Allen Say was born in 1937 in Yokohama, Japan. When he was twelve, he apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. He learned to draw and paint under his mentor’s direction, an experience he eventually chronicled in his part memoir, part graphic novel Drawing from Memory(Scholastic). At sixteen, he moved to America, and in the years that followed, his life was in constant flux. He changed schools a number of times, attended art classes when he could, and worked as a sign painter, which later served as the inspiration for another of his books, The Sign Painter (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
After serving in the army, Allen pursued commercial photography. Art directors and designers he met were impressed with his ability to sketch out ideas before committing them to film. Their encouragement led him to become an illustrator, creating his first children’s book, Dr. Smith’s Safari(HarperCollins) in 1972, between shooting assignments.
Allen’s evocative and masterful work, characterized by rich detail and careful attention to lighting, has consistently received awards and honors. The Lucky Yak by Annetta Lawson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and A River Dream (Little, Brown), which he wrote and illustrated, were New York Times Best Illustrated Books. How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman won the Christopher Award. The Boy of the Three-Year Nap by Dianne Snyder received a Caldecott Honor and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award. And Grandfather’s Journey, which he wrote as well as illustrated, won the Caldecott Medal and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award. (All Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.)