Saturday, February 4, 2012

Drawing From Memory

One of my favorite bloggers, Katie of Book Love, recently posted about the School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids’ Books. I love the idea of pitting some of the best books of the year against each other, as well as getting to read authors’ justifications of the winners.
I’ve read five of the books:
Inside Out and Back Again
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Anya’s Ghost
Drawing From Memory
I am currently reading Between Shades of Gray, and would like to read a few more of the novels before the competitions start on March 1st.

Drawing from Memory is a book that I read in consideration for the Cybils, but never reviewed. At first, it looks like a picture book, but it is so much more than that. This collection of photos, illustrations, sketches, and comics is Allen Say’s version of an autobiography, both heartwarming and informative.

It is a unique graphic novel, full of things to learn. Say’s drawings give a great feeling for life in Tokyo in the 1950s. His drawings of people on the street show so much of the fashion and jobs that people held, in a far more interesting way than reading an article on the subject.

My favorite part of the book detailed how Say moved into his own tiny apartment at age twelve to focus on his studies. Having lived for a year in Japan, I loved following his adventures as a child living on his own in Tokyo. Say’s apartment looked very similar to mine (read: minuscule) and his daily activities mirrored many of mine. I smiled to see him sitting in a restaurant like I did and exploring the city with wide eyes.

Drawing from Memory is not a typical graphic novel, and difficult to categorize. I think  it would appeal most to young artists, who can pore over Say’s work to see how his art developed, and be inspired by how he finagled an internship with Japan's top cartoonist. The cover does it a disservice; almost any of the illustrations inside would be more likely to grab a young reader's interest. If I wanted one of my students to read it, I would hand it off, already opened to the first page.


  1. I can't believe you've lived in Japan and the Bahamas (or Bermuda?)! World traveler! Were you teaching in Japan, too? I definitely like the idea of handing it off to a student already open to the first page. I'm glad I read it, but it's definitely not a favorite.

  2. I've taught in Korea and Greece, too, plus am moving to Colombia this summer. I should be there for at least three years so I am taking advantage of the good old American libraries now!


What say you?