Bryan calls the spirituals of African slaves in America “a tremendous gift to the world. How they came about is just staggering. When you think of a people, it was a crime to teach them to read or write. They worked from the dark of the morning to the dark of the evening.” Their only instruments were their bodies and sticks and mallets. “And they used those percussive things to develop the rhythms of song and dance. They developed a language for the spirituals which I cannot get over.” Bryan wrote and illustrated six books selecting from the vast body of these spirituals, varying his media from block prints, to water color, to tempera paints depending on how the spirituals made him feel. His most recent book, Let It Shine, uses collage illustrations. With the exception of the block prints which must be carved, Bryan’s media are available to even the youngest children, an aspect that appeals to him and gives him another point of connection with his intended audience. [Excerpted from my Ashley Bryan profile.]
#PictureBookMonth Theme: Folktales :|: Read Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan #literacy
Ashley Bryan’s passion for poetry and the history of black people inform all of his work. For example, the seed for Beautiful Blackbird came from a Zambian folktale in which birds of all colors come together to decide who is the most beautiful. Blackbird wins the prize because he is the most black. “I had grown up with the stories that black is the lousy color. It’s all that’s left. It’s what you get,” Bryan says. “So here was a chance to do a story which was celebrating black.”
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