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Drawing from Memory

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  17,316 Ratings  ·  332 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
32nd out of 86 books — 191 voters
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Newbery 2012
58th out of 142 books — 725 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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 ...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
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, ...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 ...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
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
Sep 02, 2016 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
Feb 21, 2016 Barbara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ncbla, art, nbgs2012
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
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
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
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 ...more
Feb 24, 2016 Kate rated it it was amazing
I've always loved Allen Say's work, and reading this book about his start in the art world and his early childhood was fascinating and made me respect him even more. He was both born with a natural gift but also worked incredibly hard (living alone at age 12! Seeking out a master comic artist to be his sensei on his own!) to hone his craft. An incredibly sweet read that I'd highly recommend for fans of Say, of art and of memoir.
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.
Taylor E
Oct 31, 2012 Taylor E rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-this-year, dcf

This is an outstanding book with many details on a Japanese artist's journey through the art world during World War 2. As long as you don't have any trouble following in a pool of memories and details, this is a book for you! Anyone can read this book and have no problem! I finished in a day and I wish I hadn't because it was such an interesting and touching story about a man who dreams big, and achieves greatly!
Apr 20, 2012 Margie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves art, Allen Say, and good children's books.
Recommended to Margie by: Allen Say
Another beautiful book by Allen Say, and this one is autobiographical about his teenage years as a young artist in post-WWII Japan. I heard the author speak at UCLA in February (2012), and he is as dynamic and charming as his books. Allen Say knew as a small child that he wanted to be an artist and nothing ever deterred him from his dream. How wonderful to have such a talent and such a passion, and to be able to live it every day.
Oct 30, 2011 Melody rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Melody by: Wendy Burton
Shelves: memoir
What a lovely book. Say is a splendid storyteller, and this memoir with drawings, text and photos was spellbinding. He drew me in with a few swift strokes of his pen, and held me tight till the very end. I have enjoyed Say's other books, but this one is something special indeed. It's a treasure, even. Go read this book, right away.
Mar 27, 2012 Sonic rated it really liked it
Wonderful story of this exceptional illustrator's path toward art.

excerpt: "But I can't draw hands, Sensei, how long do I have to practice ?" I asked.
"Bad word, Kiyoi. Drawing is never a practice.
To draw is to see and discover.
Every time you draw,
you discover something new.
Remember that."
Feb 04, 2012 Susann rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Susann by: Wendy & Melody
Beautiful book, both the storytelling and the artwork. I very much enjoyed learning Say's personal history and getting another glimpse of post-WWII Japan, but I most enjoyed the parts about being and becoming an artist. The blend of illustrations and photography work as a scrapbook but become a cohesive work of art.

Now I want to read and see more by Say.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
Aug 05, 2011 Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy) rated it really liked it
Shelves: mg, 2012-alayma
I am not sure where to place this memoir-picture book-graphic novel of sorts. Wherever it gets placed, I know that I was fascinated to learn about Say's life growing up as a child and teen and the kind of journey he was on to become the artist he developed into. Definitely worth the read.Very much enjoyed all the drawings, photos, etc included in the book.
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!)
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.
The remarkable story of Allen Say's childhood and his development as an artist. This book is filled with Say's personal photograph and artwork, as well as the origins of many characters and storylines from his famous picture books.
Sep 13, 2011 Drea rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2011
Such a touching story.
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Writing style 1 7 Aug 25, 2013 02:39AM  
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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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