“In her grandmother’s house, framed pictures hung in the hallway. One of them showed a cottage with lighted windows. Erika would remember that picture all her life.”
Based on a true story, the newest masterpiece from the Caldecott medalist Allen Say, Erika-san, traces the life of a young girl—inspired as a child by a magical painting of a teahouse—who travels to Japan to teach English. Upon her arrival she is shocked by the crowds and asks to be reassigned to a post on a remote island. There she finally connects with the Old Japan of her dreams and meets a young Japanese teacher, Aki-san, who takes her on weekend bicycle journeys to explore the rocky seacoast, rice paddies, and gorgeous mountains of her new island home. These weekend journeys lead her to the teahouse she has sought for so long, and with Aki at her side, Erika-San knows she is home at last.
Allen Say dedicated the book to his real-life inspiration, Ursala, who taught on the remote Japanese island of Amakusa for more than two years. The two met by chance at a Portland, Oregon, sushi restaurant. They struck up a conversation at the counter, and, fascinated by her story, Say asked her if he could adapt her tale into a book. They returned to Amakusa Island together, where she introduced him her friends and coworkers and they visited the places she had frequented.
Allen Say is the award-winning creator of nearly twenty books, including Grandfather’s Journey, winner of the Caldecott Medal. He is known for his unique ability to subtly capture the immigrant experience, his evocative watercolors, and poetic language. Say spent the first fifteen years of his life in Japan, studying art with the master cartoonist Noro Shinpei, and immigrated to the United States when he was sixteen years old.
For years he worked as a successful commercial photographer, writing and illustrating picture books on a part-time basis. But in 1987, while illustrating The Boy of the Three-Year Nap (a Caldecott Honor book), he recaptured the joy he had known working in his master’s studio and decided to make a full-time commitment to doing what he loves best: creating books for children. Recently, Say’s work has been featured in exhibitions at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles, California, and the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Allen Say lives and works in Portland, Oregon.