The Children’s Book Review | April 16, 2018
Written and Illustrated by Allen Say
Age Range: 8-12
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (2017)
What to Expect: History, Art, Biography.
This picture-book tells the heart-breaking story of James Castle, an artist who grew up unloved by his family and community because of his deafness. Following his journey from his experiences as a deaf baby, through his struggles at a school for the deaf and blind, his expulsion from school and his unwelcomeness in several family homes, and finally his recognition by his community as an artist, this strikingly illustrated book is a story as much about acceptance and understanding as it is about perseverance.
Allen Say’s illustrations in this book are phenomenal: the clever use of framing and understated color create the illusion of a photo-album or scrap-book, filled with portraits, works of art, letters, and photographs. Interspersed with these are more comic-style illustrations, tying the whole narrative together and merging seamlessly with the minimalist text. The illustrations are fittingly both literally and figuratively dark, and the deaf child’s pain is palpable throughout the narrative, lending poignancy to and drawing attention to the striking originality of his drawings. These drawings, the artist explains, are reproductions of James Castle’s real works, produced using the primitive and limited methods of the originals; they send a powerful message to readers about what Art is and can be, and how it is shaped and made powerful by personal experiences. Most of all, however, it speaks of the importance and value of being different – both for people and for Art. This book is a valuable addition to this award-winning author’s already rich cannon, and a moving reading-experience.
About the Author-Illustrator
Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1937. He dreamed of becoming a cartoonist from the age of six, and, at age twelve, apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. For the next four years, Say learned to draw and paint under the direction of Noro, who has remained Say’s mentor. Say illustrated his first children’s book — published in 1972 — in a photo studio between shooting assignments. For years, Say continued writing and illustrating children’s books on a part-time basis. But in 1987, while illustrating THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (Caldecott Honor Medal), he recaptured the joy he had known as a boy working in his master’s studio. It was then that Say decided to make a full commitment to doing what he loves best: writing and illustrating children’s books. Since then, he has written and illustrated many books, including TREE OF CRANES and GRANDFATHER’S JOURNEY, winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal. He is a full-time writer and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon.
Silent Days, Silent Dreams, written and illustrated by Allen Say, was reviewed by Dr. Jen Harrison. Discover more books like Silent Days, Silent Dreams by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Acceptance, Allen Say, Art, Artists, Books On Deaf And Blind, History, Non-Fiction, and Perseverance.
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