Back from vacation and a blogging break…and back to reading finds for this week!
Allen Say has written and illustrated so many remarkable picture books – Grandfather’s Journey and Home of the Brave being my favorites – each of which tells a powerful story with many shades of meaning. His beautiful illustrations are equally moving, and I have often used his books as mentor texts in both
reading and writing workshop to discuss so many aspects of great writing. Drawing From Memory is Say’s story of his journey as an artist and a writer, from his childhood in pre-World War II Japan to his eventual migration to the United States
when he was still a teenager but already a gifted and practicing artist.
At the center of Say’s story is his sensei (his master teacher), the famous Japanese cartoonist Noro Shinpei, who takes the eager young artist (then only 13 years old, and living on his own – which is quite a story all by itself!) on as a apprentice and teaches him the craft of illustration. Say’s own gifts, and his burning desire to create his own artistic impression of the world around him made him an exceptional student. It is quite amazing to read about how he sought out and made the most of every opportunity that came his way. By the time he sets sail for America, Say is ready to make something more with all he has learned, to follow the advice his sensei gives him when they meet to say their goodbyes: “You are going to the great land of freedom…but remember that no man is entirely free of anything. Artists are bound to their art. Be true to your art…and journey well.”
Judging from all that Say has written and illustrated in his long career, I think it is safe to say that he e has lived just as his sensei had dreamed and hoped he would. The lovely story of Say’s journey, his varied forms of illustrations, and his way of connecting his journey as an artist to the people who befriended and influenced him, all make for a wonderful picture book.
Here is an example of what the pages look like – lively and interesting!
I also had a chance to read Walter Dean Myers’ Just Write. Here’s How!
This is a how-to-write guide for kids, and Myers addresses young writers directly with advice about writing and how to live a writer’s life.
Myers shares his own story of the way the world of books opened possibilities in his otherwise chaotic and troubled young life:”I had a lot of chances to go down a bad path as a teenager, but instead I went to the library. The world inside my head was richly furnished with ideas I got from books, and it provided an escape from the dangerous world around me. Books saved my life, so I know it is at least possible for a book to perform that feat.”
Drawing on his own experiences, the message Myers wants this message to get across to young writers: “You have stories that other kids might need to read. You have stories that should be heard. Maybe a reader will find your book when the timing’s just right and it will help save a life. So just write.”
His book is filled with writing tips about organizing and collecting ideas, shaping characters (he collects antique photographs and postcards for inspiration!), plotting both fiction and nonfiction, and the whole revision process. I love that there are excerpted pages from his own writing notebooks, which are so detailed and informative. You get to see all the work that goes into mapping out and then fleshing out a story.
Myers also shares the experience he had co-authoring a book with Ross Workman, a middle school student whose letter asking for writing advice turns into a collaborative writing journey, and eventually a full fledged book – Kick
. This alone is a story about writing that is worth sharing with my own sixth graders for motivation!
I especially liked his six-box and four-box outlines for writing fiction and nonfiction, each of which are explained thoroughly and make so much sense (because, of course, they are tried and tested by Myers himself!). So, this is definitely a book to buy and use in writing workshop this year.