Ashley Bryan - Illustrator
Ashley Bryan is the illustrator or author of more than 30 books. Beat the Story Drum, Pum-Pum, won the Coretta Scott King Award, while Lion and the Ostrich Chicks and Other African Folk Tales, Ashley Bryan’s ABC’s of African American Poetry, and What a Morning! The Christmas Story in Black Spirituals, were all selected as Coretta Scott King Honor books. In addition, Bryan’s beautiful illustrations also appeared in The Art of Reading, which celebrated RIF’s 40th anniversary.
RIF: How were books, reading, and storytelling a part of your childhood?
Ashley Bryan: I grew up in the Great Depression years. The public library was like a second home to me. I loved books and listening to stories. In kindergarten, I began making my own books.
RIF: When did you first learn about African folktales and spirituals?
AB: I heard spirituals at home, on the radio. We learned some spirituals also in elementary school. I read the folktales from many cultures.
RIF: You're known for your dynamic storytelling performances. How do you get kids interested and involved in your read alouds?
AB: I have children take part in my programs by the “call and response” method. I will say a line from a poem and have the audience repeat after me.
RIF: You're a poet, painter, illustrator, storyteller, teacher, and author. With what do you identify most?
AB: I was always drawing and painting and writing stories. Sharing my work with others unified all of the above as aspects of a profession.
RIF: Your emphasize being rooted in who you are. What are your roots?
AB: My roots are African-American, West Indian, and African.
RIF: Where do you like to write and create art?
AB: I work on my books in my studio. I do oil paintings on canvas outdoors, in season.
RIF: What does Black History Month mean to you?
AB: Black History Month reminds everyone of the enormous contributions of black Americans to the life and culture of the Americas and its influence on other cultures of the world.
RIF: You and your siblings created a home library for yourselves as kids. What's your home library like now?
AB: My home library is in every room of the house. It represents my interest in all aspects of the human adventure that is housed in books.
RIF: Did you want to be a writer and illustrator as a child?
AB: As a child, there were many careers I thought I would follow, but I was always interested in drawing and painting.
RIF: To start exploring African folktales, what's a good book of yours to begin with?
AB: Ashley Bryan’s African Tales, Uh-Huh has a number of my retellings of African tales. They are varied and offer a range of themes. It’s a good book with which to start.