiniest of details of his life that show background into revolution and a new-founded happiness. As the old man shares his stories, sweet hand-drawn images of the little girl and him come together to show the warmth of his large office. Each image, along with paragraphs to the side of the images, allows the reader to feel the love that he has for her. Each story unfolds a new emotion and love for the old man and his adventures. The pages appear old and worn, with a large image on one side and a small one under the paragraph. All of the elements together create warm, life like images.
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"The story starts out with a grandfather and a granddaughter in a store room. The grandfather tells the granddaughter to pick anything, and he'll tell her the story behind it. She chose a collection of matchboxes. The grandfather used the matchboxes to hold objects that remind him of different times. The first was an olive pit, which reminded him of growing up in Italy, and of the poverty and hardships he experienced there. Next there was a photo of his father. He went to America to work, and to send money back at home. The story behind the picture talks about the lack of education experiences by everyone in his family. A piece of macaroni reminds him of a summer draught and food shortage when he received tickets to America from his father. A bottle cap reminds him of the first time he drank from a bottle, the first time he saw an ocean. This is also when he firsts found the matchboxes he used for his diary. Other matchboxes reminded him of the boat journey to America. Sunflower seeds in a matchbox counted the days of the journey. The empty box reminded him of the health inspections at Ellis Island, the box once held candy. Fishbones remind the grandfather of the terrible working conditions at the canning factory. Newspaper clippings were used to remember where the journey for work took him and his family. The tooth is a reminder of the discrimination the grandfather faced in the new world. Another matchbox held baseball tickets, the little ray of happiness in a hard life. Coal reminded him of his mother's desire for him to go to school. The letters from a printing press call back to his time working as a printer.

The illustrations supplement the narration, but they also showcase the mementos in the matchboxes when the text does not implicitly state what is in them. The story is a fictional family history, but the experiences described are easily checked against primary sources for authenticity and historical correctness. The story, though set in modern times, gives a window into the past for all readers to experience.
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" One of the most poignant, powerful and moving children's books I've read. I'll definitely be using this book as a supplemental text in my unit on growing up for eighth graders. I know they will love it. The illustrations are beautiful and could be a mini lesson analyzed all on their own. Perfection. " said.

"In The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman, a grandfather invites his granddaughter to pick an item from his library for him and he’ll tell its story. She picks a matchbox diary. The rest of Fleischman’s picture book reveals the assorted items inside the matchbook diary and their significance. For example, an olive pit reminds the grandfather of Italy, where life was hard, and he’d suck on an olive pit to help with his hunger. The photo is of his father, who like many Italians moved to America to earn money to send back to their poverty-stricken families back home. A hairpin served as a reminder of the dreams his family had. They believed America had streets of gold, and that the mother would soon wear big hats like the other wealthy women. My least favorite part of The Matchbox Diary is the style. I often couldn’t tell who the speaker was. In addition, in writing the story as a dialogue exchange, Fleischman sometimes left out transitions that would have made the context clear. My favorite part of The Matchbox Diary are the detailed illustrations. The watercolor paintings look like old photographs." said.

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