Grandfather’s Journey


Grandfather’s Journey

Allen Say, author and illustrator

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993

29 pp

ages 5 +

Interests: history, travel, immigration, Japan, family history, grandparents

The true story of the author’s grandfather, who as a young man traveled from a small village in Japan to the United States. There he fell in love with California and the Sierra Mountains. After going home to marry his childhood sweetheart, they both return to California to start a family. However as his daughter grows up he grows nostalgic for his homeland and they move back. The old man is eternally torn between two homes, and is always homesick for wherever he is not. Unfortunately World War II prevents him from ever returning to the States. After his death his grandson, the author, moves to California to see the land his grandfather loved so much. The book ends simply,

“I think I know my grandfather now. I miss him very much.”

Beautiful watercolours tell the story of Say’s grandfather and his sense of homesickness, no matter where he is. There isn’t a lot of action in the story, but it is engaging in its formality: the characters are depicted as if posing for photos, unsmiling and stiff. The restraint of this book covers a nuanced sense of sadness and longing.

A good book for those interested in Japan, immigrant stories, and family histories. For those with a special, personal interest in tales of immigration from Japan, this book could certainly be read to children younger than 5.

(This title at


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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