Picture Book Authors A to Z: “S” is for Say


Photo of author Allen Say.Again, so many author choices for the letter “S.” Most everyone knows Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak, who are of course awesome and wonderful. I am going to spotlight the talented, and perhaps lesser known, Allen Say. I had the pleasure of seeing a lovely exhibit of Say’s artwork at the Japanese American National Museum years ago in Los Angeles, and I have an autographed copy of one of his books. I correctly predicted his masterpiece, Grandfather’s Journey, would win a Caldecott award, and count it as one of my all time favorite picture books.

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan in 1937. His father was a Korean orphan, raised by British parents in China, and his mother was a Japanese American born in California. They divorced when he was quite young, and Say lived with his father in Japan until he was 12. Then he was sent to Tokyo to live with his grandmother and attend school, but his relationship with her was difficult, and he ended up in an apartment on his own. There is information about the author here.

Here Are Some Books Written and Illustrated by Allen Say

Drawing From Memory
This autobiographical work chronicles the life and career path of Say in his youth, and incorporates photographs, drawings, and comics. Focuses on how Say became an artist, and his apprenticeship to a famed cartoonist, Noro Shinpei.

Grandfather’s Journey
A Japanese American man recounts his grandfather's journey to America which he later also undertakes, and the feelings of being torn by a love for two different countries.

Home of the Brave
Following a kayaking accident, a man experiences the feelings of children interned during World War II and children on Indian reservations.

The Bicycle Man
The amazing tricks two American soldiers do on a borrowed bicycle are a fitting finale for the school sports day festivities in a small village in occupied Japan. One of Say’s earliest picture books (1982).

Music for Alice
A Japanese American farmer recounts her agricultural successes and setbacks and her enduring love of dance. Based on the true life story of Alice Sumida, who with her husband, Mark, established the largest gladiola bulb farm in the country during the last half of the twentieth century. Say’s full color panel illustrations are beautifully photo like in their rendering, similar to Grandfather’s Journey.


Author Bio:

DeAnn O. has been a children’s librarian for over 15 years; she is a long time bibliophile, children’s advocate, and book reviewer for School Library Journal.

Sign In