Book Review- Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

This book is a visual delight.  Allen Say’s artistic talent is evident throughout in this loving reminiscence of growing up in pre and post World War II Japan.  The graphic images help to capture a unique time in Japan’s history when it changed from being an empire to a democracy.  Say’s life at this time was equally tumultuous; he had the unusual experience of living on his own in a tiny apartment while attending middle school; a feat that some pre-teens and teens today would envy.  At the same time he begins an apprenticeship with his favorite cartoonist to learn the trade.

Say’s life was not easy, his father disapproved of his artistic talent and his mother struggled as a single parent to provide the best she could for her two children.  His ability to find a mentor and spiritual father in Noro Shinpei, the famous Japanese cartoonist, allowed him to grow as a person and to develop his talent into a useful skill.

I enjoyed reading this book; it doesn’t take long to get through but makes for fascinating reading.  It was easy to understand how Say must have felt as a young boy confronted by the confusing changes all around him.  Amazingly, there is gentleness in the telling without any anger or blame being cast at people or events due to his single minded pursuit of a career in art.  I think this book would be very good reading for those kids who feel they just don’t fit in to the world.  It is nice to know there is more than one way to create a life for one’s self.

Age range: Middle schoolers on up.

Allen Say. Drawing from Memory.  Scholastic  Press, NY,NY. 2011. 63 pp.

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