Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Grandfather's Journey

Grandfather's Journey

Allen Say
Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993   ISBN: 0547076800

Many years ago, when ships were still powered by steam, Allen Say's grandfather left Japan ""to see the world."" He crossed the wide Pacific, and then explored many wondrous places in the New World. He met people of all kinds, and saw the highest mountains, deserts, and beautiful coastlines. Then he went to Japan and married a young woman, whom he brought back to America. The young couple settled in San Francisco, and soon they were joined by a baby daughter.

When his daughter was almost all grown up, Allen Say's grandfather decided to go back to Japan so that he could once again see ""the mountains and rivers of his home."" Though he was delighted to be back in Japan, his daughter needed more than a life in a small village. She had to find her place in her new country.

This is a very personal story, but at the same time, it is like so many other stories that have been told about people who came to America and who left it. As they read Allen Say's spare evocative words and look at his luminous paintings, readers will come to see how people from three generations in a family try to come to terms with the love that they feel for both America and Japan. As Allen Say says at the end of his narrative, ""the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other.""

This is a powerful and memorable portrait of the Japanese American immigrant experience.