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Drawing from Memory

Drawing from Memory

by Allen Say

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Caldecott Medalist Allen Say presents a stunning graphic novel chronicling his journey as an artist during WWII, when he apprenticed under Noro Shinpei, Japan’s premier cartoonist

DRAWING FROM MEMORY is Allen Say's own story of his path to becoming the renowned artist he is today. Shunned by his father, who didn't understand his son's artistic leanings, Allen


Caldecott Medalist Allen Say presents a stunning graphic novel chronicling his journey as an artist during WWII, when he apprenticed under Noro Shinpei, Japan’s premier cartoonist

DRAWING FROM MEMORY is Allen Say's own story of his path to becoming the renowned artist he is today. Shunned by his father, who didn't understand his son's artistic leanings, Allen was embraced by Noro Shinpei, Japan's leading cartoonist and the man he came to love as his "spiritual father." As WWII raged, Allen was further inspired to consider questions of his own heritage and the motivations of those around him. He worked hard in rigorous drawing classes, studied, trained--and ultimately came to understand who he really is.

Part memoir, part graphic novel, part narrative history, DRAWING FROM MEMORY presents a complex look at the real-life relationship between a mentor and his student. With watercolor paintings, original cartoons, vintage photographs, and maps, Allen Say has created a book that will inspire the artist in all of us.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Retooling some of the material in his autobiographical middle-grade novel The Ink-Keeper's Apprentice (1994), Say tells the story of his decidedly nontraditional Japanese upbringing, supplying watercolors, photographs, and humorous sketches to create a vivid record of life in postwar Tokyo. Say's family rented him his own apartment when he was 12 so he could attend a better school. "The one-room apartment was for me to study in," he writes, beneath a b&w sketch of his desk, "but studying was far from my mind... this was going to be my art studio!" (A second drawing, in color, shows his conception of the perfect desk, covered with paints and brushes.) Japan's most famous cartoonist, Noro Shinpei, accepted Say as an apprentice until Say immigrated to the United States in 1953. Say's account of his relationship with Noro (who later called Say "the treasure of my life") is the centerpiece of the narrative. As the story of a young artist's coming of age, Say's account is complex, poignant, and unfailingly honest. Say's fans—and those who also feel the pull of the artist's life—will be captivated. Ages 10�up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Susan Thomas
Say?s picture book memoir shows his passion for drawing and determination in pursuing his dream of becoming an artist. It is about the goals and accomplishments of a middle school-aged boy who wanted to work with a famous cartoonist. He actually knocked on the artist's door and asked! This "Sensei," or teacher, became the key to his development as an artist and a young man. "Let your dear child journey," is a Japanese saying that allowed Say to be on his own, achieve his goals, and become one of the best known children's authors and illustrators today. Although the cover illustration may not entice students, this memoir would be a good choice for those who need to be encouraged in their own passion, particularly if it is art. The illustrations inside the book are a rich mixture of Say's artwork from this training period, the work of his teacher, photographs, and graphic novel-like depictions of his memories. It would be a good companion to The Ink-Keeper's Apprentice, Say's earlier novel based on these same experiences. It would be a good source for an author study as well, as the memoir provides insights into many of the portraits of Japanese culture Say presents in his other work. Reviewer: Susan Thomas
VOYA - Jeanine Fox
Say, an award-winning author and illustrator of juvenile literature, has created in this memoir a beautiful tribute to his sensei, Japanese for "teacher" or "master." Taught to read at an early age, Say loved comic books, which inspired a passion for drawing: "When I was drawing, I was happy. I didn't need toys or friends or parents." His father, however, had a low regard for artists. At age twelve, Say was sent to live with his maternal grandmother in Tokyo. Used to living alone, his grandmother had little patience for her artistic grandson. He studied and gained admittance into a prestigious middle school, and with his grandmother's blessing, he moved into his own apartment. That night, he read a newspaper article about a boy, an apprentice to the famous Japanese cartoonist Noro Shinpei. Say writes of Shinpei, "His books were my secret treasures I hid from my parents." The article set Say on the path to realizing his dream of becoming an artist and into a relationship of mutual respect and admiration. Say's autobiographical story introduces readers to Japanese culture of the 1940s and 50s. Teens will envy the extreme independence accorded to Say at such an early age. The mixture of text, sketches, and photographs illustrates Say's development as an artist and provides a glimpse into his youth and the lives of those closest to him. This book is sure to appeal to reluctant readers. Its brief text and plentiful graphics make it a quick but fulfilling read, and leave the reader wanting more. Reviewer: Jeanine Fox
School Library Journal
Gr 4 Up—Say tells the story of how he became an artist through a vibrant blend of words and images. Beginning with his boyhood in World War II-era Japan, he traces his life-changing relationship with Noro Shinpei, an illustrious cartoonist who became his surrogate father figure and art mentor. Illustrations are richly detailed and infused with warmth. Exquisite use of light makes night scenes glow, and the mid-20th-century Tokyo setting is captured with vivid authenticity. A variety of media and artistic styles, including full-color paintings, black-and-white sketches, photographs, and comic-book panels, adds texture and depth to the narrative. Fans of the artist's work will take particular delight in seeing sketches from his student days. Simple, straightforward sentences and a conversational narration in combination with a wealth of images will appeal to aspiring artists and reluctant readers alike. This book covers much of the same material as Say's autobiographical novel, The Ink-Keeper's Apprentice (Harper & Row, 1979), but the lively mix of art and text will draw in a new generation and a slightly younger audience. The somewhat abrupt ending, with Say moving to the United States, may leave readers wishing for a more extended epilogue or sequel, but that is simply because his story is so engaging. Readers of all ages will be inspired by the young Say's drive and determination that set him on a successful career path.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA
Terry Hong
…a transporting hybrid of picture book and graphic memoir…[Say] shows just how evocative illustration can be in conveying a life to young readers.
—The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.20(w) x 10.50(h) x 0.50(d)
HL560L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Allen Say is one of the most beloved artists working today. He is the recipient of the Caldecott Medal for GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, and also won a Caldecott Honor and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (written by Dianne Snyder). Many of Allen's stories are derived from his own experiences as a child. His other books include THE BICYCLE MAN, TEA WITH MILK, and TREE OF CRANES, hailed by the HORN BOOK in a starred review as "the achievement of a master in his prime." Allen's recent book, DRAWING FROM MEMORY, received four starred reviews. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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