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 could live alone in his own apartment if he got into a prestigious middle school, he suddenly got a lot more interested in studying. Once he was living on his own, Say tracked down the famous Japanese cartoonist - Noro Shinpei - and asked him to be his sensei, or mentor. Shinpei agreed, and forever changed the course of Say's life.
It was fascinating to read about an life that was so completely foreign from my own experiences. Independent from his parents, he spent the vast majority of his time with Shinpei, other teachers, or other art students. He was committed - heart and soul - to developing his craft, willing to spend whole months on a single sheet of paper, learning to draw with charcoal.
Not surprising when you consider the fact that Say is an artist, the illustrations are critical in reading and understanding his story. In fact, Drawing From Memory reads almost more like a scrapbook than anything else, with a collage of photographs, archived cartoons, and "drawings from memory" filling in the gaps left by the words.
I picked up Drawing From Memory only because it was a contender in this year's Battle of the Books. While I was presently surprised by how engaging it was, I have to admit I'll be surprised if it makes it out of Round 1 of the BoB. It just seems a little too simple.
Drawing From Memory would be a terrific choice for an aspiring artist or someone who was interested in biographies.