Cover image for Allison
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, c1997.
Physical Description:
32 p. : color illustrations.
Reading Level:
430 L Lexile
When Allison realizes that she looks more like her favorite doll than like her parents, she comes to terms with this unwelcomed discovery through the help of a stray cat.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book EASY SAY 1 1
Book EASY SAY 1 2

On Order



When Allison tries on the red kimono her grandmother has sent her, she is suddenly aware that she resembles her favorite doll more than she does her mother and father. When her parents try to explain that she is adopted, her world becomes an uncomfortable place. She becomes angry and withdrawn. She wonders why she was given up, what her real name is, and whether other children have parents in faraway countries. Allison's doll becomes her only solace until she finds a stray cat in the gardenand learns the true meaning of adoption and parental love.

Author Notes

Allen Say was born in 1937 in Yokohama, Japan and grew up during the war, attending seven different primary schools amidst the ravages of falling bombs. His parents divorced in the wake of the end of the war and he moved in with his maternal grandmother, with whom he did not get along with. She eventually let him move into a one room apartment, and Say began to make his dream of being a cartoonist a reality. He was twelve years old.

Say sought out his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei, and begged him to take him on as an apprentice. He spent four years with Shinpei, but at the age of 16 moved to the United States with his father. Say was sent to a military school in Southern California but then expelled a year later. He struck out to see California with a suitcase and twenty dollars. He moved from job to job, city to city, school to school, painting along the way, and finally settled on advertising photography and prospered. Say's first children's book was done in his photo studio, between shooting assignments. It was called "The Ink-Keeper's Apprentice" and was the story of his life with Noro Shinpei. After this, he began to illustrate his own picture books, with writing and illustrating becoming a sort of hobby. While illustrating "The Boy of the Three-year Nap" though, Say suddenly remembered the intense joy I knew as a boy in my master's studio and decided to pursue writing and illustrating full time.

Say began publishing books for children in 1968. His early work, consisting mainly of pen-and-ink illustrations for Japanese folktales, was generally well received; however, true success came in 1982 with the publication of The Bicycle Man, based on an incident in Say's life. "The Boy of the Three-Year Nap" published in 1988, and written by Dianne Snyder, was selected as a 1989 Caldecott Honor Book and winner of The Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for best picture book.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 3‘As he did in Stranger in the Mirror (Houghton, 1995), Say uses a glimpsed reflection to probe the ramifications of recognition. In the earlier title, the subject was aging; here, Say turns to adoption. When readers first encounter Allison, she is opening a package containing a red kimono just like the one worn by her doll. The whole family faces a mirror for her to see herself in her new garment, and she sees that her doll's hair is "straight and dark like hers." When she realizes that she does not look like her mother or father, her smile fades. Questions about the doll's origin lead to the discovery of her adoption. What follows are some lonely scenes as Allison watches the families at daycare and as she destroys her mother's childhood doll and father's baseball and glove. It is finally the "adoption" of a stray cat, whose appearances frame the story, that helps Allison understand and appreciate her family. While Say's watercolors are powerful‘the skill with which he captures determination and longing in the muscles surrounding Allison's mouth, for example‘and her anger is a believable reaction, the conclusion is abrupt and somewhat contrived. One can't help wondering, too, why Allison don't already know about her past if she is surrounded by cultural reminders and why her parents don't respond to her pain with immediate physical and verbal warmth and comfort. The compelling artwork will surely attract attention.. However, for first choices that combine honesty with reassurance, try Karen Katz's Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale (Holt, 1997) or Fred Rogers's Lets Talk About It: Adoption (Putnam, 1995).‘Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a starred review, PW said, "A subtle, sensitive probing of interracial adoption, this exquisitely illustrated story will encourage thoughtful adult-child dialogue on a potentially difficult issue." Ages 4-8. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Younger) A folklike story set in China tells of Mi Fei, an artist who skillfully paints the stories of gods and heroes on paper scrolls while living simply in his village, surrounded by loving neighbors. When alarming news comes that a great dragon has awakened from its hundred-years' sleep and is destroying the countryside, Mi Fei, at the villagers' behest, takes his scrolls and paints and journeys to the dragon's mountain. There, he encounters the fiery breath and lashing tail of the terrifying creature and learns that before the dragon can return to his slumber, someone must perform three tasks, or be devoured. Mi Fei is frightened, but clever, and he uses his beloved scrolls and his love for the people of his village to successfully complete the tasks. In the end, the gigantic dragon fades away until all that remains is a small paper version of himself. In an extraordinary feat of artistry, Sabuda uses the triple-page gate-fold illustrations both to relate the story in the style of Chinese scrolls and to capture the drama of the confrontation between the gentle artist and the awe-inspiring dragon. Each picture is cut from painted tissue paper created by Sabuda and placed on a background of handmade Japanese paper. The combination of the ever-increasing size of the dragon (climaxing in a picture of his teeth framing an entire spread) and the cleverness of Mi Fei creates a strong tale with plenty of action for the story-hour audience. h.b.z. Bob Graham Queenie, One of the Family; illus. by the author (Preschool, Younger) This warm family story begins on the opening endpapers as a bantam hen stands at the edge of a soft blue lake. Baby Caitlin and her mom and dad, walking in the countryside, soon spot the hen floundering in the lake, and Dad leaps in for a daring rescue. They warm the hen and bring her home, and "that might have been the end of the story...but it wasn't!" The hen, dubbed Queenie, soon becomes one of the family, taking over the dog's basket and witnessing Caitlin's first steps. But Caitlin's mom knows Queenie has another home, so the whole family sets off to return her to a nearby farm. "That might have been the end of the story...but it wasn't." Queenie returns each morning to lay a perfect brown egg in Bruno's basket, just right for Caitlin's breakfast or for baking a birthday cake. When a new baby arrives and Caitlin forgets to collect the eggs, Bruno hatches a litter of chicks. The immensely appealing animals and people are depicted in gentle watercolors with loose, comfortable lines. Th (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Say's trademark nuanced and limpid watercolors convey and complete the emotional resonance of this adoption story. When Allison's grandmother sends her a kimono and Allison tries it on, she sees that she resembles her doll, Mei Mei, more than she resembles her parents. Allison is terrified and unsatisfied by her parents' explanation (in a conversation that sounds as if the subject has never been broached) that her birth parents couldn't keep her, and that they brought her home (with Mei Mei) from another country. She withdraws from her playmates and her family, and then lashes out by destroying her mother and father's cherished possessions from childhood. A stray cat who has been hanging around their house provides Allison with another--albeit unstated--view of adoption and she cheers up enough to rejoin her family. Say masterfully captures Allison's expressions: She is surprised, wounded, sullen, hurt and hurtful, and finally reassured. He addresses the dark side of an adoptive child's feelings carefully, and while the resolution is a bit convenient (and may require interpretation for younger children), it still carries truth. (Picture book. 4-8)

Booklist Review

Ages 4-8. The cover is made of thick, glossy gold paper with a square cut out of its center. The face of a beautiful but sad little girl, Allison, peeks out through the square, with the gold paper making a frame for her small, worried countenance. Allison has reason to be perturbed. One day, after looking at herself, her parents, and her doll Mei-Mei in the mirror, she realizes that she looks more like Mei-Mei than like her Caucasian mother and father. Her loving parents tell her how they traveled to a far-away country to bring her and Mei-Mei home. "Allison stared. `You're not my Mommy and Daddy?'" They try to tell her how much they love her, but Allison is distraught. The other children at day care stare curiously at her when she asks if any of them have another mother, and when Allison returns home, she destroys beloved objects belonging to her parents. But when a stray cat comes along, Allison begins nurturing it and learns that families can grow in all sorts of ways. The time frame of the story seems too quick given the enormity of Allison's adjustment (she comes to terms with things in just two days). Her feelings, however, seem very real, and Say captures every nuance in poignant, exquisite paintings, taking great care not to overdramatize or embellish. The high point of the book is a picture of Allison lifting the large, unwieldy cat with a pleading expression on her face that reflects her need for forgiveness and reassurance. An adoption book that deals honestly with the confused feelings all children experience when the world they know unexpectedly shifts. (Reviewed December 15, 1997)039585895XSusan Dove Lempke