Silent days, silent dreams

Allen Say

Book - 2017

A fictionalized biography of James Castle, a deaf, autistic artist whose drawings hang in major museums throughout the world.

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Subjects
Genres
Picture books
Published
New York, NY : Arthur A. Levine Books, An Imprint of Scholastic Inc [2017]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
63 pages : color illustrations ; 28 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN
9780545927611
0545927617
Main Author
Allen Say (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* James Castle is a relatively unknown artist, but renowned illustrator Say attempts to bring his work to a young audience in this enigmatic, fictionalized picture-book biography. Born deaf and mute in 1899, Castle never learned to read or sign, despite attending a school for the deaf. Not surprisingly, he was the object of cruel taunts and mistreatment, but he created a stunning body of work, comprising surreal drawings, collage, and paper arts constructed from materials he found at his parents' farm. Though none of Castle's original artwork appears in these pages, Say endeavors to re-create his process, using soot, burned matches, and found paper in artwork deeply inspired by Castle's own paintings and drawings. The shadowy, thick-lined images are sometimes scary—a classroom full of figures with blank faces, a boy in overalls curling into himself in fear—but others, such as the view from a high barn window, or a house just for him, capture the deeply observant character of the artist. Though it's difficult to ascertain Say's intended audience for this title, his evocative, unusual illustrations are undeniably stunning and tell a vivid, slightly unsettling story of an artist. It's as if Say, by emulating Castle's methods, has gained unique insight into the artist's perspective and delivers it back to the reader in the medium Castle loved most. Unusual, yet utterly transfixing. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Say (The Inker's Shadow) tells the haunting story of outsider artist James Castle, a deaf and autistic man whose talent was not recognized until late in his life. Narrating in the voice of Castle's nephew, Say describes how Castle was born in 1899 into an Idaho farm family with no resources to help their son. He never learned to speak or read; when upset, he shrieked uncontrollably. But he found consolation in drawing and made some 15,000 pictures, often with soot and sharpened sticks after teachers confiscated his drawing materials. Many of Castle's drawings accompany the story—blocky, sometimes surreal human figures and houses—and Say contributes pen-and-ink vignettes, drawings that mimic Castle's style, and anguished charcoal portraits of the bullying the man endured throughout his life. After living alone in outbuildings on family properties for decades, Castle at last came to the attention of local artists and gained some financial security. Say's moving portrait of Castle's work and life ("I think he was happy," he concludes) pays tribute to a man who was compelled to create despite the torments he underwent. Ages 8–12. (Oct.) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 3–7—In this fascinating longform "imagined" biography about James Castle, author-illustrator Say plays with artistic and literary formats. Castle was born deaf and premature in Idaho, was considered to be autistic and dyslexic, and was abused and bullied for his inability to speak or read. He was discouraged from creating art by his parents and principal, and had his art supplies confiscated and artworks destroyed many times, yet he still created a huge and compelling body of work. The biography is written from the perspective of Castle's nephew, Bob Beach, and the back matter provides detailed information about the artist and Say's connection to him. Say's art, inspired by the many styles of James Castle, vibrates on the page in a variety of media, including matchsticks, shoe polish, liquid laundry bluing, and cardboard, and he even switched hands to imitate Castle. Just as Castle's art leapt in styles and emotions, Say's work shows the trials of a beleaguered and prolific artist. VERDICT A phenomenal and profoundly artistic and biographical work.—Lisa Nowlain, Nevada County Community Library, CA Copyright 2017 School Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A fictional biography of James Castle, a deaf, autistic artist whose drawings hang in major museums throughout the world.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The Caldecott Medal-winning creator of Grandfather's Journey brings his hybrid narrative and artistic style to the story of artist James Castle, describing how he overcame significant disabilities in order to become one of the modern world's most revered artists.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Caldecott Medal winner Allen Say brings his lavish illustrations and hybrid narrative and artistic styles to the story of artist James Castle.James Castle was born two months premature on September 25, 1899, on a farm in Garden Valley, Idaho. He was deaf, mute, autistic, and probably dyslexic. He didn't walk until he was four; he would never learn to speak, write, read, or use sign language.Yet, today Castle's artwork hangs in major museums throughout the world. The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened "James Castle: A Retrospective" in 2008. The 2013 Venice Biennale included eleven works by Castle in the feature exhibition "The Encyclopedic Palace." And his reputation continues to grow.Caldecott Medal winner Allen Say, author of the acclaimed memoir Drawing from Memory, takes readers through an imagined look at Castle's childhood, allows them to experience his emergence as an artist despite the overwhelming difficulties he faced, and ultimately reveals the triumphs that he would go on to achieve.