Friday, November 11, 2011

Forthcoming children's book collection to pave new path toward discovery

Award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Ashley Bryan once said:

 “There are so many ways in which we learn about life and self. Each day opens paths to this exploration. For many of us, books play a major role in that adventure.”

Blazing the trail of self-exploration for children, Bryan has published and illustrated a number of children’s books through the years. With generous donations of some of Bryan’s original artwork, the Auburn Avenue Research Library (AARL) established the Ashley Bryan Children’s Picture Book Art collection. This collection contains sensitive images of children of African descent by national and international children’s picture book illustrators.

Illustration from Ashley Bryan's Walk Together Children, March 1981

In recent years, the AARL Ashley Bryan Literary Festival partnered with the National Black Arts Festival. During this three-day festival organizers engage children, parents, and educators in the Africana experience, in addition to honoring the work of other children’s book illustrators with the same mission. Previous recipients of the Ashley Bryan Children’s Picture Book Award are Bryan Collier and Colin Bootman. Their work has also been included in the children’s picture book art collection. Among Bootman, Bryan, and Collier, Jonathan Green, an illustrator and advocate of artistic literacy, is also featured.

The Ashley Bryan Children’s Picture Book Art collection highlights nearly 60 illustrations from about 20 different works and not only includes autographed published versions, but also drafts and sketches that document a good portion of the artistic process. Artist Bryan Collier has lively illustrations detailing the boxing career and Islamic journey of heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. Whether in the ring or prayer position, Ali comes to life and pops off the pages of Collier’s work. “Walk Together Children,” is a fascinating Ashley Bryan piece that features illustrated scores and lyrics of black spirituals. It is a wonderful way to expose children to the historical significance of how black slaves in America gained strength and interpreted coded messages from these songs.

Is there anybody here? by Ashley Bryan

In the spirit of staying true to Bryan’s quote and the AARL mission of being a resource for educators and the community at large, we hope the collection inspires and influences educators to build picture book art collections within their own organizations/schools and serve as a guide in detailing how artists address Africana-related issues through images. This collection could also be used in research to gauge the impact and effectiveness of communicating ideas to children through reflective illustration.

The Ashley Bryan Children’s Picture Book Art collection is currently being processed and will be accessible via online descriptive inventory.  Also the AARL’s joint Children’s Literature Conference with the University of Georgia will be a great way to experience an extension of the illustrative work in the picture book collection. It can also be an insightful prelude to the annual Ashley Bryan Literary Festival.

 Posted by Yewande Addie, AARL Intern

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