Grandfather's Journey

by Allen Say

Paperback, 2008



Call number




HMH Books for Young Readers (2008), Edition: Reprint, 32 pages


A Japanese American man recounts his grandfather's journey to America which he later also undertakes, and the feelings of being torn by a love for two different countries.

Media reviews

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.
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(Sept., 1993)
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1 more
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
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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.) "The immigrant experience has rarely been so poignantly evoked as it is in this direct, lyrical narrative that is able to stir emotions through the sheer simplicity of its telling."
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User reviews

LibraryThing member marciaskidslit
The story is an oral history of immigration. One could say the author followed his grandfather’s footsteps and walked in his grandfather’s shoes. This nostalgic story touches the heart of anyone who has called two countries “home”. It is about yearning to be in the other place; remembering
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the mountains, the rivers, and old friends. The book won the 1994 Caldecott Medal. The illustrations were created in beautiful soft watercolors. Combined with the text, the illustrations portray a photo album or scrapbook style to the book, one that children will surely identify with. The story has a natural rhythm and movement in a cyclical pattern of time and place.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
The immensely talented Allen Say won the Caldecott Medal for this beautiful picture-book tribute to his grandfather, and to the immigrant experience, and it is not difficult to see why! Using simple text and luminous artwork, he explores his grandfather's story: how he wanted to see the world, as a
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young man, and set out on a sea-voyage from his native Japan; how he ended up in the USA, and journeyed all over the country, eventually settling in California; how he found a bride in Japan, but raised his daughter in the states; how the family eventually returned to Japan, where the daughter married Allen Say's father; and how the grandfather longed, until his dying day, to see America one last time. Say concludes with a two page spread about his own experience living between two countries, an experience that has given him insight into his grandfather's life journey...

Grandfather's Journey, which I first read in 1993, the year it was released, and have just reread for The Picture-Book Club to which I belong, where our theme this month is "traveling," is a truly wonderful book, as emotionally powerful as it is aesthetically appealing. Say's artwork is always gorgeous - I love his use of light and shadow, and the different effects, whether gentle or harsh, that he achieves - and his story here is moving. There is all the simplicity of rightness here - everything works, in and of itself, and everything works together - making this a truly outstanding example of the picture-book genre. I finished it with a lump in my throat, as I always do. Highly recommended, to anyone who appreciates beautiful watercolor paintings, and to anyone looking for children's stories about family, and the experience of belonging to more than one culture and country.
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LibraryThing member clong
This is a truly amazing children's book. It beautifully conveys a sense of tradition, discovery, adventure, family, homesickness, a love for nature, the sadness of war, and the joy of making friends in faraway places. All in a simple tale with effective illustrations. It never fails to bring a tear
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to my eye, although my three year old son is more likely to doze off than really appreciate the story.
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LibraryThing member mlgonzales
The message in this Caldecott winner captured the beautiful relationship that a grandfather and a grandson share regardless of time and space.The author told 2 lifetimes of stories that intertwined as one.
As a Mexican- American and future wife of a Moroccan man, I can relate to this story
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whole-heartedly. My fiancee gets these emotions when he is here in Oklahoma and then goes home to Morocco to visit family and vice versa. He wants to be here, but still misses the smells and noises of the streets in Casablanca and Sale, Morocco.
In the classroom, I would incorporate the familiarity with home, where it be, and other places in the world. Understanding emotions, sights, cultures, and what we would we miss. Multi-cultural diferences.
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LibraryThing member munchkin49
Author is telling the story of his grandfather's life, how he lived in Japan but traveled to America as a young man. He then gets homesick and travels back to Japan, He gets married and took his new wife to America. He had a child and when she was older he became homesick again. He traveled back to
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Japan. There the daughter married and had a son. When Grandfather was old he became homesick again but the War came.
I really understood this book. I feel that I too have two homes. When we moved here from OKC I missed my old home but when I go back to OKC I miss this home. I know that my daughter feels the same way. We like to travel but are glad to come back home.
For the classroom, I think it would be a great idea to find the differences between Japan and America; culture, food, dress, school. Have the students write a paper about where they would like to travel too and what they would like to see.
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LibraryThing member michellehef
The book is about a guy that goes to a new country to make a new life. After he is in the new country for awhile he misses his home and goes back a gets his long time girl friend. The two go back to the new country and get married. Then they have a little girl and she grows up in California. Then
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the dad want to go back to were he grow up. He goes back but he always misses California. Then the grandson hears his grandfather’s stories and he goes to California. He always misses the two towns that he loves.

My reaction to the book was that it was a good book. I could see were he misses his friends and family when he is not with them.

The book could be used in the classroom to show kids that everyone can get homesick from time to time. It would be a good book to have older kids to write about a time that they got homesick when they were away from home. The book could also be used in the classroom to show the two different countries.
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LibraryThing member victoriahaumesser
This story tells about a child's grandfather and his travels to the United States. He traveled on many types of ttransportation in his travels. He saw many different types of scenery. He liked California best of all the places he traveled.He married and had a child. He returned to Japan. Years
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later he told his grandson of this travels and about California. The setting shows in took place around World War II. The theme is the travels to the U.S. his father did. The tone of the book shows much respect and love as the narrator, which is the grandson of the traveler, speaks about his grandfather. The illustration is important to the book due to it illustraties the places he visited and what he saw. I really liked this book. It shows how important family relationships are. I have lost all my grandparents and I do cherich all the time I did have with them. Just as anyobe who has ever experienced a loss of someone they love.
Extension Ideas: Write a paragraph about one of your grandparents of relatives, telling us your favorite things about that person; Make a poem from the family having each letter start the word or sentence; write a story that a family member told you.
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LibraryThing member kbuttry
This book is about a young boy who remembers his grandfather that left Japan to see the United States. It talks about the many ways he traveled in North America, what he saw, and how it made him feel. He returned to Japan and married his childhood sweetheart. They moved to the San Francisco Bay and
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started a family there. Once his daughter was grown they moved back to Japan, but the daughter did not stay. She went back to the U.S., married, and had a young boy.

I enjoyed this book because it was very well illustrated and written. I liked how it didn’t say who was telling the story until the end. This book reminds me of a grandson reminiscing about his grandfather’s stories.

For extension, I would invite several different speakers to come in and tell about their travels to the United States for the first time. The children could ask them questions about their experiences and then write a paragraph telling how they would feel if they had to travel to the United States.
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LibraryThing member daffyduck24
This book is about a boy telling his grandfather's experience in two cultures. The book explains a mans love for Japan and California and how he adores both places. The grandson grows up and wants to experience both places for himself just like his grandfather did.

I like this book because it talks
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about two different cultures and shows differences in both of them but yet at the same time shows why they are both so great. It's a good book to read to children and show them it's okay to be from one place and love another just as much.

In the classroom I could have the students read about different countries and places and compare them to each other. I could also have the students draw pictures and tell me about their favorite part of the story.
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LibraryThing member ccondra
A good book to read when learing about immigration. Or also could be a good book to read when learning about where the students family came from.
LibraryThing member kmassey10
Allen Say writes of his Grandfather's journey from Japan to America, and tells of the home he found in California. Say relates to his Grandfather, for the minute he is in one country, he longs for the other. This would be a great book to start a discussion of relating to others as well as to other
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cultures. Say ties together the past and the present, describing the similar cross-cultural experiences of three generations of his family. He also ties together the new and exciting with the comfortable and familiar. (Illustrated by Allen Say)
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LibraryThing member viviandoughty
This book is a beautiful way to introduce a variety of lessons to high-schoolers. It may unleash a flurry of imaginative ideas for creating papers, group projects, and stimulated thinking. Could be used in a variety of subjects.
LibraryThing member jessiepainter
Grandfather's Journey is a beautiful tale. Allen Say is telling of his Grandfather who left his home in Japan to explore. In America, he naturally gets homesick and moves back to Japan. The Grandfather then gets marrried to his childhood sweetheart. He moves back to California, and then back to
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Japan agan. It has a very heartfelt ending.

I really love this book because I am very interested in Japanese culture, so I was drawn to it. This book is very believable, and it is a true story, which makes it great.

In the classroom, I would use Grandfather's Journey in a multicultural unit. I would also use it to have the children talk about someone important in their lives.
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LibraryThing member aengle
K-3. This book is a narrative about a boy's Japanese grandfather who had seen the world. The pages give illustrations of places, buildings, people of different countries to tell the story of the boy's grandfather's travels and what he experienced.
LibraryThing member amanda_c
This beautifully illustrated picture book tells the story of a Japanese-American family with roots in both countries. The measured pace, spare text, and serene watercolor illustrations capture Grandfather’s bittersweet longing for both the land of his birth, and the land where spent much
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of his life.

Potential Use:
At first glance, the contemplative pacing and static illustrations of Grandfather’s Journey make it seem like a read-alone book, but the large pages, simple words and large, clear, serif typeset make it a pleasure to read aloud, and a pleasure to hear.

Child Appeal:
This book might be a tough sell to younger children used to flashier colors and faster pacing, but the calm rhythm of the prose and the beauty of the illustrations might make this book a favorite for quiet times.
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LibraryThing member APoteet
A Japanese immigrant to California recalls his grandfather's travels to the west and his years lived in both Japan and California. Where ever the grandson is, he longs for his other home, just as his grandfather did.
LibraryThing member KristinWhite
This book is good for kindergarten to third grade. It helps children relate their families and cultures to the grandfathers. It also relates the history of WWII to the history of grandfather's home in Japan.
LibraryThing member kdelker
Grandfather’s Journey is a book about a man’s journey from Japan to the United States. He travels across the country and sees many things and meets many people but misses his homeland. He returns home and marries and many years later, his grandson repeats the same adventure only to stay in
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California and return occasionally to Japan.

I love the pictures and the parallels of the man’s life and that of his grandson. I like when he says when he is in one country he is homesick for the other. I can relate in that I miss being on the East Coast and when I am on the East Coast, I miss Oklahoma.

This book would be good for discussing travel, ancestors and family trees. We could use a map and mark places we have been for a geography lesson.
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LibraryThing member jodyjlittle
This picture book memoire tells the story of the author's grandfather and his lifelong journeys. The grandfather leaves Japan as a young boy to see the world. He goes to America and explores all the sights. His favorite place is the California coast. When he returns to Japan, he marries his
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childhood sweetheart and he takes her to live in his California home. All his life, the Grandfather is torn between his two homes. When he is in Japan, he misses California, and when he is in California, he misses Japan.
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LibraryThing member ThorneStaff
"Grandfather's Journey" chronicles the life of a man who really claims two countries as his own: Japan and the United States. As a young man, he travels througout America, finally settling in California after bringing his bride from Japan. When he returns to Japan, WWII breaks out, and he settles
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in Japan while still dreaming of California. Eventually, his grandson carries on the tradition by moving to California, but always thinking of his home in Japan.
This is a touching story of the legacy that grandparents leave, and it also conveys the wistful longing to be in two places at once because each is one's home. The illustrations are realistic, conveying the character of the people represented, and the color shifts as the mood of the book shifts.
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LibraryThing member bmaiello
Grandfather’s Journey is a great book about exploring a new world, adapting to it, and missing one’s homeland. The grandfather loved California but eventually retired to his home country of Japan. His grandson wanted to see California and when he did he realized how his grandfather must have
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LibraryThing member eal_04
Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say is about a young man moving to America from Japan. This man traveled on a steamship on the Pacific Ocean, a train, riverboat, and on feet. He came across farm fields, deserts, cities, mountains, and very friendly people with all different ethnics. The young man
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finally came across California and liked this state the best. Soon he went back to Japan and married his childhood sweetheart and moved back to California. Later, they had a baby girl and moved back to Japan due to homesickness. Eventually the little girl got married and had a baby boy. He would hear all the stories his grandfather had told him about California, so when this baby boy grew up he went to California to see for himself.

This book would be great for children who are of different ethnics because it talks about how people would want to move to America. I think most move to America for more opportunities, education, and so much more.

I could read this book to children after a discussion of their own family history. This book could also involve some geography. We could take a map out and see just how far Japan is to California.
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LibraryThing member raspringrose
This book is about a man who wanted to travel so he did. He ended up going home to Japan and marrying is childhood love. They had a baby and went to California, but he missed his homeland so they moved back. His daughter got married and had a son. The man wanted to make a trip back to the U.S. but
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never got the chance, so his grandson did. His grandson soon learned more about his grandfather because he kept jumping back and forth. I thought this was a good story about immigration.
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LibraryThing member amcannova
This is a good read for a grandparent because they could see how their grandparents grew up and the grandfather and grandmother could tell their stories of growing up and traveling the world. It is informational because it tells of the different things his grandfather saw along the way of his
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travels. They also talked about the different generations of the family.
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LibraryThing member wendyfincher
This book is a boy telling a story about his grandfather's life and love for two different countries. After living in both countries the young boy telling the story can now relate to his grandfather's passion for both countries. When he is in one country he is missing the other one.
This is a great
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book about two different cultures. This is a level 3 book.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

11.5 inches

Other editions

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