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Grandfather's Journey (Caldecott Medal Book) Hardcover – October 25, 1993

102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Home becomes elusive in this story about immigration and acculturation, pieced together through old pictures and salvaged family tales. Both the narrator and his grandfather long to return to Japan, but when they do, they feel anonymous and confused: "The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other." Allen Say's prose is succinct and controlled, to the effect of surprise when monumental events are scaled down to a few words: "The young woman fell in love, married, and sometime later I was born." The book also has large, formal paintings in delicate, faded colors that portray a cherished and well-preserved family album. The book, for audiences ages 4 to 8, won the 1994 Caldecott Medal.

From 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.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 650L (What's this?)
  • Series: Caldecott Medal Book
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Library Binding edition (October 25, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395570352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395570357
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 0.1 x 11.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #939,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1937. He dreamed of becoming a cartoonist from the age of six, and, at age twelve, apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. For the next four years, Say learned to draw and paint under the direction of Noro, who has remained Say's mentor. Say illustrated his first children's book -- published in 1972 -- in a photo studio between shooting assignments. For years, Say continued writing and illustrating children's books on a part-time basis. But in 1987, while illustrating THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (Caldecott Honor Medal), he recaptured the joy he had known as a boy working in his master's studio. It was then that Say decided to make a full commitment to doing what he loves best: writing and illustrating children's books. Since then, he has written and illustrated many books, including TREE OF CRANES and GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal. He is a full-time writer and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
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.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Heather Ivester on May 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom on May 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By TimothyK on July 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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.
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