Just Jerry: How Drawing Shaped My Life

Jerry Pinkney's mother, knowing her son would make something of himself, dismissed those who teased him for not having a proper name--"Just 'Jerry' is enough." Not only was her prediction accurate, she inspired the title for her Caldecott-winning son's resplendent and candid memoir.

Pinkney describes his adolescence as packed with challenges. He provides an authentic view of post-World War II-era Philadelphia: "Stores did not have any Whites Only signs posted, but the Open or Welcome signs on the doors didn't always mean that my friends and I really could enter and be served." And he brilliantly relates his experience with dyslexia at a time before anyone truly understood the learning disability: "the words seemed to be swimming in murky water.... Even when I gripped my paper, the words kept moving." Pinkney humbly and honestly depicts his hurdles and how those difficulties empowered him and helped build his determination and passion. "Drawing... was my way of living in my imagination... and breaking free of the constraints I was growing up with."

Pinkney (The Lion and the Mouse) wrote this memoir in the decade preceding his death at age 81 in 2021, but did not complete the art. Though using his unfinished drawings was not the original intent, the art is a perfect representation of a master artist in the making. Just Jerry immerses readers in the life of a remarkable man who made his indelible mark on the world of illustration. Pinkney leaves a precious gift to readers with his final work. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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