Dan Yaccarino. All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 32 pages.
Most picture books communicate simple concepts of family: a child or more, a mother and
perhaps father, and maybe a few grandparents. In All the Way to America, Dan Yaccarino goes much further, reaching back four generations to his great-grandfather Michele Iaccarino, who came to New York from Sorrento, Italy, in search of a better life. As he left the Old World, his father handed him a little shovel that he’d used as a boy with the injunction to “Work Hard.”
The shovel gets passed down from Michele (who at Ellis Island becomes Michael Yaccarino) to his son Dan, who uses it in his suburban market. He then passes the shovel on to his son Mike, who then passes it on to his son (the author), who moves back to New York City to become an illustrator. On the final page, we see the author’s children playing with the little shovel on their terrace garden.
It’s a beautiful story about a family’s journey, and about the lessons that are passed down between generations. Although each generation is different from the one before it, each works hard in its own way. Younger children will appreciate seeing how even the grandparents were once small children. You might use the book as a springboard to talking about your own family’s history (as did I) with slightly older children.
The illustrations, gouache on watercolor paper, are gorgeous as well. This really is a fantastic book that will help you explore history with your kids; even if you’re not Italian, you will get a lot out of this book.