Review: Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

drawing from memory

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

Released September 1, 2011.

This is a captivating look at the life of Allen Say and his journey to become an illustrator.  It begins with his childhood in Yokohama, Japan which he had to flee when the bombings started in 1941.  As a child, his mother kept him safe at home and not out playing near the water.  He learned to read early and fell in love with comics, deciding at a young age to become an artist.  His father dismissed his dreams, wanting him to follow a more respectable path.  Say lived with his grandmother while he went to school until at age 12, he moved and lived alone in a rented apartment in Tokyo.  Following his dream, he approached the famous cartoonist, Noro Shinpei in the hopes of becoming his student.  Say found his sensei and a new father figure in his life.  Readers will discover the long hours, hard work, and talent that made Say the artist he is.

Say weaves photographs, drawings and paintings together into an extraordinary look at his life.  The text blends humor  with  brutal honesty about his family’s lack of support for his endeavors.  Always the book is optimistic, exploring the dedication that it takes to attain greatness.  It will serve as inspiration for young artists who may themselves be being ridiculed for their dreams.

More than a graphic novel, this is an autobiography told in images and words that is surprising, moving and luminous.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

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