An imagined biography in words and pictures of the self-taught white artist James Castle.
James Castle was born in 1899 on a farm in rural Idaho, “deaf, mute, autistic, and probably dyslexic.” Using interviews, written biographical material, and Castle’s own drawings as guides, Say, writing in the voice of Robert “Bob” Beach, Castle’s nephew, offers a sensitive portrait of a person compelled to draw despite abuse and lack of drawing materials. Considered “ineducable” by the principal of the Idaho School for the Deaf James attended from ages 10 to 15 (he also told James’ father not to let him draw), James used burnt matchsticks, soot mixed with his own saliva, and scrap paper to draw in secret. When Beach showed some of Castle’s drawings to his art professor, the professor, impressed, arranged an exhibition. More exhibitions followed, and Castle moved into a used trailer—by far the nicest studio he ever had. It’s a small but deep triumph that this misunderstood, determined artist became discovered by the art world during his lifetime. “I think he was happy,” narrator Bob says of this period, and it’s a wistful note that Say’s illustrations—some in Castle’s own style, some darkly black and white, and some in color—give heartfelt resonance to.
With sensitive text and powerful illustrations, Say brings this remarkable, inspiring life to poignant reality. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 8-15)