Kid Lit Dish

Kim's Magical Journey Into the World of Children's Picture Books

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

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!)


FINALLY… On Loosening Up

Well, here it is “tomorrow” and I’ve actually got another post!  Wow, two days in a row after two weeks of nada… from the sublime to the ridiculous.  (THAT one’s for my hubby, who can’t stand that phrase!) 😉

Those who know me know I love tennis.  Well, I may not be AS passionate about it as I used to be, but I do think it’s a great sport and when I’m feeling “on,” I love to play.

And those who love this game can always come up with comparisons of how tennis is a lot like life.  (Probably a lot of sports can say that, but tennis is one of those unique games in that it ultimately IS about you and you alone.  Unless you’re playing doubles, you’re really all alone out there… a team of one.)  There are a myriad of analogies out there.  Just Google “Tennis and Life” and see for yourself.

And there are other little nuances of the game that can be analogous to the real world, such as the fact that you can be the best in the world, but if you lack confidence in your abilities, you probably won’t be successful.  And one subtle change in your thinking out there on the court can shift momentum from your side to the other, or vice versa.  It’s truly 80% mental.  Again,  just like life.  Believe in yourself.  Set goals.  Work hard.  Success!

But it drills down from there.  And that gets me (finally!) to my point for today and that is that when you’re nervous playing a real match, you’re going to play what the pros call “tight”– meaning your forearm (your whole body, really) will be stiff.  If your arm is tense and not loose, it’ll react against the ball in a completely different (read: not good) way.  It’s an almost guaranteed error or fault most of the time when you’re hitting.  And that’s how matches are lost.

I was thinking about this today when I was thinking about writing and drawing.  I know when I started this whole process, I wanted to be so precise with everything.  So I wouldn’t even write down one word until I had the entire story outlined.  And I wouldn’t draw a picture without making sure my lines were smooth and straight.  But that was doing nothing to improve either my writing OR my drawing.

So now instead of these precision drawings (that invariably all ended up cartoon-like), I’m drawing nothing but these rough sketches and really trying to focus on GESTURE.  And two weeks ago, I wrote a pure-prose PB manuscript that I’m really happy with… in one day.  (“Precision”-me wouldn’t have been able to do that!)  Granted, this past Saturday was spent in a first round of revisions for that sucker (I had to get away from it for two weeks… to really see it for what it is) but I do believe there may be something there.

So I leave you with this: No matter what you’re doing– if it’s a picture book, an illustration, a poem… whatever– don’t THINK about it so much. Loosen up a little.  Leave all your inhibitions in the ethers and just DO what flows from your fingers and brain.  See what comes out of that kind of freedom.  I’ll bet you anything some really good stuff awaits.

Enjoy the day, everyone!


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