Grandfather's Journey

Written and Illustrated by Allen Say (Houghton Mifflin, 1993)

This is the story of a cross-cultural family. It begins with the author's memories of his grandfather, who left Japan for California, and eventually returned to Japan with his family. Though the grandfather was happy to be home in Japan, he missed the mountains and rivers he left behind. When his grandfather dies, the author, who grew up in Japan, decides to see the mountains and rivers his grandfather missed so much. He stays in California, but like his grandfather, never forgets his homeland.

Traveling Words
The author's grandfather traveled from Japan to California by steamship. Ask: "How do you think the author made the same journey when he was old enough to travel?" Use chart paper to make a picture dictionary of transportation words. Let students suggest ways they have traveled as well as other modes of transportation. Write the words on the chart paper, leaving space for pictures. Let children draw or cut out pictures to go with the words. Add the dictionary to your classroom writing resources. Children can add to it as they discover new words.

TIP: Add a challenge by having children categorize the words before creating their dictionary pages — for example, grouping them by air, water, and land travel.

Writer's Corner: My Journey
In Grandfather's Journey, the author tells of his grandfather's journey to America and what he loves most about his new home. Use the beginning of the story as a model for students' stories about their own journeys (such as a trip to the grocery store; a visit to a different city, state, or country; or a move). To guide their writing, use questions such as these that parallel the book:

  • Where did you go?
  • How did you travel?
  • What did you bring with you?
  • What were some of the first things you saw?
  • What did you like best about the place you traveled to?
  • What did you miss about home?
Possible formats for writing include postcards, journals, newspaper/magazine articles, and letters. (To extend this activity, see Family Travels, below.)


Math: Paper Folding Fun

The art of origami utilizes geometry, fractions, and measurement in every design. Let children look at the boat pictured on the back of Grandfather's Journey. Then guide them in making their own simple boats.

Material: Paper cut into 6-inch squares

Give each child a square of paper. Guide children in completing the following steps.

  • Fold the paper in half, bottom edge to top edge. (1)
  • Fold one of the top halves down so that the top and bottom edges meet. (2, 3)
  • Turn the paper over and again bring the top half down so that the top and bottom edges meet. Crease the edge then unfold. (3, 4)
  • Fold each corner (top and bottom) in. Fold the bottom layers together. (5)
  • Fold the top edge down to meet the bottom edge. (6) Pull open the top edges and press down on the inside to shape the bottom of the boat. (7)
TIP: If you use origami paper, have children start with the paper colored-side up. If you use white paper, you might invite children to color it before you begin. As students complete each fold, have them crease the edges.


Social Studies/Language Arts: Family Travels
Build on the stories the grandfather told the boy about California by inviting children to ask grandparents (or other family members) about their journeys. Let children use the take-home journal page to gather information. Have them use their notes to write stories about the journeys. As children share their stories, use a map to locate destinations.