Welcome to the
Ashley Bryan’s ABC of African American Poetry
By Ashley Bryan
“And God stepped out on space, And he looked around and said: I’m lonely — I’ll make me a world.” — James Weldon Johnson
Thus begins Coretta Scott King Award-winner Ashley Bryan’s collection of inspiring excerpts of poems by celebrated African American poets. Beautifully illustrated with his own tempera and gouache paintings, Ashley Bryan’s unique alphabet book will delight readers of any age.
Ashley Bryan grew up to the sound of his mother singing from morning to night, and he has shared the joy of song with children ever since. A beloved illustrator, he was recently named a Newbery Honoree for his picture book, Freedom Over Me. He has been the recipient of the Coretta Scott King—Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award; the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award; has been a May Hill Arbuthnot lecturer; a Coretta Scott King Award winner; and the recipient of countless other awards and recognitions. His books include Freedom Over Me; Sail Away; Beautiful Blackbird; Beat the Story-Drum, Pum Pum; Let It Shine; Ashley Bryan’s Book of Puppets; and What a Wonderful World. He lives in Islesford, one of the Cranberry Isles off the coast of Maine. The Beautiful Blackbird Book Festival was founded in Ashley’s honor.
As you read this book out loud, try to find the music and the rhythm in the poetry on the page. Use your hands and your feet to tap out the beat as you read. The beautiful illustrations in this book are all brightly colored paintings, featuring Black faces and vibrant scenes of nature and of Black life. How many flowers can you find on each page? How many suns can you find on each page? As you dance along with Veeva, can you imagine that someone is reading the poems as you dance?
ABC Poem Dance
Ashley Bryan once said, “I get spun around by what happens in words.” South Sudanese dancer Veeva Banga is going to spin you around with “what happens in words.” Using the alphabet and the magnificent movement in Ashley’s Bryan’s paintings, Veeva will lead you in an expressive dance that honors the Black poets. What poetry will you create with your body?
The ABC’s of Your Poetry
Ashley Bryan says that his art often flows from the poetry of his favorite writers. In his luminously illustrated book, Ashley offers a stanza from 26 individual poems, each highlighting a letter of the alphabet. Using the words of these poems and Ashley Bryan’s art as inspiration, you will bring letters together to form your own poem and piece of art. Open the book, open your mind, and let the poetry flow!
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