The Matchbox Diary

15798648Grandfather has a room full of treasures, each with a story attached. She asks for the story of the cigar box filed with matchbooks, each with a tiny symbol of a story from grandfather’s life.

Paul Fleischman, Candlewick, ©2013, ISBN 978-0-7636-4601-1

Mining a Picture

In one of the matchboxes is a picture of grandfather’s father. The author writes 151 words about that photo – and this is in a picture book where words are at a premium. Ask students to bring a picture to class. You could then show how you can “mine a picture” to write.

  1. When was this photo taken? Why do you think it was taken?
  2. Who is the person in the picture? Why is the person in that pose?
  3. Who took the picture? Talk about the picture taker.
  4. What is being worn in the picture? Talk about the clothes.
  5. What other things are in the picture?
  6. What is the mood of the picture?
  7. What smells, sights, sounds, do you associate with the picture?


Now students have enough to easily write about 200 words about the photo.

Making Small Boxes

This story uses as a “prop” a matchbox. The House Baba Built, by Ed Young, mentions that the children would gather silkworms and put them in little origami boxes that they built, and feed them mulberry leaves. There are many YouTube videos of simple instructions for making your own origami boxes. This is the easiest one that I found.

To make the “inside” of the box – just take about .5 cm off two sides of the square to make a smaller square.

For 10 creative writing ideas, click The Matchbox Diary to download.


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