Books at Bedtime: Happy Birthday, Allen Say

One event I will be missing this year, being on the wrong side of the Atlantic, is the exhibition of Allen Say’s work to celebrate his 70th birthday, which is currently running at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art – but if you can get to Amherst, Massachusetts before 28 October, I should imagine it would be well worth doing so. Writer, Lois Lowry certainly recommends it…

Kamishibai ManWe love reading Say‘s books together. Particular favorites are Under the Cherry Blossom Tree: An Old Japanese Tale, which appeals especially to Home of the Bravemy younger son’s sense of the absurd; and Kamishibai Man, which has inspired my older son to create his own storyboards. We also read Home of the Brave recently, following the discussions arising from A Place Where Sunflowers Grow. Say’s rich illustrations here and the slightly abstract conveying of the story stretch young children into asking questions… the bedtime storytime can certainly be drawn out beyond the deceptive brevity of the story. As Karen Edmisten says, it is “not a happy book but an excellent one”.

Podcast Just One More Book has reviewed Emma’s Rug and I think they sum up Say’s work as a whole when they say:

“It doesn’t give you any answers; it only gives you questions. That’s the thing I really like about it and [...] when we read it to them, they don’t expect answers, which I find really interesting as you always feel like every book, and especially a book for a kid, needs to wrap up nicely at the end and have a really strong joke or message or something that you’re learning; and then you realise when you read a book like this that they can handle a book that just opens up their minds.”

… and they go on to have a really interesting discussion on the nature and perception of creativity and giftedness in children.


4 Responses to “Books at Bedtime: Happy Birthday, Allen Say”

  1. Susan T. Says:

    I do love Kamishibai Man. What a wonderful book. I will have to look for Under the Cherry Blossom Tree. Thanks for that recommendation. My son studied Japan last year in second grade, and he has enjoyed hearing the traditional Japanese stories ever since.

  2. Marjorie Says:

    Wow, lucky boy! I’m sure he’d enjoy Under the Cherry Blossom Tree - the ink illustrations are very different in style to Say’s later paintings – I would say they reflect more his early background in cartoon drawing. I love them!

  3. annie Says:

    Yes! Stories that can be read again and again. Stories like you said that “open(s) up their minds.”

  4. Marjorie Says:

    and you can never have too many of them! I’ll have to seek out the titles I don’t know from the list of books you recommend on your blog