BOISE — A new children’s book about a Treasure Valley artist slated to hit bookstores on Oct. 31 may find itself shelved in a different way.
The book, “Silent Days, Silent Dreams,” is a fictional biography about James Castle, a self-taught artist whose works can be found in museums, art galleries and private collections all over the world.
Written for children, the book contains about 150 illustrations by award-winning writer and illustrator Allen Say.
Say, 80, won the 1994 Caldecott Medal for his children’s picture book, “Grandfather’s Journey,” which details his grandfather’s voyage from Japan to the United States. He lives in Portland, Ore.
But the James Castle Collection and Archive, which has the largest privately held collection of Castle’s works, believes Say’s illustrations cross the line. It is suing Say and his publisher for copyright infringement in Boise federal court.
Many of Say’s illustrations “are intended to evoke and imitate the artistic style of James Castle,” the archive says in its lawsuit filed Oct. 19.
However, about two dozen of the illustrations “are far more than a tribute” and are “similar if not virtually identical copies” of Castle’s work, the lawsuit states.
The archive also claims the book depicts Castle “in a questionable light based on unverifiable theories about his life and abilities.”
“For example, the book portrays James Castle as an unhappy, developmentally disabled child who was abused by his family and locked in an attic.” Say also describes Castle as “autistic and dyslexic.”
“None of these theories about Castle’s life are consistent with the available evidence, nor can any of them be verified,” states the claim.
Say, reached Friday at his home in Portland, said “I have no comment on anything, thank you,” and hung up the phone.
Scholastic Inc., one of the world’s largest children’s books publishers, is publishing Say’s book.
The book was just printed and is slated for release in Idaho on Tuesday. The archive has also asked U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill for a temporary injunction prohibiting Scholastic from releasing the book that day.
Winmill will hold a telephone hearing on the injunction at 10 a.m. Monday.
The archive also seeks damages of $150,000 for each copyrighted work infringed, and for the destruction of all copies of the book.
Scholastic on Friday asked the court not to grant the injunction, a “drastic remedy ... that would stop the distribution of an imaginative and critically acclaimed children’s book before this Court has had the opportunity to fully explore the very important issues.”
Its attorneys say the book falls under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. “As an imagined biographical retrospective of a real-life artist written for children, the book is a work of ‘scholarship,’ one of the core examples of fair use,” states the company’s response in court.
“This is not a ‘run-of-the-mill copyright infringement case’ involving counterfeits or piracy ... (but) a request to stop the publication of an educational children’s book that the Castle Collection argues went too far in seeking to capture the essence of Castle’s work.”
Scholastic also chastised the archive for waiting until a week before the book’s release to seek the restraining order, saying the unexcused delay “impugns the feigned cry of an emergency.”