Ashely Bryan, an art activist for children, has passed away. He was 98 years old.
Ashley Bryan believed in the arts- music, painting, sketching, collaging, story telling- you name it, he believed in it. Furthermore, he was able to put himself into children shoes and write for them.
He knew his craft and delivered it well.
With so many people writing children book’s these days, it looks quite easy to write and illustrate a book for a child; however, when you view Ashley Bryan’s ‘Walk together Children’ or ‘Puppets Making Something from Everything’ or ‘Beautiful Blackbird’; you know children book making is more about craft than about circumstance, more about inspiration than about influence and more about realization than about repetition.
Ashley Bryan will continue to live on in classrooms and communities because of his deep appreciation of who he was and from whence he came.
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Two weeks ago, some Mary Mitchell Students traveled from the Bronx to Philadelphia Pennsylvania to attend their annual African American Book Fair. It was a dream come true for me. My first self lead trip out of state with my students. It was a great success (If I may say so myself).
In this photo are some Mary Mitchell students with Author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Illustrator R. Gregory Christie.
Ms. Nelson is penning a sheriff badge on Jerome. He had just told me that he didn’t want any books. That was before he met Ms. Nelson. She changed his mind. He ended up getting Bad News for Outlaws (written by Ms. Nelson and Illustrated by Mr. Christie).
A Saturday ago, I went to the Jewish Museum to see The Snowy Day exhibit. Prior to my visit, I had very little knowledge of Ezra Jack Keats. I only remembered reading The Snowy Day as a child. It wasn’t even a favorite book of mine. I don’t know why I felt I really needed to go see the exhibit. Anyway, I went and was glad I did.
I went with preconceived ideas about the book and it’s illustrator/ author. I thought Ezra Jack Keats was black and was surprised to learn that he was Jewish. I was also surprised when I learned that his book was the first children’s book to include a black protagonist. He knew what it felt like to be ignored because of something about yourself you can’t change and did not only use Black characters but Hispanic and White.
“My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along” he said in response to Pete’s character.
As I walked through the exhibit, I felt so inspired. The art in itself was amazing. He started drawing as a child and even though he did not have that great of a relationship with his mom, she encouraged him to draw.
What I remembered and spoke about the most was the letters he received from people concerned about the color of his skin and the color of his characters. One person wanted an edition of a book he illustrated, but wanted him to changed the color of the character. His response was: