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The Matchbox Diary

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  2,338 ratings  ·  682 reviews
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
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Candlewick Press
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Average rating 4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,338 ratings  ·  682 reviews

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Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My new favorite book to recommend to teachers, especially in this season of test prep. As we prepare for our 3rd-5th grade state standardized testing, there is a focus on reading short passages to make inferences as well as writing responses to short passages. This title wins on all counts--it is a beautifully illustrated telling of a wonderful story in it's own right. The fact that it is also suitable for so many curriculum-based uses is lagniappe. (As Fleischman is also the author of Weslandia ...more
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Historical fiction for those youngsters who prefer picture-books. The pictures add a lot to the story, and I like them. Too bad, though, that they are old-fashioned and sepia, which makes history seem more remote than relevant.
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
I loved the illustraions for this book. It is a lovely story of a man telling about his journey to America to his great-granddaughter, and collecting memories in matchboxes. A lovely tale of family and history.
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this story because the first half is so very very similar to my own family's story. I love the idea of a matchbox diary and using the objects to tell a life story. Those objects lose meaning without the story so I hope great-granddaughter remembers the stories to pass down and writes them down.

I loved how the boy worked hard and savored words when he finally learned to read. I also liked how he didn't gloss over how hard it was to become American and the prejudices he faced. His chosen o
Blanco Meyers
Nov 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
I usually prefer simple line drawings to realistic paintings, and this book had more dialogue than most of my favorites.
However, I really enjoyed the idea that the great-grandfather created a "diary" using matchboxes with an important object to commemorate certain life events. And the illustrations are beautiful.

We follow Great Grandfather from Italy when he is quite young through his immigration and many travels and travails in the U.S.

Great Grandfather is an inspiration to document our own s
So pretty, so affecting! So happy to unreservedly praise this marvelous book by Paul Fleischman and Bagram Ibatoulline. Makes me think of books by Allan Say, but just a little bit more accessible.
A great-grandfather shares his immigration story through the matchbox diary he kept before learning to read.
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
A great-grandfather shares his life’s story with his great-granddaughter who picks out a cigar box filled with matchboxes to find out more about. He has been collecting matchboxes that are filled with small items documenting his life, a diary of objects. They tell of his poor childhood in Italy where he’d be given an olive pit to suck on to make him less hungry. There is a picture of his father who went to work in America and sent money home. His story then turns into one of an immigrant with a ...more
WOW! I'm not sure I know what to say about this book. I knew when I saw that it was written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline that it would be a wonderful book. I was not disappointed. The book more than lived up to my expectations. The immigration experience is not a new story, but telling it through the lens of a diary kept by a young boy through small objects he collected and stored in old matchboxes is brilliant. A story told through the objects gathered over a lifetim ...more
David Schaafsma
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am on this path to read all the 2013 Goodreads nominated Illustrated books. Got up early this morning and read three or four we got from the library. But this is one of three or four I have read that I will own, for sure. Gorgeously, delicately, romantically illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, and much space is given to these illustrations. It is a story I was imagining might be less for kids than the librarians that are choosing this book, and parents who just love it for its love of history a ...more
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: caldecott-2014
I absolutely adored Paul Fleischman's picture book, The Matchbox Diary. What really stood out to me about this book was the main character, the great-grandfather of the little kindergarten girl. What an endearing man! I was captured with his story about immigrating from Italy to America. Fleischman did a great job of telling the story through the trinkets the elderly man collected over a lifetime and the memories that they represented. He took ordinary items and made them come to life. The illu ...more
Clare Cannon
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A magnificent picture book about a girl who meets her great-grandfather for the first time, and with the help of little keepsakes in an old cigar box, hears the story of his childhood and his family's journey from Italy to the USA.

Though a story of hardship and struggle, it gains a special beauty and worth when passed on to a younger generation, as though both are now enriched by the experience of one. The text is simple, like an elderly man talking with a child; he remembers, and she chimes in
Read/skimmed it quick, but I want to give it a better read when I have time one day.

A great-grandfather meets his granddaughter for the first time, and offers to tell her a story about any item she picks out from his collection. She picks out a box of matchboxes, each containing small objects - this is his childhood diary that he started in Italy and kept while his family immigrated to America and started a new life.

Interesting story for adults, though I'm not sure how much kids will appreciat
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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?
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful! What a lovely story, and beautiful illustrations!
Katie Lalor
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 illustrati ...more
Nov 29, 2016 added it
Shelves: rdg-291
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 ...more
Nickolas Florez
When a little girl visits her great-grandfather in his antique filled home, she comes across an old cigar box; inside, she finds the most peculiar things. Matchboxes filled with objects that her great-grandfather had saved, each object evoking a memory from his time as a boy growing up in Italy, to the his immigration to the United States on a boat to Ellis Island. Each matchbox had its own unique story to it.
The box is a splendid, imaginative journey of a boy's immigration to the United States
Sydney Levine
This historical fiction picture book tells the story of a little girl’s great-grandfather’s matchbox diary. He could not read or write, so her great-grandfather kept small knick-knacks in empty matchboxes to represent memories while he longed to learn to read and write. This book would best be used at the third grade level.
This book could be used in a lesson about immigration, which could be a cultural lesson in which students share where their families came from, why they came to America and w
Nov 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A 5-year-old girl visits her great grandfather for the first time, and is fascinated by all the keepsakes and memorabilia on display in his library.
"Pick one you like, then I'll tell you its story," says her great grandfather. The little girl chooses an old cigar box, which turns out to be tightly packed with little matchboxes. As he slides each one open, her great grandfather explains their contents. Growing up in Italy, he had had a hard life, and had not learned how to read or write. In order
Sierra Willis
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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 prejudic ...more
Jan 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: international
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 soc
Sarah Jane
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-book
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 grandfat
Ardea Smith
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reading-log
Title / Author / Publication Date: The Matchbox Diary/Paul Fleischman/2013

Genre: Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Plot summary: In this children's story, by Newbery Medalist Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, "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. . . . Together they tell of his jour
Jim Erekson
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 thin
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman was a story about a little girl that went to visit her great grandfathers shop. When she came to visit, he then told her to pick an object in the room and he'd tell her the story behind it. When she picked the object, it was her great grandfather's diary made from matchboxes. In each matchbox, there were small objects that held a different story to each one. The illustrations then show flashbacks through time and the little girl learns all about her great gr ...more
Sawyer Dombrowski
This story is about a granddad explaining his 'diary' to his granddaughter. Since he didn't know how to read or write when he was growing up, he collected important possessions that would help him remember what he was feeling that day or a memory that he never wanted to forget. He kept them in little match boxes. When his granddaughter found them, he explained each one to her. The historical fiction elements are especially shown through the pictures. Some of them contain the family sailing to Am ...more
Heather Singh
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Matchbox Diary is a children’s picture book about a young girl that finds her great grandfather’s ‘diary’. Her grandfather was an Italian immigrant. He saved his memories in matchboxes because he couldn’t read or write. The book sheds some light on the harsh realities of immigration and how a lot of people immigrating to the US experience prejudice and racism. The young girl in the story is able to learn about her culture and family from her great-grandfathers experiences. The book is a hist ...more
Kali Guest
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is about a grandfather and his trip to America. He filled up matchboxes with memories. The matchboxes each contain an item which tell their own individual story. The story is a fictionalized family history. It also could be fictionalized memoirs because it is about a man who tells stories about how they came to America. The main character is not very big in historical importance, he is ordinary. The plot of the story shows conflict in the family being separated and the trip back to his ...more
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Henrico Youth Boo...: Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman 1 5 Oct 24, 2013 12:06PM  

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Paul Fleischman grew up in Santa Monica, California. The son of well-known children's novelist Sid Fleischman, Paul was in the unique position of having his famous father's books read out loud to him by the author as they were being written. This experience continued throughout his childhood.
Paul followed in his father's footsteps as an author of books for young readers, and in 1982 he released

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