“A good story should alter you in some way; it should changeyour thinking, your feeling, your psyche, or the way you look at things. A story is an abstract experience; its rather like venturing through a maze. When you come out of it, you should feel slightly changed.”
Allen’s Background Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1937
Allen’s Home Life and Family Experiences His father, a Korean orphan raised by a British family in Shanghai, and his mother, Japanese but American born in Oakland, California, divorced when Say was eight. The family separated, Say lived unhappily with his father while his sister lived with their mother. At age twelve, he was sent off to Tokyo — living on his own — to attend a prestigious school in the city. Instead, he sought out and apprenticed himself to the famous post- war cartoonist, Noro Shinpei, and spent the next four years learning to draw and paint. That experience is described first in his autobiographical novel The Ink- Keepers Apprentice (1996) and later in the 2011 picture book Drawing from Memory. At age sixteen, Say emigrated from Japan to California with his father.
After high school graduation, Say went back to Japan, vowing never to return to America. But after a year in a much-changed Japan, he returned and worked as an apprentice to a sign painter and then had a two-year stint in the army, stationed in Germany. Say returned to California and for 20 years worked as a commercial photographer. In 1988, Say was asked by Walter Lorraine, an editor at Houghton Mifflin Company, to illustrate a retelling of the Japanese folktale, The Boy of the Three-Year Nap. It won the prestigious Caldecott Honor Award and Horn Book Award.
Allen Say: Illustrator Boy of the Three Year Nap By: Dianne Snyder Illustrated by: Allen Say Age Level: 6-9 Reading Level: Taro is known for his laziness, he is also clever and so finds a way to become wealthy. Realistic illustrations place Taro and his mother in a long ago Japan in this spritely retelling of a traditional trickster tale. This book won the prestigious Caldecott Honor Award and Horn Book Award. The success of that book allowed Say to return to doing what he really loved, full-time — writing, painting, drawing — and it was the beginning of his second career as a childrens book author and illustrator.
Say: The Illustrator continued How My Parents Learned to Eat By: Ina Friedman Illustrated by: Allen Say Age Level: 6-9 When an American sailor meets a Japanese woman, they both try in secret to learn the others way of eating. Their courtship and growing love culminates in marriage. This realistic family story explores cultural similarities and differences and is told with humor and honesty by the couples daughter.
Allen Say: Successful Author and Illustrator The success of Boy of the Three Year Nap allowed Say to return to doing what he really loved, full-time — writing, painting, drawing — and it was the beginning of his second career as a childrens book author and illustrator.
Say’s Work Continues Since then, he has written and illustrated many books, including Tree of Cranes, Grandfathers Journey (winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal), Home of the Brave, Tea with Milk, Kamishibai Man, and The Boy in the Garden. Many of his books have autobiographical elements.
Title: Tree of Cranes Author: Say, Allen Illustrator: Say, Allen Categories: Holidays, Winter Holidays, Multicultural Ages: 3-5, 6-8 Summary: As a young Japanese boy recovers from a bad chill, his mother busily folds origami paper into delicate silver cranes in preparation for the boys very first Christmas.
Title: Grandfathers Journey Author: Say, Allen Illustrator: Say, Allen Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Categories: Multicultural Ages: 3-5, 6-8 Summary: Through compelling reminiscences of his grandfathers life in America and Japan, Allen Say gives us a poignant account of a familys unique cross- cultural experience. He warmly conveys his own love for his two countries, and the strong and constant desire to be in both places at once.
Title: Tea with Milk Author: Say, Allen Illustrator: Say, Allen Categories: Multicultural Ages: 3-5, 6-8 Summary At home in San Francisco, May speaks Japanese and the family eats rice and miso soup and drinks green tea. When she visits her friends homes, she eats fried chicken and spaghetti. May plans someday to go to college and live in an apartment of her own. But when her family moves back to Japan, she soon feels lost and homesick for America. In Japan everyone calls her by her Japanese name, Masako. She has to wear kimonos and sit on the floor. Poor May is sure that she will never feel at home in this country. Eventually May is expected to marry and a matchmaker is hired. Outraged at the thought, May sets out to find her own way in the big city of Osaka. With elegant watercolors reminiscent of Grandfathers Journey, Allen Say has created a moving tribute to his parents and their path to discovering where home really is. The accompanying story of his mother and her journey as a young woman is heartfelt.
Final Thoughts of Allen Say When starting a new book, I dont have issues in my head. Most of the time I dont know what the book is going to be about. I start painting the first picture, and by the time thats done the second picture -- I call it scene or frame -- forms in my mind. After the fourth or fifth frame Im often surprised to see a story line developing. Its a kind of pattern recognition. The important thing is to put enough stuff on the paper, then I can move them around and begin to see a pattern, and thats when it gets exciting. I believe that if you know what you are going to make before you make it, and if comes out the way you thought it would come out, the finished work is worthless.