Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say; illustrated by Allen Say. 2017. Burnt match sticks, sharpened stick dipped in soot mixed with spit, wastepaper, cardboard, cotton wads, rags, Q-tips, big nails, toothpicks, brushes, and fingers. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books.
Brief summary: James Castle was deaf, mute, autistic, and believed to be dyslexic, and although he attended five years at the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind, he did not learn to write, read, speak or even use sign language. He created his own calligraphy and made hundreds of books and albums. Living in poverty, he drew on what paper was around and created over 15,000 pieces of artwork often using match sticks and spit. Readers will learn about the harsh life this artist had endured from being different. The bullying. The isolation. The unkindness from his own relatives.
Comments: I suggest reading the author’s note in the back first. Allen Say’s friend, Cort Conley, asked him to create a portrait of a local Idaho artist. Mr. Say agreed to do a portrait drawing after receiving the artist’s photo and catalog of works. Allen Say became intrigued by the artist and his unique style of drawings so researched him more. Many publications and relative interviews about Mr. Castle had conflicting stories. Allen Say wrote this book and created the artwork in the same way James Castle created. The artist’s portrait is in the back. The tools Allen Say used are shown as well. I was impressed that Mr. Say totally submerged himself into understanding Mr. Castle by experimenting and using the same tools as the artist.
I think this would be a superb read aloud not only to learn about this artist but to better understand empathy, perseverance, and uniqueness from another’s life. Can you imagine not being able to hear, speak or communicate with others? What do you think it was like for Mr. Castle to see his works in a gallery? Did the time period he live in understand him? Did people understand autism more now or then? How did his relatives treat him? How would you feel if your family treated you the same way?