What threads tie one generation to another? In this tribute to family, it is a shovel. Not a huge, earth moving shovel that spades garden plots or digs post holes. A little shovel. But it tells a mighty story.
ALL THE WAY TO AMERICA, The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel, by Dan Yaccarino, Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
“Remember to enjoy life.”
“Never forget family.”
Oh, but there is so much more to the big Italian family that author Dan Yaccarino shares with us.
He begins with his great-grandfather’s little shovel, the one his ancestor was given so he could help tend the zucchini, tomatoes, and strawberries in his father’s garden.
Then this talented great-grandson mines the family stories and follows the little shovel as it travels with his great-grandfather from his birthplace in Sorrento, Italy all the way to America.
In a touching fare-well scene, the reader sees great-grandfather receiving from his father the little shovel and the first two lines of advice above. Mom added, “Never forget family.” She gave him photos and tomato sauce. The parting works on several emotional levels. Then the story kicks into high gear.
Great-grandfather changes his name and loves America, but he doesn’t forget family. He uses the little shovel in a bakery, measuring flour and sugar. He marries Adeline, has 5 children, lives in “Little Italy,” and teaches his children, “work hard, enjoy life, love family.”
The line of industrious bread winners and bread bakers continues, brightly illustrated by the author to show the little shovel in all its uses, with its greatest use being the witness it bears to the legacy of a loving family. It is, indeed a big Italian family, so big the family dinners grow too large for anyone’s home. Only a family owned restaurant will hold them all.
The last pages are about the author, Dan. He grows up in the suburbs but moves back to the city and becomes an author/illustrator. He marries Sue. Their son and daughter work on their New York City terrace with the small shovel. They grow zucchini, tomatoes, and strawberries. Dan teaches the family philosophy: work hard, enjoy life, and love family.
Explore the author’s website and visit the two trailers for this book. One is inspiring and the other is stirring. (Which is which? Personal opinion. What do you think?) Both will be the envy of authors who want to create trailers for their books. Either trailer will encourage you to water the soil of your own family tree.
What ties your family together?