Silent Days, Silent Dreams

Published: October 31, 2017 (available for pre-order)

Author: Allen Say

Age: 8 - 12 (grades 3-7) Middle Grade fiction

Pages: 64

I just read a galley of the new picture book Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Caldecott Medal-winning author Allen Say. It is the story of artist James Castle, born in 1899 and described as "deaf, mute, autistic, and probably dyslexic." Despite his circumstances, James was a gifted artist who was compelled to create. 

"Nothing stopped James Castle from becoming an artist. He had difficulty making friends, so he made them out of cardboard. He slept in a bare attic. But he filled it with the cozy bed and room he longed for."

His materials were burnt matchsticks, found paper, and soot.  Ultimately, his art was discovered and James Castle was celebrated for his work. But it was against all odds. Silent Days, Silent Dreams captures the painful yet remarkably inspiring story of this usually gifted artist.

James Castle's story reminds me of my own grandfather -- a man who suffered severe hearing loss and dyslexia during a time when his disabilities were not properly diagnosed. He was misunderstood until the day he died, and, though I do believe he had latent talents, he was never able to fully express them. The story of James Castle resonated with me in a very personal way.