Grandfather's Journey
Grandfather's Journey

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Annotation: A moving story about a Japanese man's immigration to the U.S.
Catalog Number: #122125
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
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Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
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Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 1993
Edition Date: 1993
Pages: 32
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-547-07680-0 Perma-Bound: 0-605-06941-7
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-547-07680-5 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-06941-1
Dewey: E
LCCN: 93018836
Dimensions: 30 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
Say's grandfather travels throughout North America as a young man but, unable to forget his homeland, returns to Japan with his family, where the author is born. Say now lives in California and returns to his native land from time to time. 'The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other. I think I know my grandfather now.' The immigrant experience has rarely been so poignantly evoked as it is in this direct, lyrical narrative, accompanied by soft-toned watercolors.
Kirkus Reviews
``The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other,'' observes Say near the end of this poignant account of three generations of his family's moves between Japan and the US. Say's grandfather came here as a young man, married, and lived in San Francisco until his daughter was ``nearly grown'' before returning to Japan; his treasured plan to visit the US once again was delayed, forever as it turned out, by WW II. Say's American-born mother married in Japan (cf. Tree of Cranes, 1991), while he, born in Yokohama, came here at 16. In lucid, graceful language, he chronicles these passages, reflecting his love of both countries—plus the expatriate's ever-present longing for home—in both simple text and exquisitely composed watercolors: scenes of his grandfather discovering his new country and returning with new appreciation to the old, and pensive portraits recalling family photos, including two evoking the war and its aftermath. Lovely, quiet- -with a tenderness and warmth new to this fine illustrator's work. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4+)"
Publishers Weekly
Say transcends the achievements of his Tree of Cranes and A River Dream with this breathtaking picture book, at once a very personal tribute to his grandfather and a distillation of universally shared emotions. Elegantly honed text accompanies large, formally composed paintings to convey Say's family history; the sepia tones and delicately faded colors of the art suggest a much-cherished and carefully preserved family album. A portrait of Say's grandfather opens the book, showing him in traditional Japanese dress, ``a young man when he left his home in Japan and went to see the world.'' Crossing the Pacific on a steamship, he arrives in North America and explores the land by train, by riverboat and on foot. One especially arresting, light-washed painting presents Grandfather in shirtsleeves, vest and tie, holding his suit jacket under his arm as he gazes over a prairie: ``The endless farm fields reminded him of the ocean he had crossed.'' Grandfather discovers that ``the more he traveled, the more he longed to see new places,'' but he nevertheless returns home to marry his childhood sweetheart. He brings her to California, where their daughter is born, but her youth reminds him inexorably of his own, and when she is nearly grown, he takes the family back to Japan. The restlessness endures: the daughter cannot be at home in a Japanese village; he himself cannot forget California. Although war shatters Grandfather's hopes to revisit his second land, years later Say repeats the journey: ``I came to love the land my grandfather had loved, and I stayed on and on until I had a daughter of my own.'' The internal struggle of his grandfather also continues within Say, who writes that he, too, misses the places of his childhood and periodically returns to them. The tranquility of the art and the powerfully controlled prose underscore the profundity of Say's themes, investing the final line with an abiding, aching pathos: ``The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other.'' Ages 4-8. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-A personal history of three generations of the author's family that points out the emotions that are common to the immigrant experience. Splendid, photoreal watercolors have the look of formal family portraits or candid snapshots, all set against idyllic landscapes in Japan and in the U.S. (Sept., 1993)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Say's stunning immigration story is a version of the American dream that includes adventure and discovery but no sense of arrival. He captures our restlessness, our homesickness, wherever we are. With the particulars of own family story, he universalizes everyone's quest for home, and he finds not one place but many, connection and also discontent. The journey isn't a straight line, but more like a series of widening circles, full of surprising twists and loops. As in the best children's books, the plain, understated words have the intensity of poetry. The watercolor paintings frame so much story and emotion that they break your heart. Looking at the people in this book is like turning the pages of a family photo album, the formal arrangements and stiff poses show love and distance, longing and mystery, beneath such elemental rites as marriage, leaving, and return. The story starts off as cheery adventure. Say's grandfather leaves Japan as a young man on an astonishing journey to the New World. He explores all kinds of places and meets all kinds of people and never thinks of returning home. The huge cities "bewildered yet excited him." He settles in California because he loves the light and the mountains and the lonely seacoast. He marries his childhood sweetheart from his village in Japan and brings her to the new country, and they have a child. But then as his daughter grows up (we see her posing stiffly with a blonde doll in a carriage), he begins to think about his own childhood and longs to go back. "He could not forget. Finally, when his daughter was nearly grown, he could wait no more. He took his family and returned to his homeland." The village is as he remembered it, and he laughs with his old friends. But his American daughter doesn't fit in the traditional culture. She's an outsider in the Japanese village in her Western hat and purse, as awkward as her father was when he first left home. They move to a city in Japan; she marries, and her son, Allen Say, is born. His grandfather tells him many stories about California and longs to see it again. But the war comes, described through the child's eyes ("Bombs fell from the sky and scattered our lives like leaves in a storm"): a single painting shows a group of refugees in a leveled city. Grandfather dies without seeing California again. But when his boy is nearly grown, he leaves home and goes to see the place his grandfather had told him about, and he stays in the U.S. and has a daughter, just as his grandfather did. But he says, "I can not still the longing in my heart." Like his grandfather, he has to return to Japan now and then. And as soon as he is in one country, "he is homesick for the other." The pictures echo each other and connect the generations and their places. Say's grandfather in tie and cardigan staring out the window in San Francisco, remembering the mountains and rivers of home, is like a self-portrait of Allen Say today. The landscapes evoke a variety of styles: from the mountain photography of Ansel Adams to the Japanese pastoral and the romantic French impressionists. The cover picture of the young traveler in his first too-large European clothes, clutching his bowler hat, has the sturdiness and poignancy of Chaplin. Allen Say has traveled and found riches everywhere. He captures what the Jewish American writer Irving Howe calls an "eager restlessness." The book is a natural companion to Say's other autobiographical picture book, Tree of Cranes (1991), about his childhood in Japan and his mother remembering her childhood Christmas in California. Both are books to share across generations and in oral history projects with older students. Every child who's pored over strange old family pictures or heard stories of "back home" will relate to this, whether home was across the border or far across the sea or a midwestern farm. The story has special immediacy for immigrants, like me. It's also about all those who long for where they came from, even while they know they can't go home again.
Word Count: 568
Reading Level: 3.6
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.6 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 7570 / grade: Lower Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.2 / points:3.0 / quiz:Q04705
Lexile: AD650L
Guided Reading Level: P
Fountas & Pinnell: P

Lyrical, breathtaking, splendid--words used to describe Allen Say's Grandfather's Journey when it was first published. At once deeply personal yet expressing universally held emotions, this tale of one man's love for two countries and his constant desire to be in both places captured readers' attention and hearts. Winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal, it remains as historically relevant and emotionally engaging as ever.

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