Say (The Inker’s Shadow) tells the haunting story of outsider artist James Castle, a deaf and autistic man whose talent was not recognized until late in his life. Narrating in the voice of Castle’s nephew, Say describes how Castle was born in 1899 into an Idaho farm family with no resources to help their son. He never learned to speak or read; when upset, he shrieked uncontrollably. But he found consolation in drawing and made some 15,000 pictures, often with soot and sharpened sticks after teachers confiscated his drawing materials. Drawings done in the style of Castle accompany the story—blocky, sometimes surreal human figures and houses—and Say also supplies pen-and-ink vignettes and anguished charcoal portraits of the bullying the man endured throughout his life.. After living alone in outbuildings on family properties for decades, Castle at last came to the attention of local artists and gained some financial security. Say’s moving portrait of Castle’s work and life (“I think he was happy,” he concludes) pays tribute to a man who was compelled to create despite the torments he underwent. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)
This review has been updated to clarify that all of the artwork in the book was done by Say.