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Drawing from Memory

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  14,459 Ratings  ·  309 Reviews
Caldecott Medalist Allen Say presents a stunning graphic novel chronicling his journey as an artist during WWII, when he apprenticed under Noro Shinpei, Japan’s premier cartoonist

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 b

Hardcover, 72 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Scholastic Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnellI Want My Hat Back by Jon KlassenGrandpa Green by Lane SmithPerfect Square by Michael  HallBlackout by John Rocco
2012 Mock Caldecott
31st out of 85 books — 187 voters
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Newbery 2012
58th out of 141 books — 711 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lisa Vegan
I’ve read two of this author-illustrator’s books and have a fourth at home to read, and I really enjoyed the two books I read/viewed, so I was eager to read this book, an autobiography. I can’t imagine that I’ll like any other of his books better than I liked this one.

This book is marvelous, resplendent, and really special. I have no adequate words to do it justice.

The last line almost got me crying with emotion but the entire book was superb.

It’s a completely absorbing life story, a wonderful
Nov 20, 2011 Michele rated it really liked it
This unassuming-in-appearance book left a really good impression on me. It is something of an autobiographical collage; photographs, drawing and sketches from both the author-artist as well as the work of his mentor are combined with straightforward and still somehow haunting text. Say tells the reader about his memories of his early life in Japan. This is not a boring formulaic biography. Say gives us just glimpses into his life, but they are powerful images of important captured moments of a b ...more
Apr 24, 2012 Liz rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2012-13
Why have I waited so long to read this book. I've had it in my "pile" for quite some time and there are several Allen Say books that I have enjoyed over the years (including the Caldecott award winner GRANDFATHER's JOURNEY). I guess I just thought it would be more of a typical narrative autobiography, but I am finding that it is anything but! And Say's early life is amazing! I can't wait to read more!!! (But it's back to more pressing work for a few more moments this morning. I will see how long ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Allen Say (who knew his real name is Sei?) writes here of his boyhood in Japan, from his birth in 1937, through World War II, his parents' divorce, and going to school to study while living in a rented studio apartment of his own. (I have to say I envy him having his own place at the age of 12! What I wouldn't have given for that when I was that age.) In reading biographies of other illustrators and artists, I've noticed that they all seem to say the same thing--they feel at peace drawing, they ...more
Although this is a book filled of memories (and well put together), I did have a hard time feeling passionate for the lads life. The thing is is that, I don't know anything about Japanese cartoonists. It was an interesting tale, but the author's intentions to try to inspire future cartoonists didn't really work. Not everyone's life gives them openings to just walk into an office and say "I want to be a cartoonist". There was no REAL strive and struggle to get the peaceful and fulfilling life tha ...more
Mar 05, 2013 LauraW rated it really liked it
When I first saw books by Allen Say, I was subbing in a 3rd grade class where they were just beginning author studies. There were books by Tomie de Paola, Jan Brett, and several other authors, either with their own illustrations or illustrated by different artists. I took a look at the Say books and wondered if any of the students would choose those books, because they were so dull compared to the bright colors of the other books. But two students did choose the Say books, to my surprise. And, s ...more
Oct 25, 2011 Wendy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Melody, Lizz, Laurie, Mam, Tomie de Paola (you'll love it, Tomie D)
Loved, loved, loved this book about learning to be an artist and--well, and all the other things this book is about, like divided families and education and passions and being a boy in Japan during and after WWII. I loved it so much that it was a big wrench when I made myself stop reading for a moment about halfway through to text my brother-in-law that he'd better put this book on hold right away.
Alex Baugh
Oct 10, 2011 Alex Baugh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-2
I met Allen Say at a “Meet the Artist” event at the Eric Carle Museum in 2007 when they were running an exhibit of his work called Allen Say: a Sense of Place. It was very nice to meet him, since he is a really charming, friendly person and one of my favorite author/illustrators.

While all of his books stem from his lifetime experiences, Drawing from Memory is Say’s first autobiographical work focused on how he became an artist. Born in Yokohama, Japan in 1937, he was taught by his mother to rea
Mar 03, 2012 Katie rated it liked it
Allen Say uses photographs, cartoons, paintings, and of course, words to illustrate an autobiographical look at his early years as an artist.

When was the last time you met a twelve-year-old who lived on his own in an apartment in a huge city? Probably never, right? Well that was real life for Allen Say.

Say had always known that he loved to draw, even when it was to the detriment of his school work and strongly discouraged by his own father. But when his grandmother told him that he
Oct 09, 2011 Barbara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ncbla, art
Filled with the author's own photographs, drawings, and cartoons as well as comic strip panels from his mentor, Noro Shinpei, this memoir of Say's early years in Japan is required for anyone who loves his work and wants to understand it on a deep level. I certainly hope that Say plans to continue describing his life by exploring his early years in the United States. Beginning with Say's birth in 1937 in Yokohoma, the book traces Say's early literacy and artistic experiences and his fondness for ...more
I rarely give a book five stars, but this book deserves no less.
It is three things:
1) An autobiography of Allen Say's early life, from the age of 4 until he left Japan as a teenager
2) A book about living your dream, no matter how impractical the rest of the world says it is
3) A book about life as an artist, in postwar Japan
The text is relatively brief, interspersed with short graphic segments, drawings and photographs, including work by his mentor Noro Shinpei, a revered cartoonist in Japan in t
Roxanne Hsu Feldman
Jun 29, 2011 Roxanne Hsu Feldman rated it really liked it
I'm not sure that this is "graphic novel" treatment of Say's personal life -- it has text and it has graphics but it feels more like a scrapbook with clippings of thoughts and images (both photographs and drawings). It is brutally honest: I felt pained by the lack of tenderness and affection from family members that Say received as a child and a youth. But it also shows how one can make one's own family from those who appreciate and spiritually and emotionally adopt one as a child or a sibling. ...more
Follows the childhood of illustrator Allen Say. I particularly appreciated the insiders perspective on Japan during and after World War II. He doesn't talk much about the war, but I will be keeping this in mind while I read Ghosts in the Fog.

The thing I liked most about this is how he integrates photographs, his own illustrations in a variety of styles, text, and other people's illustrations. It's not quite a graphic novel (except for maybe one page). It's not quite a picture book. It's almost
Danielle Harriger
Sep 03, 2012 Danielle Harriger rated it really liked it
I would recommend this book to other children because Allen’s story of his journey to become an artist was uplifting and interesting. For example, I was inspired that even though Allen’s father condemned him for being a “lazy” artist, Allen still followed his passion and made his dream come true. I think it is important for children to take action and put forth effort in doing what they love, as Allen does when he goes directly to Noro Shinpei’s studio to be an apprentice at the young age of 13. ...more
Aug 31, 2015 Jacob rated it it was amazing
Public library copy.

I didn't want this autobiography to end. What a wonderful life, full of difficult life and career journeys and abandonment hardships. I'd nitpick the tale ended short as I wanted to know what occurred when the author traveled to the US with his horrible father.
Julie Suzanne
Memoir of Say's journey in pursuing his dream to draw for a living. I was interested in Japanese culture in the 50's while reading. A quick, less-than-1-hour-read and worth it. Cute, great author's note at end (don't skip it!)
Jul 22, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-lit
Audience: Intermediate
Genre: Biography-Graphic Novel
Discussion Questions: Remembering: Who were the main characters? Understanding: Explain why the story has the title it does. Applying: Think about when the main character was offered the option to move into an apartment on his own. What would you have done in that situation? Analyzing: What is the relationship between the main character and his father? How does this relationship evolve over the course of the story? Evaluating: In your opinion w
Jenn Estepp
Really lovely memoir for kids (hooray! Do you know how frequently I get requests for autobiographies and picture book autobiographies? Do you know how few of them there are and how not-great a lot of existing ones are?). Part picture book, part scrapbook, part sketchbook/journal - it all makes for a wonderful mix that moved and engaged me far more than I expected. In fact, I really wish that it were longer - more a long the lines of a big fat graphic memoir.

It's also made me extremely intereste
Mar 09, 2012 Laura rated it really liked it
It was really cool to see the story of how Allen Say grew up and fostered his passion for drawing. I also liked that it was told in a medium that was engaging and interesting. I had never known much of Say's story or how he became an artist and so this biography was very intriguing. The pictures were good and I especially enjoyed the photographs of Say's childhood. A good read if you're interested in learning more about the life of this marvelous storyteller.

*Taken from my book reviews blog: htt
Jun 14, 2012 Maira rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s-lit
Drawing from Memory was a sad, but great story. In this story, Allen Say tells the story on how he became the artist he is today. As he grew up his parents and grandmother didn't approve of him being artistic. They wanted him to be a respectable citizen not an artist because they are "lazy and scruffy people. Allen at only 12 begins to live on his own and continues to work to what he now is known as an artist. His story would be very appealing to the primary audience. I feel it tells a great sto ...more
Apr 27, 2014 Michaela rated it really liked it
Shelves: 642
Genre: Informational for ages 10 and up

Summary: A concise memoir that details the life of Allen Say as he spent his childhood in Japan during WWII, went through the divorce of his parents, and sought to fulfill his dream of becoming an artist.

Curriculum Connection: History seems like an obvious curriculum connection with the time period being WWII Japan and art too - it'd be fun to have the kids draw their own comic strip after looking at some like Calvin Hobbs or Peanuts. Looking at the Japanes
Michael Duffey
Apr 26, 2014 Michael Duffey rated it liked it
Recommended to Michael by:
Shelves: 642-shelf
Genre: Graphic Novel
Age Range: 5th-8th Grade

Summary: Drawing from Memory is a graphic novel that follows Allen Say's journey to becoming an artist under the guiding eye of Noro Shinpei.

Curriculum Connection: I would have the students read this book and paying particular attention to the artistic style and storyline of the graphic novel. I would have the students create their own short graphic novel using an app on the iPads.

Opinion: I don't really read graphic novels, so this was really my firs
Sean Albright
1. Opening: What do you want to be when you grow up? Do your parents support your decisions? Are you setting yourself up to achieve your goals? Well in Allen Say’s autobiography, Drawing from Memory, he tells the story of his childhood and his father’s reaction to him telling his dad that he’d like to pursue art over furthering his education. In the Japanese culture, education is very highly prioritized. So, you can imagine how his father felt. As we read this biography, think about what you wan ...more
Kathryn Edmunds
Apr 27, 2014 Kathryn Edmunds rated it liked it
Shelves: 642-books
1. Genre: Graphic Novel

2. Intended age range: Grades 3-5

3. Summary: This is a novel that is based on the life of Allen Say and what he went through to become an artist, a dream that was made possible under the guidance of Noro Shinpei, a Japanese cartoonist. The novel chronicles his life from his childhood in Japan during World War II all the way to his dream of becoming an artist coming to fruition.

4. Curriculum connection: This would be a great book to develop a lesson plan involving art and h
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: libs-642
Genre and age: Graphic Novel, grades 6-12

Summary: Allen Say uses a scrapbook-like style combined with a comic book style to illustrate his own personal journey as an artist that studied under the ranking Japanese cartoonist Noro Shinpei.

Curriculum connection: Students practice their writing skills by using Say's style to tell a story of their own.

Reaction: I don't usually seek out graphic novels on my own, however I enjoyed Say's unique style of story-telling and learning about his life experie
Feb 05, 2014 M. rated it it was amazing
Allen Say’s autobiography till about age 14. Excellent book, very appropriate for grades 4 or 5 and up, especially anyone interested in drawing or illustrating. Full of original drawings, paintings, cartoons, and photographs.
Allen Say’s life will prove unusual to most young readers but should be interesting to many readers, both boys and girls. At age 12 Say moved into a small apartment in Tokyo where he lived alone although the apartment was paid for by his mother and grandmother. He was in m
Salina King
Dec 06, 2015 Salina King rated it really liked it
Shelves: t-l307, picture-books
I really enjoyed this book because it allowed the reader to go on an adventure with young Allen Say who would one day create amazing children’s books. One thing that I found really cool about this book was how the author incorporated sketches, drawings and photographs to help tell the young mans story. I think readers an connect with some of Allen Says struggles as a young man trying to figure out what he wanted to do for his life and how he was going to accomplish those goals when his parents d ...more
Stephanie Field
Apr 28, 2015 Stephanie Field rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-readers
I think the greatest strength of this book is that it has thought provoking content that invites critical thinking and response. The story talks many times about a young boy wanting to follow his dreams, but his family members want him to take another path in life.
There is a part in this book, on page 34, which reads “Wait till Father hears about this, I thought. Maybe he wouldn't think I was such a sissy anymore.” And this line, along with others in the story, provided the most thought provoki
Kari Martycz
Mar 20, 2015 Kari Martycz rated it really liked it
Shelves: info-bios
Allen Say's autobiography tells his remarkable story of becoming a known illustrator and artist. His parents did not think that cartoonist and artists are respectable citizen and to make a living. Allen experienced the bombings of Hiroshima and the war between Japan and America. Allen had the opportunity to study art with a famous cartoonist. This book explains his life through the struggles of growing up in Japan, and trying to become a cartoonist. This picture book includes illustrations, and ...more
Nov 23, 2011 Jamie rated it really liked it
Say tells the story of his youth, and its a really interesting one. At age 12, his parents were divorced, and it was determined that he could live on his own and go to an elite private school. What 12 year old wouldn't want to do that? It shows how he got into drawing, and even includes some of his drawings from that point. Any budding artist would like this part.

Worth saying that my former 12 year old budding artist husband is over the moon about this book.
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Writing style 1 6 Aug 24, 2013 05:39PM  
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Allen Say is one of the most beloved artists working today. He is the recipient of the Caldecott Medal for GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, and also won a Caldecott Honor and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (written by Dianne Snyder). Many of Allen’s stories are derived from his own experiences as a child. His other books include THE BICYCLE MAN, TEA WITH MILK, and TREE OF ...more
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