The Matchbox Diary

The Matchbox Diary

By Paul Fleischman; Bagram Ibatoulline (Illustrator)

Candlewick Press (MA), Hardcover, 9780763646011, 36pp.

Publication Date: March 12, 2013

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 matchboxes making up her great-grandfather's diary, harboring objects she can hold in her hand, each one evoking a memory. Together they tell of his journey from Italy to a new country, before he could read and write the olive pit his mother gave him to suck on when there wasn t enough food; a bottle cap he saw on his way to the boat; a ticket still retaining the thrill of his first baseball game. With a narrative entirely in dialogue, Paul Fleischman makes immediate the two characters foray into the past. With warmth and an uncanny eye for detail, Bagram Ibatoulline gives expressive life to their journey through time and toward each other.

About the Author
Paul Fleischman grew up in Santa Monica, California in a house with a printing press, a grand piano, a shortwave radio, and his father children s author Sid Fleischman. Playing recorder in early music consorts led to his books of verbal duets I Am Phoenix, Joyful Noise (winner of the 1989 Newbery Medal), and Big Talk. His novels built from monologues include Bull Run, a 16-character account of the Civil War's first battle, and Seedfolks the chronicle of the first year of a Cleveland community garden. His interest in theater inspired his young adult novels Mind's Eye, Seek, and Breakout, all of which revolve around the spoken word. His historical fiction includes Saturnalia and The Borning Room. He's written nonfiction and picture books as well, including Time Train, Weslandia, and Sidewalk Circus.Alongside the Newbery Medal, he's won a Newbery Honor Book, the Scott O Dell Award for Historical Fiction, the PEN West Literary Award, the California Young Reader Medal, and most recently was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Award. He makes his home in the village of Aromas, California.

Heather Vogel Frederick is the author of the popular Mother-Daughter Book Club series, as well as the highly acclaimed "The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed", "The Education of Patience Goodspeed", and the Spy Mice series. She resides with her family in Portland, Oregon. Visit her at

Praise For The Matchbox Diary

Writing entirely in dialogue, Fleischman employs a natural and believable matter-of-fact tone that provides a fresh view of the immigrant experience, as the humble objects and their stories form the beginning of a loving bond between the little girl and her great-grandfather. Ibatoulline’s illustrations, done in acrylic gouache, are extraordinarily detailed and expressive. Modern scenes appear in warm, amber-toned colors, while framed sepia vignettes depict past memories as if part of a family album. Captivating and powerful.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Small-scale objects tell a large-scale, European coming-to-America story in this beautiful offering from two celebrated children’s book creators...An excellent title for sharing and discussion, this will resonate with the many kids who will recognize how small, ordinary things can become treasures.
—Booklist (starred review)

Fleischman’s voice for the girl’s great-grandfather is instantly engrossing, free of self-pity and resonant with resilience and gratitude. in equally fine form: his characters’ emotionally vivid faces speak of hard lives and fervent dreams, and his sepia-toned scenes never lapse into sentimentality. A powerful introduction to the American immigrant story, and fine inspiration for a classroom project.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Ibatoulline’s sepia-toned illustrations beautifully express this immigrant’s tale from Italy to Ellis Island and the start of a new life...This lovingly crafted picture book tells an amazing story that is uniquely American. Through unsentimental, yet warm and touching dialogue, Fleischman successfully shares a powerful journey that captures the hardships, self-reliance, strength, and simple joys that characterized early immigrants. It provides an inspirational introduction to the immigration story that captures the humanity of the journey.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

The illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline can create images so exquisitely realistic that they could be mistaken for photographs. The remarkable verisimilitude of his work is on beautiful display in the sepia-toned pages of THE MATCHBOX DIARY...Though migration can be a sentimental subject, there is nothing mawkish in this fine story of aspiration and human dignity.
—The Wall Street Journal