Allen Say won the Caldecott Medal, our country's highest honor for children's book art in 1994, and he may win it again for his latest work, Drawing from Memory. Some prize-watchers have also mentioned the book in regard to the Newbery, the equally prestigious award for writing.
In this picture-book memoir, Say (b. 1937) looks back at his childhood in Japan, with a particular focus on his apprenticeship with Noro Shinpei, a famous newspaper and magazine cartoonist. Say began working with Shinpei at the same time that he moved into his own apartment in Tokyo—as a middle-school student. The author is remarkably nonjudgmental about the family decision that led to his solo move at age 12. "I was dazed with happiness..."
Drawing from Memory is a beautifully produced book, which, like some of Say's other work (Tea with Milk, Erika-san), appeals as much to adults and older teens as it does to children. Perhaps even more so. A high-school senior we know is going to art school next year, and I keep thinking that Drawing from Memory is the perfect gift for him.
Say uses watercolors, pen and ink, pencils, photographs, and quite a bit of text (at 64 pages, Drawing from Memory is very long for a picture book) to tell the story, and, reflecting his work with Shinpei, Say renders some of the illustrations in sequential panels.
Allen Say left Japan for the U.S. in 1953; today he lives in Portland Oregon. He writes in an author's note that Drawing from Memory let him "journey through my memories of becoming an artist." How lucky for us readers that he invites us on the trip!
On Mondays a number of children's book blogs post about nonfiction. You can find the roundup of entries today at Jean Little Library.