Three notable children’s-book illustrators bring their own histories to life.
Marisabina Russo tells a story based on her mother’s experience in wartime Italy in I Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding During World War II. A young Jewish girl lives in Rome with her family until Italy joins forces with Nazi Germany and life becomes perilous for Jews. Russo’s gouache paintings in the warm colors of a northern Italian village depict both the happiness of family togetherness and the tension and fear of wartime. Family photos on the endpapers bring the story (a companion to Russo’s Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II) even closer to child audiences. (5–8 years)
Drawing from Memory, author-illustrator Allen Say’s rendering of his adolescence, takes the form of an album, with text, photographs, drawings, and paintings all harmoniously enlisted to convey events. Drawing covers roughly the same period as Say’s autobiographical novel The Ink-Keeper’s Apprentice, and at the center of this book, as before, is the artist’s relationship with his sensei, Noro Shinpei, a popular cartoonist in postwar Japan who took Say on as an apprentice when the boy was thirteen. A moving and immediate coming-of-age story set within the context of a long life and vocation. (9 years and up)
In 1934, three years after Japan invaded Manchuria, Ed Young’s father built a large brick house in Shanghai’s “safest part…where the embassies were.” The house became a wartime refuge to his family of seven, many other relatives, and three Germans. In The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China, by Ed Young (as told to Libby Koponen), Young maintains a child’s-eye view, focusing on life in the house, slipping in only the most salient historical turning points. Creating collages of beautifully integrated textured materials and family photos interwoven with hand-drawn portraits, sketches, paintings, architectural diagrams, and more, Young pays tribute to his father’s ingenuity in giving his children a happy childhood. (7–11 years)