Grandfather's Journey

Written By: Allen Say

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations and Text:

Take a moment to look over the cover and illustrations throughout the book. Ask these questions to get your child warmed up and making predictions about the story:

What do you notice on the cover?

Where do you think grandfather is from originally? Where do you think he went on his journey? Why do you think he traveled there?

Do you like to travel? Out of all of the places that you have visited, which is your favorite? Why?

Grandfather loves his home in Japan, but he also feels connected to San Francisco and travels back and forth between the two places. Ask your child, “Where is our family from? Have we ever visited there? If not, do you want to? How is _______ different from where we live now?”

If your child has ever visited Japan or knows about Japanese culture, be sure to discuss that before reading the book. To activate any prior knowledge, identify all that your child knows about Japan or Japanese culture before diving into this book!

As You Read

While we encourage reading aloud to your child throughout the elementary years, we also recognize that burgeoning readers want to participate! Be sure to engage your child with particular sight words or sounding out letters, whatever mimics that which you or your school is already teaching your child.  For kids on the cusp of reading words or phrases, it’s also good to model some of these methods yourself.

Vocabulary Building:

Encourage your child to ask questions about the story as you read. An example of this is when s/he comes across a new word that is unfamiliar. Allow him/her to discover its meaning using the words and illustrations surrounding it. A few examples of new words in Grandfather’s Journey include:




Be sure that once you have discovered a word’s meaning, you step back and recap what you were just reading before moving on so that you child can fully understand subsequent events.   

Making Connections:

Asking questions about your child’s life in relation to the story is a great way to help him/her relate to and appreciate the characters in the story. For example, when grandfather was living in San Francisco, he was homesick for the mountains and rivers that he had left behind in Japan, so ask “Have you ever been homesick? Where were you? What did you do to feel better? What do you think Grandfather will do about his homesickness?”

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret:

Wrap up the story with a few questions about the events of the story and what your child thought about it. Ask questions like:

Did you like that story? Why or why not? What was your favorite part?

Why did grandfather go to San Francisco for the first time? What did he love about it? If your child has ever visited San Francisco, be sure to talk about what s/he remembers and liked or did not like about it, too!

Why did he go back and forth between San Francisco and Japan?

Where was the narrator (the person telling the story) born? What made him want to visit California?

Ask your child about his/her traveling wishes by asking, “Does this story make you want to see different places? Why or why not? Where do you want to travel? Why do you want to go there?” You can also take this time to discuss your family’s history further and talk about how your family came to reside where you live now.

Activity: Koinobori- Japanese Flying Carp

Adapted from Squirrelly Minds


Supplies: 3 toilet paper rolls, double sided tape, different colored tissue paper, white paper, black sharpie, scissors, 1 dowel, and twine (or string/yarn)

Signifying a traditional Japanese celebration, these Koinobori (carp streamers) commemorate the festivities of Tango no Sekku on May 5th. This festival celebrates the sons of the families in Japan, and there is a similar festival for daughters that occurs in March. To learn more, check out this resource about this Japanese tradition.

  1. Cut several circles out of the tissue paper, approximately 1.5 inches in diameter each. Then, cut the circles in half to create the scales.
  2. Put double sided tape around the top of the roll and place the straight edge of each semi-circle on the double sided tape. Be sure to overlap so that no part of the roll is showing and go all the way down the tube. Once you come to the end, leave some of the curved end of the last row of semi-circles hanging over the edge of the roll. Repeat this process twice so that the scales are layered; the color pattern doesn’t matter at all.
  3. Cut two circles out of the white paper that are about 1 inch in diameter. Then draw a large circle inside each for the eyes and attach them to the top of the roll.
  4. Cut strips of tissue paper and tape them inside of the roll on the bottom of the roll. Repeat this until there are strips all around the inside of the roll.
  5. Cut a piece of twine or string, knot the center of the piece around the edge of the dowel,  and affix the other ends to either side of the top.
  6. Repeat this process to create the other two carp.