KidLit / Reviews

Updates and “Drawing from Memory”


Shortly after deciding that I would post once a week, I stopped posting for a few weeks. Go figure.


I just came back from a short visit to Athens, GA.  After doing a good deal of thinking about zoos, visiting both Zoo Atlanta and the Como Zoo in Saint Paul, it’s time to get back to the world of books.

In October, I read an advance copy (courtesy of Andrea Bronson at the Author’s Guild) of “The Future of Us” which comes out this month, and I hope to write about this very soon. As in “in the next few days, really” soon.

Tonight, I’m going to comment briefly on Allen Say’s new book.

“Drawing from Memory”

Cover Image: Drawing from Memory


Drawing from Memory by Allen Say. New York: Scholastic Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-545-17686-6

HCL files this book under “Children’s Biography,” which downplays this complex work. “Drawing from Memory” follows the beginning of Say’s life and his development as an artist, focusing in particular on his supporters (including his mother and teachers, especially his Sensei, Noro Shinpei) while also acknowledging Say’s personal perseverance against disapproval from his father and grandmother.

Focused on personal development, the text lies within the context of WWII and human rights strikes/riots in Japan. While many of Say’s books cover difficult and necessary topics, few require complete comprehension on the part of the young reader. Say’s artwork in particular elicits feelings which fill (purposeful) gaps in his text.

There is no lack of feeling in “Drawn from Memory,” but anchored in the facts of Say’s young life, and written in (nearly) direct address to the reader, this book lends itself to be read by its readers, not read-to them.

A blend of visual media and artistic styles is particularly striking. Illustrated with photographs, archive drawings by Noro Shinpei, and Say’s own drawings, new and old (cartoon, painting, sketches, and realistic line-drawings), it might feel like a documentary, but instead seems more like Say sits beside you, laying images down as he tells his story.

Say’s first use of talk bubbles within the illustration frame occurs after being caught in a riot with a fellow student artist (p 45). Shortly after this (p 46), he notes that “Tokida and [he] were in real danger yesterday. We weren’t in a comic book adventure.” The juxtaposition here is lovely, I think.

You should read this book.


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