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Allen Say - a Famous Children's Book Author and Illustrator

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Allen Say is a famous children's book author and illustrator who was born in Japan in 1937. He was born to a Japanese mother and a Korean father, and when he was eight years old, his parents divorced and he was sent to live with his father (Kwong, 2010). In his teenage years, after the World War II Pearl Harbor incident, he moved to California to attend a boarding school (Kwong, 2010). Unfortunately, Say suffered a lot of discrimination there due to him being the only non-white student, as well as being half-Korean and half-Japanese (Kwong, 2010). In addition, many Americans did not like Say due to the situation caused by World War II. Say ended up switching high schools and was encouraged to pursue his passion for art. Allen continued to pursue his art through his remaining high school years in the U.S., but then decided to return to Japan and vowed never to return to America (Kwong, 2010). He was only away from the U.S. for one year when he decided to return for an art apprenticeship, which did not last very long since he did not like painting other people's ideas (Kwong, 2010). He enrolled in college and got married, but then ended up joining the military and moved to Germany for a couple of years (Kwong, 2010). That is where he published his first art and later went on to become an award-winning author and illustrator in the United States (Kwong, 2010). Say uses many ideas and stories from his personal past of growing up in America as a minority, which really tends to pull the young readers into the story, who can easily relate to growing up and facing different challenges. His choice of words make his books very easy for children to understand, and are very interesting and telling for adults to read as well. One of the underlying themes shown in several of Allen Say's published books shows that Say may feel a sense of nostalgia when writing his stories. Many of his published works give a feeling of homesickness for his home country, although many children may not ever pick up on that sense of nostalgia since most children appear to live in the present.

In Allen Say's 1994 Caldecott award-winning book, Grandfather's Journey, Allen tells the story of his grandfather growing up in Japan and later moving to California, and then back to Japan. His grandfather never got the chance to return to California after the war before he died, which was something he vowed to do again in his lifetime. For a child reading this story, it seems to be a story from a young boy's perspective telling the story of his grandfather and his adventures living in Japan and coming to America. Children probably love when he talks about his grandfather and how it appears that he travelled so many places in his lifetime. What some children do not tend to pick up on is the idea of how sad Say's grandfather appears throughout much of the book. He is sad when his home is destroyed by the war, when he never gets the chance to return to California like he vowed, and when he never gets to keep another songbird again. While the story has much meaning in the idea of a grandfather's adventure between California and Japan, it also leaves the adult reader with a sense of sadness and disparity about all of the plans Say's grandfather did not get to do. Say's writing shows how his grandfather seems to have this sense of homesickness and also nostalgia for things in the past, as seen when he was in California and wanted to move back to Japan, and then again when he was in Japan and he missed California. Allen Say showed this in the book when he wrote, "He remembered the mountains and rivers of his home. He surrounded himself with songbirds, but he could not forget" (Say, 1993, p. 18). This description of how his grandfather was feeling really gives the reader a sense of his grandfather's constant longing to be in the other country. He even describes the songbirds as a possible way to make him feel more at home when he is in California, but nothing can make him forget what his true home is like in Japan. I believe another quote shown at the end of the book really sums up the theme of Say's writings, especially as shown in Grandfather's Journey, "The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other" (Say, 1993, p. 31). I think this is very relatable to most readers of any age, because as a college student several hours away from home, I know the feeling of being homesick for both of my homes, both Blacksburg and Richmond. It is a constant ache feeling the need and want to be in both places, just like Say's grandfather felt for California and Japan.

Kamishibai Man, is another one of Allen Say's children's books that tells the story of an elderly Japanese man who has no children, and lives in the hillside. He goes into town one day on his bicycle after many years of not visiting the city, and remarks how so many buildings and things have changed. The narrator used to sell candy to the young children in this town when he was younger, and he was also known as a "great storyteller." He begins telling the story about how one day the children slowly stopped coming to hear his stories and getting his paintings and candy. He explains how television became more important to the children rather than coming to visit with him, " 'How can they like those blurry pictures better than my beautiful paintings?' I asked. But there was nothing to be done. As I went around the familiar neighborhoods, the children started to act as though they didn't know me anymore" (Say, 2005, p. 21). He was very upset that the children enjoyed the television shows more than his candy and his paintings. When he is telling this story, many of the people in the crowd recognize the man and explain that they remember him and even though they are grown now, they still remember him coming to visit them everyday. He had brought his candy cart, and many people bought candy, remarking how it was just as they remembered it. Say, once again uses the idea of reminiscing about past memories in his storytelling. The kamishibai man is so sad thinking about the past and how he misses the children who used to visit him, and is even more saddened to see how much more the city has changed. This elderly man reminds me of many older people who do not understand many technological advances such as how an iPod or a computer could be more important than hanging out with family and friends. Personally, I think spending time with family and friends is absolutely more important than



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