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[Nonfiction Wednesday] Generational Narratives of Hard Work, Tradition, and Coming Full Circle in Artist Dan Yaccarino’s “All The Way To America”

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Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.


I have a special affinity with generational stories – I feel the remarkable sense of continuity and how time somehow has a way of looping back into itself as can be seen in artist Dan Yaccarino’s story here.


All The Way To America: The Story Of A Big Italian Family And A Little Shovel

Written and Illustrated by: Dan Yaccarino
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011 ISBN: 0375966420 (ISBN13: 9780375966422) Book Awards: Irma Black Award Nominee (2012)
Borrowed a copy from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

In what Dan Yaccarino claims to be his most personal work to date, he shares the story of his great grandfather Michele Iaccarino who grew up on a farm in Sorrento, Italy. As a young boy, he helped ease the constant poverty the family faces by using the little shovel his own father gave him to tend the fruits and vegetables that the family sold in the village. As a young man, he decided to take a chance and go to America to look for better opportunities.


When he left home, his father gave him very sound advice: (1) Work hard, (2) Enjoy life, and (3) Never forget your family. Bringing his little shovel along, Michele (who later had his name changed to Michael Yaccarino when he entered the United States via Ellis Island) took the reminders to heart, and passed along both the shovel and the life lessons his own father taught him to his own descendants.


While this is distinctly Dan Yaccarino’s family story, this can also be anyone’s tale of migration, with the opportunities beckoning on the horizon, and one’s suitcase filled with the good intentions of making life better not only for one’s self but the generations to come.


I did get a little confused in the end when Yaccarino noted that when he grew up, he “moved back to the city where my great-grandfather Michele had lived.” At one point, I imagined this to be back in Sorrento, Italy – and then I realized that this was actually in reference to New York. Other than that, I felt that this is a personal book that has transcended cultural boundaries, given the universal experience of passing on unremitting hard work, sacrifice, and hope to one’s family.

This would be a good book to pair with Uri Shulevitz’s How I Learned Geography and Peter Sis’ The Wall and The Two Brothers by William Jaspersohn and Michael Donato.

I also found this Youtube Clip of Dan Yaccarino talking about All The Way To America. Enjoy!

4 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Generational Narratives of Hard Work, Tradition, and Coming Full Circle in Artist Dan Yaccarino’s “All The Way To America”

  1. All the Way to America would pair well with Faith Ringgold’s We Came to America. Thanks for sharing this!


  2. I have not read this one! I’ll pass it along to our teachers that do a unit on immigration!


  3. I really enjoy Dan Yaccarino’s books, I will definitely have to check that one out!


  4. Pingback: [Poetry Friday] “This is the Rope” by Jacqueline Woodson – Gathering Books

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