Grandfather’s Journey

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. This book is for audiences age 4 to 8. (
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
Houghton Mifflin Company
ISSN Number
Average: 5 (1 vote)


Please login to review this resource

Beautiful Picture Book with Uses for Students of All Ages

Field of Interest/Specialty: elematery education
Posted On: 10/26/2014

Grandfather’s Journey is beautifully written and illustrated picture book. While the abstract suggests the book for ages 4-8, it can readily be used with students of all ages. The time period covered by the book stretches from the late 1800’s through the 1940’s, and it’s content touches on historical events across that time period.
I often use pictures books to introduce complex topics to my fifth graders. Grandfather’s Journey will be an excellent fit for an upcoming literature study on immigration. My students will be reading a variety of novels about modern day immigrants from around the world, and Grandfather’s Journey will be shared as a read aloud, mid-unit, to demonstrate the longing an immigrant may have for his or her home country. Close reading of the author's succinct text will provide a springboard for a variety of conversations with students, and analysis on the water color illustrations allows for vivid comparison of Grandfather's two homelands, Japan and the United States. This use of the book is not limited, however, to fifth graders. Teachers of older students will find that the sophisticated text and pictures make this book suitable for a variety of ages.
Teachers wishing to do a picture book study with a Japanese theme might consider using Grandfather’s Journey in conjunction with Ken Mochizuki’s picture book, Baseball Saved Us. Baseball Saved Us is a story set in a Japanese internment camp during World War Two. Students might use the texts to compare and contrast the Japanese American experience in the Unites States in the 1940s found in Baseball Saved Us and the effect of war in Japan during the same period found in Grandfather’s Journey.
Theme’s found in Grandfather’s Journey include Japan, immigration/migration, exploration, diversity, war, changes over time, and sense of belonging/homeland. It’s worth noting that Grandfather’s Journey is a 1994 Caldecott Award winner for the most distinguished picture book of the year.