Vessels of Story

Passing down family stories from generation to generation is a nourishing aspect of human nature. It simultaneously grounds our immediate world and connects us with a larger world and perspective. Common objects often serve as the vessel for the memories and stories lived by previous “owners.”  Within the clan, the object smiles as a reminder. To those outside the clan who look and wonder, it gives family members the chance to share their stories once more.

Dan Yaccarino’s newest picture book shares the beauty of family stories, and how any object can become family gold when it becomes the vessel of family history and tradition. Even a little shovel, as honored in ALL THE WAY TO AMERICA: THE STORY OF A BIG ITALIAN FAMILY AND A LITTLE SHOVEL.

Yaccarino’s text begins with his great-grandfather who was given a little shovel by his father so he could help in their garden. As a young man this great-grandfather sailed to America. But not without the little shovel and all the stories it held. In New York City the little shovel is used to measure flour and sugar in a bakery as new stories are added. Then used to measure nuts as the great-grandfather ventures out on his own with a peddlers cart. Generation after generation, the little shovel serves as a vital part of the young people’s lives and memories. In time, the little shovel is passed on to the author himself, Dan Yaccarino. Now its values are three-fold. It serves as the vessel for his family’s stories, provides the spark of this gem of a book, and is used as a little shovel by his son on their terrace garden.

Where do writers find their ideas? Often the simplest of family heirlooms.

 Children’s Books That Feature Objects as Vessels of Family Story

ALL THE WAY TO AMERICA: THE STORY OF A BIG ITALIAN FAMILY AND A LITTLE SHOVEL by Dan Yaccarino. Knopf, 2011.

BLUE WILLOW by Doris Gates. Viking, 1940.

MY NOAH’S ARK by M.B. Goffstein. Harper, 1978.

THE STONE BOOK by Alan Garner. Collins, 1978.

THIS IS THE BIRD by George Shannon. Illus. by David Soman. Houghton, 1997.

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