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Sunday, September 14, 2014

All the Way to America, written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. Dragonfly Books, Random House. 2011. $8.99 ages 5 and up

"When Dan grew up, he married Helen. These are my grandparents. Together Dan and Helen opened a market. They sold all sorts of wonderful Italian food. Now the little shovel belonged to Dan..."

In a strong first person narrative, Dan Yaccarino shares his family's immigration story. It begins when his great-grandfather Michele Iaccarino is given a little shovel that he might use while helping on the family farm. Upon leaving home to make a better life in America, his parents gift him the shovel and add some advice for his new life...'work hard, enjoy life and always love your family.'

It is a gift that will stand the test of time. First Michele - whose American name is Michael - uses it to help him in his work at a bakery. Later, he uses it to measure foods from his pushcart. Then, his son uses it first in the market to measure out olives and beans. When he opens his restaurant, he also finds a use for it there.Then, he has a son whose life work is in owning a barber shop. There, the shovel is used to protect his clients by spreading salt on icy sidewalks. The next son is our author/illustrator who uses the shovel to help with his own terrace gardening. His grandparents' verbal gift is also passed from generation to generation.

Dan Yaccarino provides a walk through his family history in the brightly coloured and detailed artwork that evokes the love and strong familial bonds so honoured throughout their many years. Sharing it with an interested audience is sure to encourage them to begin to search out their own family stories. What wonder will be found?

As Patricia Polacco did with her keeping quilt, and recently with her blessing cup, Dan Yaccarino uses the shovel as a warm symbol of family unity and spirit over generations.


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