Monday, May 2, 2011

Review #95: All the Way to America

Isaac (age 12):  We read "All the Way to America."
Lily (age 8):  It's about a little shovel that gets passed down from generation to generation.
Dad:  And who has the shovel now?
Lily:  Dan...
Dad:  Yaccarino?
Lily:  Yeah, Yaccarino.
Isaac:  It starts out with this Italian guy... Michele...
Dad:  The author's great-grandfather.
Gracie (age 10):  Michele sounds like a girl name.
Isaac:  He was a farmer in Italy, but then he moved to America.  And when he left home, his mom and dad gave him this shovel.
Lily:  He had kids, and the kids had kids, and then those kids had kids.
Isaac:  The family passes on this little shovel from generation to generation.
Dad:  And each generation uses the shovel for something different.  If you're a baker, how do you use a little scooper?
Gracie:  Measure out flour.
Dad:  And if you are a barber, how do you use a shovel?
Gracie:  Shovel rock salt onto the sidewalk in front of your store.
Lily:  I have a question.  What does HE do with the shovel?  The author?  He's an artist.  What does he do with the shovel?
Dad:  What do you think?  If you are a storyteller, how do you use a shovel?
Gracie:  You make a book about it!
Lily:  Oh.  Yeah!
Isaac:  I think the pictures are awesome looking.  They have very bold, solid colors -- not all blended together.  And they are very sharp pictures, not sketchy.
Gracie:  Everything that isn't important in the illustrations is just done in outlines.
Isaac:  Yeah, it's all outlines in the backgrounds.
Dad:  Which is a cool technique -- it helps you to focus on the main subjects.
Isaac:  And each person has one specific thing that they always wear.  One guy always has this green checkered hat.  One guy always wears a stripey orange and yellow shirt.
Lily:  One guy always wears green pants.
Gracie:  Because the people in the book grow up.  They get older.
Isaac:  The way they look is always changing.  But by having one thing about their clothes stay the same, you know who is who, and it will be easier to keep track of them.
Lily:  I think the family really likes food.
Gracie:  There is food on almost every single page!
Isaac:  This is a historical book, but it's not something like... President Abraham Lincoln.
Dad:  It's not about national history.
Isaac:  No, but it IS about his family history.  His family tree.
Gracie:  I think their family tree is a tomato tree!  Oh wait, there are no tomato trees, are there.
Dad:  Actually quite a few things get passed down from generation to generation...
Lily:  The little shovel.  And a tomato sauce recipe.
Gracie:  And advice: Work hard, try to enjoy life, and always love your family.
Dad:  And always use this shovel.
Lily:  Hahahah...
Gracie:  And always like food!
Dad:  And never change your clothes.
Gracie:  Ha ha ha!
Dad:  So at this point in a review, I would normally say something like, "We just read a book about Dan Yaccarino's family history... now let's bring it home.  Let me tell you a few things about our family history."
Gracie:  Our family has history.
Dad:  Yes, however... I don't really know that much about our family history.  Which is kind of sad.  I know some names.  I could tell you that Jacob had Elmer.  Elmer had Grandpa.  And Grandpa had me.
Gracie:  Grandpa didn't have you!  Grammy had you.  Grandpa... helped.
Dad:  But we are lucky today!  Who is right here with us today that can tell us about some family history?
Kids:  Granny!
Gracie:  She's our great-grandma!
Dad:  We happen to be recording this over Easter weekend.  And because of our big family get together, we have Grammy's mom Granny here!
Gracie:  Granny, can we interview you about our family history?
Granny (Bess Hankinson, age 85):  You can go right ahead and interview me.
Gracie:  My first question is...  Were we always in Michigan?  Or did we come from China or something.
Granny:  Well, I'll tell you.  My mother and dad were both from England.
Lily:  Cool!
Granny:  They both came over from England when they were children.  My mother grew up in Canada before she moved to the United States.  Her name was Mabel Kitley.  My dad's name was John Towlerton.  And as a child, he was raised in Mexico.
Dad:  Really!  Canada and Mexico?  And they met up in the middle.  I didn't know that.
Gracie:  So our family is partly from England, partly from Canada, and partly from Mexico?
Granny:  Yes.  John's parents were Mary and James Towlerton.  My great-granddad wrote them and said, "There is work down in Mexico - come on down."  So my grandparents took my dad and his brother, and they came right from England and went to Mexico.  They started working in the gold mines in Mexico.
Gracie:  Gasp!  That's so sweet!  That's awesome!  The gold mines?!
Lily:  Our family worked in a goldmine!  Did he get a lot of gold from the goldmine?
Granny:  Oh, my grandfather James became very wealthy.
Dad:  So, they were actually finding gold?
Granny:  Yes, he was a very rich man.  He ended up in charge of the mines.  He was the boss.  But my dad didn't want to work there any more, so he ran away.
Isaac:  Why did he run away?
Granny:  He didn't want to work down under the ground.
Lily:  It would be dangerous.
Granny:  He was growing up, and he didn't want to be underground the rest of his life.  His mother was very sad about that because she only had the two boys.
Dad:  And how old was your dad at that point?
Granny:  He was almost 25.  So he ran away and came all the way up to Michigan by hopping trains.
Dad:  Wow - train hopping...
Granny:  In those days people did that.  And he would stop along the way... find some work... get a little money... get some food... keep going.  He did that all the way up to Michigan to meet his little American Rose.  My mother.
Gracie:  That's sweet.
Granny:  Mom and Dad met at a party.  They went around together for a little while.  Then they got married.  At that time, it was the Great Depression.  So they lived with my mother's mom and dad for almost 8 years.  Because there wasn't any work.  So people would all live together -- one of them would try to get work, and then they could share the food and rent.
Isaac:  That is interesting....
Granny:  It was hard during those days.  We didn't have a car until I was quite old.  Never had a telephone.  Well, a year after I was born, they had my sister Mabel.
Dad:  Do you remember Auntie Mabel?
Gracie:  Oh yeah!  Sometimes when we are at Granny's cottage she comes by.
Granny:  Yes, Auntie Mabel.  Then 13 months later they had a little boy, my brother Art.  Then a while later they had another little boy named Jimmy.
Gracie:  Aw, Jimmy.
Granny:  Then my wealthy granddad sent money for all of us to go down to Mexico.  Guadalajara, Mexico is where my granddad lived.  We went on the train.  It took a long time to get there - it's not like the trains today.
Dad:  And how old were you on this trip?
Granny:  I was about 5 years old.  We went and we stayed in Mexico.  And my little brother Jimmy got sick.  They boiled the water... they did everything they were supposed to do.  But he died in Mexico.
Gracie:  Ohhhh...
Granny:  So he is buried in Mexico.  We felt so bad.  And so we came back on the bus to Michigan.
Gracie:  How long did that take?
Granny:  A long time.  And I got sick on the bus.  And they had to stop the bus, and wash the whole bus out.
Dad:  Oh no -- it was THAT kind of sick.
Granny:  Ha ha ha, yeah.  Mess.  A mess.
Gracie:  Oh yuck!  Ha ha...
Granny:  Then a little while later, my parents had another baby, and her name was Alice.
Gracie:  Baby Alice.
Granny:  And she was MY baby.  Because my mother was so weak after she had the baby.  She could hardly hold her.  So she gave her to me, and I rocked her in the chair.  I was 8 years old then.  And Alice has always been my baby.
Isaac:  You told us about your side of the family, but what about Papa?
Gracie:  Yeah, what about Papa's side of the family?
Granny:  Well, they came from England too.
Dad:  So both sides came from England.
Granny:  Yes, they did.  Papa's parents were Sarah and Joseph Hankinson.  His dad's name was Joseph, just like Papa's name.  They were very good people.  They always went to church.  And that's where I met Joe.  Papa.  We went to "Young Peoples" together.
Dad:  Like a church youth group.
Gracie:  That's nice.
Granny:  One day we were all riding on the bus, and my mother said, "Look -- isn't that a nice young man?"  Then Papa and I "went together" for 5 or 6 years.  We were just kids when we first started.  But for three of those years, he was in the the Navy air force.
Gracie:  I thought we had a relative in the Navy.
Granny:  Then he came home from the service.  One time we stopped at a light.  And he reached in his pocket to get his hanky, and he brought out a ring and asked if I would marry him.
Dad:  And what do you think Granny said?
Lily:  Yes!
Granny:  Yes, I did.  Then we got married in June of 1947.  Papa was a great man for building things.  You know the cottage up north at Higgins Lake... Papa built that.
Gracie:  He built it?  He built that big cottage?!
Dad:  You didn't know that, Gracie?
Gracie:  That Great. Big. House?  It's a beautiful house - he built that?  That's amazing.
Granny:  He built about 5 houses.  For friends.  He never had any lessons in building.  He had a book he would read every once in a while.
Gracie:  Wow.
Granny:  He loved to do it.  He loved to help people.  They knew who to come to if they wanted something done.  They came to Papa, and he'd go and help them.  That's Papa for you.  He was always helping everybody.
Dad:  So you guys have some good heritage behind you.
Granny:  If somebody needs something, they can come to you and say, "Now Gracie, can you help me..."
Gracie:  Sure!
Granny:  See, and then you can help them.
Gracie:  Actually, Isaac is the best builder out of us kids.  I mainly like to cook.
Dad:  You can feed people while Isaac is building them houses.
Lily:  I like to..... um.... I like to swim.
Gracie:  Thank-you, Granny!  This was awesome!  This was great.
Granny:  I never knew I had such an exciting life, ha ha...
Gracie:  It was great!!!
Lily:  And Gracie thought this was going to be boring!
Gracie:  It was all really interesting!  I can't believe we have such an awesome history!
Lily:  And we'll pass the story on to our grandchildren.
Gracie:  Do you have anything of sentimental value that has been passed down from generation to generation?
Granny:  Well, I have a lot of things at the cottage.  Tea cups from England.  Every time my mother and dad went away, they'd bring a cup and saucer back.
Lily:  Do you have anything, liiiiiiike..... a RUBY?
Granny:  Ha ha ha, No... I don't have anything like that.
Gracie:  Do you have any gold from your granddad's gold mine?  That would be cool!
Lily:  I think that's really cool that our great-great-great-grandfather worked at a gold mine.
Gracie:  Well, I think that I'm upset because I didn't get any gold.
Dad:  That would have been better than having a shovel get passed down from generation to generation, eh?  Gold nuggets for everybody!
Lily:  Yeah!
Gracie:  Gold nuggets all around!
Granny:  Well, I love to have all you kids around.  I have 4 children.  And 10 grandchildren.  And 20 great-grandchildren.  We had the family together for Easter today.  And someone said to me, "Look what you started!"  Ha ha ha...
Dad:  Yeah, these guys wouldn't be here -- so many people wouldn't be here -- if not for Granny...
Gracie:  You had kids, and they had kids, and they had kids...  Our family will grow and grow and grow -- and take over the world!
Dad:  And we'll put Granny's picture on all of our coins.

the Yaccarino family tree, by Isaac

great-great-great-grandpa James digging for gold (with Dan Yaccarino's shovel!) by Lily

Mexico John meets Canada Mabel, by Gracie

Thanks to Granny for the interview!  And thanks to Dan Yaccarino for making this wonderful book -- it kicked off a fun family conversation, and without it, some great family history would have been lost to us!

Author/Illustrator: Dan Yaccarino
Published, 2011: Knopf
Like it?  Here it is


Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

Oh!! I have always enjoyed your book reviews that you all do together (and also especially a huge fan of your own books!)! But I must say, this post was extra special to have a bit of your family history in there with a special interview with "Granny"!

And as always...Isaac, Lily and your lovely, creative, artistic illustrations!

Blessings & Aloha!

Betty said...

That's great that you got Granny to tell some family history. It's so important to find out as much as you can while there's still time. Maybe the kids could interview other relatives now?

Judie said...

What a wonderful conversation! Granny is a real gem! Thanks for sharing this with us!!

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful to do a review. This book sounds like fun.

Monica said...

Just found you from Alphabe-Thursday. What fun blogs you have - I'm going to have to show my kids! I'd love to find this book. We moved back to the states a few months ago after living in Italy for 5 years.
I was looking at your kids' art blog and LOVED the idea of leaving painted rocks around town! Mind if we copy you? My kids would LOVE to do something like that!
So excited to have found your blogs!

Linda Bob Grifins Korbetis Hall said...

lovely piece of writing,
the art in the end is amazing...


Cheryl D. said...

Great post on children's books! Sorry for the late visit!

Emmy said...

Great drawings, kids! You have some awesome talents and art skills. Great book review too! Can't wait to check it out!