This book tells the story of a great-grandfather, who is telling his great-granddaughter about his life growing up. When he was a child, he didn’t know how to read or write, so he kept a diary by putting things in little matchboxes. Each thing was to remember something that happened in his life. For instance, his family was very poor, which was why he couldn’t read or write. Sometimes they didn’t have enough food, so his mother would give him an olive pit to suck on. His father was away working in America, and one day he sent them tickets for them to all go to America. But life wasn’t easy for him in America. He was scared of the Buttonhook Man, who used a buttonhook to check under his eyelids to make sure he didn’t have an eye disease. His family had to work all day in the canning factories, but people didn’t like them just because they were Italian. Finally the grandfather was able to go to school, and he got a job working as a printer, but he always found just the right thing to put in his matchboxes.
“Instead of jewels, my mother and sisters had fish scales on their arms. The strange thing was, when we walked down a street and maybe passed a grocery, the same people who bought our cans of sardines wouldn’t look at us. Back then, some people didn’t want Italians here.”
The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman is a very interesting story about the history of some Italian people when they first came to America. It was interesting to read about how things were very hard for them. The pictures were really beautiful; the illustrator did a really good job showing how things were for the grandfather and his family. When the grandfather is talking about his memories, the illustrations are not in color, even though they have a lot of detail, so they seem like a dream and make you feel like they are memories. This is a really good story that will make you think.