on March 16, 1999
Allen Say's book is a sensitive and poignant story of a Japanese man who came to explore America around the turn of the century. Enraptured by the beauty of the country, he brings his bride to California and proceeds to build his life there. At times, however, he grows wistful for his homeland and longs to return. Finally, the desire to return to to his homeland overcomes him and he goes back to the small village where he was born. The years pass, his children grow up and have children, and he begins to long for the beauty of his second home, so he plans a trip. A war errupts, however, and he is never able to revisit the United States. Beautifully illustrated and sensitively told, Grandfather's Journey demonstrates the strong emotions evoked by one man's love for two countries and two cultures. The story also demonstrates that it is possible to love two countries equally well and to discover taht as soon as you are in one, you long for the other. The book also presents a refreshing retelling of Japanese-American relations. The book raises an awareness of the immigrant experience in a tone that is both simple and subtle.
on May 21, 2005
I was curious about GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY because our local library had several copies on the shelf, and I always enjoy discovering what makes a book an award winner. Mr. Say's book won the 1994 Caldecott Medal, the same year Lois Lowry received the Newbery for her book, THE GIVER.
It's an understatement to say this is one of the most beautiful children's books ever written. Mr. Say gently describes his grandfather's youthful journey from Japan to America. On his three-week steamship voyage, he is astonished by the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. After embarking, he explores by train the western landscapes of enormous rock formations and endless farm fields.
During his travels, he meets people of different color, certainly a new sight for him. Say writes, "The more he traveled, the more he longed to see new places..." Eventually, his grandfather settles along the coast of California after briefly returning to Japan to marry his childhood sweetheart.
The couple have a daughter, whom we later learn is Say's mother, the subject of another stunning picture book, TEA WITH MILK. In time, the grandfather begins to miss Japan, and he decides to return to his homeland, along with his wife and grown daughter.
Say's watercolor artistry is fantastic, as his skilled brush gracefully ages each character in the book. As a parent, I imagined my own children growing up, and realized how brief is the time we call childhood. The story continues, with the grandfather's heart truly in two places, America and Japan.
Anyone who has ever traveled abroad can relate to this experience. As I read his book, I wept, because I too have lived in Japan, and part of my heart will always remain overseas. Since this initial reading, I've bought several of Say's picture books, and they have become family favorites.
The greatest literature reaches beyond its pages and connects to the hearts of its readers. Through his timeless words and portraits, Allen Say has clearly accomplished this task.
--Reviewed by Heather Lynn Ivester
on May 18, 2001
Each large page contains a faded color painting of a photo (maybe 7x8 inches) with text beneath, both by Allen Say. Allen tells the story of his grandfather, first shown in traditional Japanese attire, and next traveling by steamship to California in Western garb and bowler hat. On the next pages, we see him travel through America by riverboat, train and foot, meeting various people (red, brown, white and yellow), seeing deserts and oceans of golden amber grain, visiting rural towns and industrial cities filled with factories. Returning to Japan, he marries, and settles in San Francisco to raise a family. year later, they return to Japan, and he helps to raise his grandchild prior to WWII. Allen, the author, grows up and follows in his grandfather's footsteps, coming to America to explore. When in California, he and his grandfather long for Japan; in Japan they long for California.
on July 3, 2006
Allen Say's autobiographical Grandfather's Journey's beautiful illustrations won the Caldecott Medal, but that is only half the reason to recommend this book. This story is about a Japanese man struggling over what his home is--the United States or Japan.
When he is almost an adult, a young man (who would be Say's grandfather) moves to North America. He travels all over the United States (depicted in the illustrations) and falls in love with San Francisco. He briefly returns to Japan for his childhood love, then returns to San Francisco. Together they have a daughter and are living happily, but the grandfather becomes homesick for the mountain, rivers and friends of Japan. We see him surrounded by his songbirds in American clothes wishing for his home. Finally, when his daughter is almost grown, he returns to Japan. He laughs with his friends in his home village and for a time is happy. But his daughter had spent all her life in San Francisco and was not meant for the small village, so her father buys her a house in a city. She marries an untraditional man and has a son.
But the father wishes for San Francisco. We see, as his grandson saw, him surrounded by songbirds and the things he loves, dressed in the traditional Japanese dress, wishing for his home in San Francisco. He plans to return to North America.
Unfortunately, World War II begins and destroys the city. Grandfather returns to the small village, but never had another songbird. He told his grandson (who is the author and illustrator, Allen Say)that he wished to return to San Francisco one more time. But he died before he had the chance.
When his granson was nearly an adult, he went to America himself to see what his grandfather had talked about. He falls in love with it, but is homesick. Whenever he visits Japan, however, he longs for San Fransisco. He thinks of his grandfather and understands him more than ever.
Grandfather's Journey is beautiful, but some young children may not understand the emotions of the characters. Still, Grandfather's Journey is beautiful and deserves to be read by people of all ages.
on November 3, 2000
Grandfather's Journey was my introduction to one of my very favorite authors and illustrators, Allen Say. This magnificently written & beautifully painted book is a masterpiece and a wonderful tribute to Allen's grandfather and progenitors. That anyone would rate this anything but a 5 prompted me to write this review. As a schoolteacher on a very limited budget, I only buy hardback books that I consider exquisite. This was a definite MUST HAVE after I read and re-read it. As a family member, it gives me ideas on how to write my family history. As a school teacher, it provides the perfect example for my students of how they, too, might capture their family's heritage. Definitely a 5!!
on September 16, 2000
Allen Say has combined his love of family history and his talent for evocative illustration to create this wonderful story to share with your own family! He retells his grandfather's story of immigration, imparting not only the wonder he experiences being in his new country, but also conveying the angst he feels at being away from his land of birth. These feelings are expressed exquisitely in the paintings which bring to mind photograhs of that period in history. In addition, there are many springboard opportunities for discussions. The photographic paintings elicit questions from your children that will begin conversations about methods of travel, different regions of our own country, differences between cultures, and differences between the time that is illustrated and the time we are living in now. A valuable book on so many levels, you will be glad you chose to share this with your children!
on April 12, 2006
If you love books where younger kids look up to their parents and/or grandparents and then those kids become like their parents and/or grandparents, than Grandfather's Journey is a great book for you. Grandfather's Journey is a spectacular book to read. I'm not the only person who agrees with this book being spectacular. Grandfather's Journey is about the narrator telling how his grandfather was split between two countries. The reason the narrator's grandfather was split between two countries is because the grandfather was born in Japan and went to California. When the grandfather was in California he wished he was in Japan, and when he was in Japan he wished he was in California. This story not only tells about how people can be split between countries, but it also tells how you can learn a lot about yourself from things your parents and/or grandparents did and/or do. Grandfather's Journey also is a story about how younger kids grow up to be like their parents and/or grandparents. On the way to becoming like their parent and/or grandparent the kid learns a lot of new things, like why a person acts the way they do. That's what happened to the narrator in Grandfather's Journey. In the end of Grandfather's Journey the narrator learned something, but you will have to read this book and find out what the narrator learned.
The pictures throughout this book are striking. Even without having known a thing about it, the cover of this book was familiar to me the minute I picked it up. Though I've only seen it briefly in bookstores and libraries, Say's illustrations do not leave a person's mind readily. Most beautiful, to my mind, are his drawings of his elderly grandfather, as well as the evocative shots of cities and mountains in the United States. Say tackles a subject that I've rarely seen even acknowledged in children's literature. It is the notion of forever being homesick for the other towns and cities you've grown to love in your life. I don't know how well this can be conveyed to children. Quite possibly, kids reading this story will understand what the author is saying on a much smaller level. If a person explains to a kid that it is like missing school/camp/a grandparent's house when one is home and vice versa, it might be comprehensible. This would be an excellent book for reading aloud to large groups. Moreover, it might pair well with other stories of immigrants coming to America.
on September 2, 2006
The cover illustration is what initially drew me to this book; watching a young man stand on the deck of a steamship while the wind and waves thrash about. The color of the sea beckoned me to turn the pages and find out more about where this man was going and whether or not he would get there.
Grandfather is a young immigrant traveling from Japan to his new home in America. He journeys all across this land and experiences all aspects of it: cities, farms, mountains, rivers, people, etc. He settles in California but eventually misses his homeland, and travels back to satisfy his longings. Through a series of events, he is unable to make his way back to the West Coast that he loves so much.
My husband and I were in the Navy and lived among people from all over the world. I loved getting to know them and experiencing their ways of life. Understanding how other people around the world think and love and live, has made me a more complete person. It has made me who I am today. In this way I connect with Grandfather and his journeys.
on September 14, 2015
Fantastic artwork and story line. It shows life coming full circle and connecting the young with the old. It also touches on historic events that open a dialog with your child about history. A great way to get children excited about reading, learning and discussing a variety of topics. I'm so excited that this book came with a CD. I can't wait to give it to my niece for her birthday.