Book Review: Allen Say’s Grandfather’s Journey

Posted July 16, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Children's

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Allen Say’s Grandfather’s Journey

Grandfather's Journey


Allen Say

biography, picture book in Hardcover edition that was published by HMH Books for Young Readers on 1993 and has 32 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

A standalone biography of a grandson’s remembrances of his grandfather’s life that should really get a “6”.

In 1994, Grandfather’s Journey won the Caldecott Medal, and in 1993, it won the California Book Award Silver Medal for Juvenile.

My Take

It’s beautiful yet sad. Say reminisces about his grandfather, his journey to America, his life, and his return to the Japan he misses. Say doesn’t stop there, for he continues with his parents, and then to his own experience and feelings.

Beautiful. I know I said it before, but it does bear repeating. The paintings are so gorgeous, and the stories Say writes encapsulate the experience of many immigrants to America, only Say’s version has such a lovely peacefulness to it.

The folded paper boat on the title page induced nostalgia when I saw it. That feeling of olden days carries through in the watercolor “photos” Say created as “Grandfather” provides a tour of America, from its plains to trains, the majesty of tall mountains and cities with their factories, from deserts to rivers, as Say slips back into life.

It’s a life bridging two cultures, and as Say explains at the end: “The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other”.

The Story

A young man yearns for more and travels to America where he finds that more. A young man who grows older and appreciates what he has and has had.

The Characters

Grandfather is the subject while his grandson, Allen Say, narrates a simple story of what he knows of his grandfather.

The Cover and Title

The cover is subdued in its khaki brown frame of an inset picture with a young grandfather standing in front of the ship’s rail with the heaving ocean in the background while he’s wearing Western clothes for the first time: a black homburg and double-breasted black coat that comes to his ankles. The title is in white above the picture while the author’s name is below.

The title is the journey we all take through life, and this story is Grandfather’s Journey.