Silent Days, Silent Dreams
"Deaf, mute, autistic and probably dyslexic," James Castle (1899-1977) survived childhood trauma and elevated his silent life by teaching himself to create stupendous art from salvaged materials. Despite being one of seven children, James was mostly alone. His first, brief attempt at schooling left him forever "afraid of strangers." His father locked him in the attic to counter his only means of communication--"piercing screams of frustration." Using trash paper found around his family's farm, he used burnt matchsticks to draw. He survived five years at the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind, but was deemed "ineducable" at 15; the principal sent James home with warnings to deny him all drawing materials. James prevailed, stealing chimney soot, mixing it with his spit to draw. His persistence never waned: "James drew everything he saw."
Caldecott Medalist Allen Say's empathy moves beyond words, as he emulates James's "unschooled style" by using similar methods, including soot and spit, and mimicks James's "unsteady lines" by switching from his dominant right hand to his left. Say's illuminating author's note provides indelible testimony to the metamorphic power of art as he transforms James's Silent Days, Silent Dreams into resonating homage and spectacular storytelling. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon