Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Sign Painter

by Allen Say

Caldecott medalist Allen Say seamlessly weaves together dreams and reality in this story of a boy and a sign painter traveling across the country painting billboards in the desert. Say’s awe-inspiring illustrations make this book one that should not be missed by readers of any age.

Format: Paperback
ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780544105140
ISBN-10: 0544105141
Pages: 32
Publication Date: 11/05/2013
Carton Quantity: 50
Grade Level: P,K,1,2,3
Age Range: 4,5,6,7,8


Early one morning a boy comes into town looking for work. He meets a sign painter who takes him on as a helper, and they are commissioned to paint a series of billboards in the desert. Each billboard has only one word, Arrowstar. They do not know its meaning. As they are about to paint the last sign, the boy looks up and sees in the distance a magnificent structure. Is it real? Together, they go to find out.

Here Allen Say tells a haunting story of dreams and choices for readers of all ages. It is a Common Core State Standards Text Exemplar (Grades 2-3, Read-Aloud Story).

Allen Say

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1937. He dreamed of becoming a cartoonist from the age of six, and, at age twelve, apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. For the next four years, Say learned to draw and paint under the direction of Noro, who has remained Say's mentor. Say illustrated his first children's book -- published in 1972 -- in a photo studio between shooting assignments. For years, Say continued writing and illustrating children's books on a part-time basis. But in 1987, while illustrating THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (Caldecott Honor Medal), he recaptured the joy he had known as a boy working in his master's studio. It was then that Say decided to make a full commitment to doing what he loves best: writing and illustrating children's books. Since then, he has written and illustrated many books, including TREE OF CRANES and GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal. He is a full-time writer and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon. Read More



"Like a cinematographer, Say, in perhaps his best work to date, pays tribute to a bygone era with a brief slice-of-life story about a boy’s encounter with a sing painter. . . . . Say subtly and ingeniously blends a feeling of nostalgia with a hard-hitting immediacy. . . . The images and the boy’s passion as an artist will remain with [readers]." —Publishers Weekly, starred review Publishers Weekly, Starred

"Studying say’s technique could inspire any aspiring painter." —Horn Book (9-10/00) Horn Book

"In a tribute to many modern artists, includijng Hopper, Warhol, and Magritte, Say shows and tells how their pictures make you feel and how the surreal is part of a young man's search for himself." —Booklist (19/01/00 Booklist, ALA

Kirkus Reviews (9/15/00) Kirkus Reviews

School Library Journal (9/00) School Library Journal