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The Matchbox Diary

Last updated Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Author: Paul Fleischman
Date of Publication: 2013
ISBN: 0763646016
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jun. 2015

Synopsis: "Pick whatever you like most. Then I’ll tell you its story." When a little girl visits her great-grandfather at his curio-filled home, she chooses an unusual object to learn about: an old cigar box. What she finds inside surprises her: a collection of matchboxes making up her great-grandfather’s diary, harboring objects she can hold in her hand, each one evoking a memory. Together they tell of his journey from Italy to a new country, before he could read and write — the olive pit his mother gave him to suck on when there wasn’t enough food; a bottle cap he saw on his way to the boat; a ticket still retaining the thrill of his first baseball game. With a narrative entirely in dialogue, Paul Fleischman makes immediate the two characters’ foray into the past. With warmth and an uncanny eye for detail, Bagram Ibatoulline gives expressive life to their journey through time — and toward each other.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you know what a matchbox is? Have you ever seen one?
•  Do you keep a diary or know someone who does?
•  Who do you think is in the photograph?


•  Matchbox-a small box for matches
•  Schoolmaster-a man who teaches in a school
•  Ellis Island-island off New York where immigrants passed through when coming to America
•  Hurricane-an extremely large, powerful storm with very strong winds that occurs especially in the western part of the Atlantic Ocean
•  Medallions-a large medal
•  Steamship-a ship that is powered by steam
•  Canneries-a factory where food is put into cans
•  Typesetting-the process or job of arranging type for printing
•  Grandstands-a usually roofed structure with seats for people to sit on while they are watching a sporting event
•  Foundry-a building or factory where metals are produced

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  How are the man and little girl related?(he is her grandfather)
•  Do you know where Italy is? How far is that from America? (use a map/globe from the room or your phone to show the kids)
•  How did the man and his family get to America? Have you ever moved to a new place?
•  What kinds of things are in the matchboxes? Do you collect anything?
•  If you cannot read or write, what other ways are there to keep memories? (draw pictures)

Craft ideas:
•  Make a matchbook diary: cut out 3 or 4 long rectangular strips of paper and fold to the size, and shape, of a matchbook. Have kids draw something inside that they would like to remember, and have them write a sentence about it. Have them glue the matchbooks onto a piece of construction paper and decorate.
•  Create a visual diary by drawing pictures of memories etc.
•  Make a Father's Day card.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!