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Perfect Picture Book Friday: Drawing From Memory

I was volunteering at my 9-year-old’s (NINE this past Tuesday, by the way!) Scholastic Book Fair last month when I came across this truly wonderful book.  When I saw it, I absolutely had to buy it– not for my son, but for me!  It’s almost too beautiful to describe (but I’ll try)…

Drawing from Memory

drawingmemory_1Written and Illustrated by:  Allen Say
Scholastic (of course– see above!), 2011

Awards/Recognition: 
I’m not sure if this book has actually won any awards, but Allen Say has been a Caldecott Medal winner, a Caldecott Honor winner, and has also won a Horn Book Award.

Themes/Topics:  Individuality, Japanese culture, independence and courage

Suitable for:  Grades 5 – 8 (according to Scholastic)

Opening Lines:
I was born in 1937 by the seashore in Yokohama, Japan.  Our house stood near a fishing village.  My playmates were the children of fishermen.  Mother constantly worried that I might drown in the sea. She tried to keep me at home.

Brief Synopsis:  This is not your typical PPBF offering.  Yes, it’s a picture book in that it contains a multitude of beautiful illustrations and there’s a wonderful story attached; but it’s also a bit of a graphic novel… and an autobiographical one at that.

(From Amazon:) 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 drawingmemory3Noro 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.  With watercolor paintings, original cartoons, vintage photographs, and maps, Allen Say has created a book that will inspire the artist in all of us.

Links to Resources:
The book itself is a resource!  Over and above the book, though, there are so many great things you can do with kids to follow this book.  I think children in that older age group would enjoy creating a scrapbook, filled with drawings and writings and photographs chronicling their own lives so far.  And this might be a good impetus to starting a new journal.  Scholastic, of course, has plenty of learning resources on their site.

Why I Like This Book:
I don’t just like this book… I absolutely LOVE this book.  After the book fair, I brought it home and devoured it from cover to cover.  This is Allen Say’s own life… actually, the turning point in his life when he was just thirteen years old (around World War II) and his parents allowed him to live in his own apartment in Tokyo so that he could go to a very well-known private school.  He didn’t love schoolwork, though… what he loved was art and drawing.  So although he was very responsible, he didn’t get a lot of studying done.  Instead, he found the studio of one of the premier cartoonists in Japan at the time, Noro Shinpei, and boldly asked if he could be his apprentice.  The rest, as they say, is history… Shinpei took him on and taught him everything he knew.  Allen Say grew up to be an incredible illustrator and as I mentioned above, has earned numerous awards for his art.

Allen Say and Noro Shinpei, 2000

I grew up loving art and drawing (and then didn’t pick up a drawing pencil for almost three decades!) so I can relate to that passion of expressing yourself with art.  It’s what he lived for, what his parents fought with him about, and what he ultimately ended up doing (and doing very well)!  I’d strongly recommend this book for any child who truly knows what he wants to do with his life… to help him follow his dreams.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve participated in Perfect Picture Book Friday (and I’ve missed it)– for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog, here, to discover more about PPBF… and  much, much more!

(I had to add one little footnote here– after I posted, I realized the coincidence here… that is, that today is Pearl Harbor Day and this book takes place in Japan during World War II.  Kind of odd… and just had to come back to note this!)

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Design Of The Picture Book

Welcome to Design of the Picture Book! I'm Carter Higgins, and I'm a writer and librarian for kids. I spent a spectacular stint as the Children's Book Editor at <a href="http://www.designmom.com/">Design Mom</a> which I loved! You can find my column <a href="http://www.designmom.com/category/childrens-lit/">here</a>.<br /> I'm a K-6 librarian, a former-ish graphic designer, an SCBWI member, and a huge fan of words and pictures.<br /> Represented by <a href="http://www.rpcontent.com/">Rubin Pfeffer of Rubin Pfeffer Content, LLC</a>.

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