Yaccarino tells the story of several generations of his Italian family in this picture book. The book starts with his great-grandfather who grew up in a farm in Sorrento, Italy. He headed for America in search of new opportunities, leaving his parents behind. His father gave him a little shovel, reminding him to work hard, but remember to enjoy life. His mother told him to never forget his family. As time goes on, Michael and his descendants used the small shovel in a variety of ways. Michael used it at his first job in America to scoop flour and sugar. When he opened his own pushcart, he used it to measure dried fruits and nuts. His son Dan used the little shovel in his market. His son Mike used it to pour salt on the icy sidewalks in front of his barbershop. And now Dan, the author of the book, worked hard himself and uses the shovel to on their terrace to grow fruits and vegetables.
I love the use of the symbol of the shovel to tie the different generations together. Additionally, the ways that the shovel is used by different people add an interesting piece to everyone’s story. Yaccarino has created a vibrant picture book from his heritage that is warm, friendly and intriguing. His writing contains just enough detail to be interesting and to evoke a specific time, but not too much for the young audience.
Yaccarino’s illustrations have a wonderful graphic nature to them that is fresh, modern yet evokes the past clearly. Watching the features of the family change from one generation to the next is a treat. The illustrations are filled with color to the edges of the page, making for a bright, complete world.
A great pick to use with youngsters learning about their family tree, this book would also make a good place to start off family conversations. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.
Also reviewed by Jen Robinson’s Book Page.
You can also take a look at the book trailer: