Allen Say’s Beautiful Children’s Books

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan in 1937. At age 16 he came to the United States. He first went to a military high school, and then to different colleges to study art. In 1989, he earned his fist Caldecott honor award for his illustrations for The Boy of Three-Year Nap written by Dianne Snyder. Since then he embarked on a career creating children’s picture books.

Allen Say has frequently examined the immigrant experience in the United States. His glowing and exquisite paintings often explain his simple and well written stories extremely well and bring endless imaginations to his readers- children and adults alike.

Grandfather’s journey, written and illustrated by Allen Say
When grandfather was a young man, he came to America from Japan to see the world, and later settled down in California, the place he loved best. Time went by, and by the time his daughter had grown up, grandfather could no longer wait to return to Japan, for he had been missing his home country for years, and yet after his family moved back to Japan, grandfather grew to miss California: “the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other.”

Tea with milk, written and illustrated by Allen Say
May comes to Japan and is excited about Osaka’s vastness and the noises that made her think of her home in California. She finds a job at a department store, and eventually finds a husband who, much to her amusement, also drinks tea with milk and sugar.

Tree of cranes, written and illustrated by Allen Say
After a Japanese boy catches a cold from playing at his neighbor’s pond on a chilly winter day, he fears his mother will be upset, but all her seemingly odd actions turn out to be a big surprise!

Erika-san, written and illustrated by Allen Say    
As a young girl, Erika was enthralled by a picture she saw in her grandmother’s house: a quiet and plain Japanese cottage with lighted windows. Now, after graduating from college, Erika starts her journey to look for the old Japan and the serene scene she has imagined all these years.

Kamishibai man, written and illustrated by Allen Say
Kamishibai means “Paper Theater,” a form of street performance disappeared in Japan, until an old man returns to the city to be a kamishibai man one more time to share his stories and candies with his audience.

The Lost lake, written and illustrated by Allen Say
Early one summer morning, a father wakes up the his son to take him on a camping trip to the lost lake, just has his own father had when he was a boy. When the lost lake turns out to be a found lake, cramped with vacationers, father and son start their own tradition.

A River dream, written and illustrated by Allen Say
Sick at home, Mark receives a fly box as a gift from his beloved uncle, and dreams the streets become a river where he joins his uncle to angle for rainbow trout, and catch something far more important that fish.

The Sign painter, written and illustrated by Allen Say
An absorbing and provocative story about a sign painter his young helper, both artists. When the two are offered to paint a dozen billboards along a lonely road through the desert with only a woman’s face and a simple word “ArrowStar” on them, the sign painter naturally takes on the job in an instant. The boy struggles: is this his artistic dream?

                ~ Duan, International District