In Drawn Together, written by Min Lê with illustrations by Dan Santat, a young boy is dropped off to visit his grandpa. The boy looks reluctant. The Grandpa greets him with joy. The Grandpa speaks Thai, the boy, English. The Grandpa prepares an Asian dish for himself and a hot dog for his grandson. They try to communicate but are unable to cross their language divide. That awkward silence is broken when the boy brings out his drawing pen and his markers. The Grandpa is inspired to bring out his own art supplies, a sketch book, ink and pen. Together they create a new story. The boy says, “Right when I gave up on talking, my grandfather surprised me by revealing a world beyond words. And in a FLASH–we see each other for the first time. All the things we could never say come pouring out.” Through their collaboration in drawing scenes together they build “a new world that even words can’t describe.”
Each artist creates super heroes that reflect their own cultures. Their adventures in that new world feature battles and dragons. Together in their colorful paintings they cross the divide that has separated them. The boy writes, “Now after years of searching for the right words, we find ourselves happily… SPEECHLESS.” When the boy goes home he has his grandpa’s ink brush. The grandpa waves good by with the boy’s markers clutched in his hand. The power of art to communicate unites the two in a new relationship.
Santat is a gifted artist and this book is a departure from his usual style. Compare the illustrations in his 2015 Caldecott winner, Beetle, with this new book. The dragons and fantastic adventures in the world grandson and grandpa create are vivid and almost leap out of the pages. Many pages are without text with the illustrations carrying the story. Dramatic details and action fill the pages. The beginning and ending of the story feature small mostly wordless panels that first show the characters struggling to communicate and then at the end parting with a new appreciation of what they have shared. When the world they create together begins the pages feature large figures with culturally specific motifs.
Min Lê’s text is spare about the challenge of finding a way to communicate when two people who care about each other don’t speak the same language. In an interview in Publisher’s Weekly both author and illustrator tell about childhood experiences in which they struggled to communicate with grandparents who did not speak English. Drawn Together makes an excellent read aloud with an adult reading the text and the children “reading” the illustrations. -Recommended by Marilyn Carpenter, Professor Emeritus Eastern Washington University
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
PubDate: June 5, 2018
Each month a committee of Worlds of Words advisors recommends a book published within the last year. Our hope is to spark conversations on our website and on social media about the book that expand global understandings and perceptions. Please join us by leaving a comment. You can also share your thoughts with us by using the hashtag #WOWRecommends on social media.