Drawing from Memory
By Allen Say
Grades 5 and Up
Can anyone tell their life story like an illustrator? The ability to use artwork as well as words adds a storytelling facet and element of interest that draws readers in. Think David Small’s exceptional Stitches. Allen Say paints the picture of his early life in Drawing from Memory and the results are moving. Do you know a budding artist? Give them this.
If you’ve read Say’s earlier novelÂ The Ink-Keeper’s Apprentice (which covers some of the same turf as Drawing), you know the artist’s life was far from ordinary. Born in 1937 and growing up in and after World War II, his life takes a number of unexpected turns. In the midst of a broken home, Say leaves to attend school, living in his own apartment and getting his first taste of freedom. At 13 Say became the apprentice of Japan’s most famous cartoonist, an event that proves to be the central driving force in his artistic life. Throughout his schooling Say slowly gains skill in a variety of different artistic mediums. His life takes a monumental turn at 16, when faced with the difficult decision to emigrate to America.
The artwork is an engaging mix of watercolors, pen and ink, pencils, and photographs. It makes sense that Say would use every medium in his toolbox to illustrate his life story. The pages take on a scrapbook quality that’s hard to resist.
Can I make a formal request to have Allen Say’s next project be a graphic novel? The segment in Drawing from Memory that goes full-on comics left me wanting more.
Infinitely readable and unfailingly honest, Drawing from Memory is a book, and a man, that readers will likely find captivating.
Review copy from publisher.