Bryan, Ashley (1923 - )

Genre: Children's Literature, Illustrator

Now a resident of Islesford on Little Cranberry Island off the coast of Maine (where he had summered since 1946) Bryan was born in the Bronx on 13 July 1923, a child of immigrants from the West Indies island of Antigua. He attended The Cooper Union Art School, where scholarships were awarded for talent and not determined by race, and after service in World War II, went on to earn a degree in philosophy from Columbia University and win a Fulbright Scholarship for art studies in Europe.

He taught art at Queens College-CUNY, Lafayette College, and Dartmouth College (1973-1985) before leaving academic life to concentrate full time on his own work.

In 2009, Bryan won the ALA Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, which "honors an author or illustrator whose books are published in the US and have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children." In 2012 he won Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for lifetime achievement.

Bryan's books were first published in the 1960s, and since then he has illustrated more than thirty-five books, many of them texts he also wrote, retold, or selected. Among the honors his work has received are nine Coretta Scott King Awards and a Maine Lupine Award. He also received the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award given to an individual of distinction in the field of children's literature.

He also won the 2012 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Bryan's books, as Kirkus Reviews observed, are meant "to be read aloud, with bits of rhyme and unexpected wordplay."

Selected Bibliography

  • Fabliaux: Ribald Tales from the Old French, For the First Time Done Into English (1965; by Robert Hellman and Richard O'Gorman; illus. Bryan)
  • Moon, For What Do You Wait? Poems by Tagore (1967; ed. Richard Lewis; illus. Bryan)
  • The Ox of the Wonderful Horns And Other African Folktales (1971/1993)
  • Walk Together Children: Black American Spirituals (1974; select./illus. Bryan). An ALA Notable Book.
  • Adventures of Aku: Or, How it Came About That We Shall Always See Okra the Cat Lying on a Velvet Cushion, While Okraman the Dog Sleeps Among the Ashes (1976; retold and illus. by Bryan)
  • The Dancing Granny (1977/1987)
  • I Greet the Dawn: Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1978; select., illus., and intro. by Bryan)
  • Jethro and the Jumbie (1979; by Susan Cooper; illus. Bryan)
  • Jim Flying High (1979; by Mari Evans; illus. Bryan)
  • Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum (1980/1999; retold and illus. by Bryan)
  • I'm Going To Sing: Black American Spirituals (1984; select/illus. Bryan)
  • The Cat's Purr (1985)
  • Lion and the Ostrich Chicks, and Other African Folk Tales (1986/1996)
  • What a Morning: The Christmas Story in Black Spirituals (1987/1996; select/ed. John Langstaff; illus. Bryan)
  • Sh-ko and His Eight Wicked Brothers (1988; retold by Bryan; illus. Fumio Yoshimura)
  • Turtle Knows Your Name (1989/1993; retold and illus. by Bryan)
  • Pourquoi Tales: The Cat's Purr, Why Frog and Snake Never Play Together, the Fire Bringer (1989; with Margaret Hodges)
  • Climbing Jacob's Ladder: Heroes of the Bible in African-American Spirituals (1991; selected. John Langstaff; illus. Bryan)
  • Sing to the Sun: Poems and Pictures (1992/1996)
  • Christmas Gif': An Anthology of Christmas Poems, Songs, and Stories Written by and about African-Americans (1993; compiler Charlemae Hill Rollins; illus. Bryan)
  • The Story of Lightning and Thunder (1993/1999)
  • Poems and Folktales (1994)
  • What a Wonderful World! (1995; lyrics by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele)
  • It's Kwanzaa Time! (1995; by Linda and Clay Goss; illus. Bryan)
  • The Story of the Three Kingdoms; by Walter Dean Myers (1995; illus. Bryan)
  • The Sun Is So Quiet: Poems by Nikki Giovanni (1996; illus. Bryan)
  • Ashley Bryan's ABC of African American Poetry (1997/2001)
  • Carol of the Brown King: Nativity Poems, by Langston Hughes (1998; illus. Bryan)
  • The House With No Door: African Riddle-Poems (1998; Bryan Swann, compiler; illus. Bryan)
  • Ashley Bryan's African Tales, Uh-Huh (1998)
  • Why Leopard Has Spots: Dan Stories from Liberia (1998; Won-Ldy Paye and Margaret H. Lippert, adapters; illus. Bryan)
  • The Night Has Ears: African proverbs (1999; selected and illus. Bryan)
  • All Night, All Day: A Child's First Book of African-American Spirituals (1991)
  • Aneesa Lee and the Weaver's Gift (1999; by Nikki Grimes; illus. by Bryan)
  • Jump Back, Honey: The Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1999; select./intro. Bryan and Andrea Davis Pinkney; illus. Bryan)
  • How God Fix Jonah (2000; by Lorenz Graham; illus. Bryan)
  • Salting the Ocean: 100 Poems by Young Poets (2000; selected by Naomi Shihab Nye; illus. Bryan)
  • Beautiful Blackbird (2003). Audio tape titled Ashley Bryan's Beautiful Blackbird And Other Folktales (2004).
  • A Nest Full of Stars (2005, written by James Berry, illus. Bryan)
  • Spirituals (2007)
  • My America (2007), a poem written by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, illus. Bryan
  • Who Built the Stable?: A Nativity Poem (2012)

Selected Resources