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Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life's Song Hardcover – January 6, 2009


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Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life's Song + Beautiful Blackbird (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner) + Let it Shine
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 and up
  • Grade Level: 2 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 970L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416905413
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416905417
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 10.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Well-loved illustrator Bryan's pictures and recollections tell of his lifelong devotion to making and sharing art. His Antiguan-born parents sang, kept birds and sheltered orphans; they showed him how to resist convention and survive defeat. Drawing every day, as a soldier during WWII he kept his art supplies in his gas mask ("There would have been a tumble of materials if I were ever in need of that mask!" he says). Bryan honed his skills, overcame racism and discouragement, and thrived throughout 20th-century tumult. While the text forms a single narrative thread, the busy pages are laid out scrapbook-style on bright, overlapping rectangles of color, old family photos next to artwork next to call-outs of Bryan's words in large type. Bryan brought elements of African art to award-winning collages and woodcuts; on his own time, he made (and continues to make) other treasures. McGuinness's photos show the artist in many settings on the Maine island he now calls home. A book for parents and children to enjoy together, Bryan's triumphant story will inspire artists of every age. All ages. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4 Up—The inimitable Bryan offers a clear portrait of his own evolution as artist and writer in this brief, highly illustrated volume. He leads readers on a photographic tour around his home—Little Cranberry Island off the coast of Maine—describing beaches laden with smooth stones; the daily habits of lobster boatmen; the little nondenominational church; and his studio filled with toys and puppets created from found objects, panels made of sea glass, and canvases of painted flowers. Intertwined is the story of his parents, who emigrated to New York from Antigua, bringing with them their fondness for the colors and sounds of nature, which they passed on to their son, his five siblings, and three cousins. His academic and professional achievements are touched upon in relation to his work and teaching. The color that plays a prominent role in his life spreads throughout this slim volume in page highlights; in clear photos of the island; in spreads taken from his books; in the oversize type that stands out on some pages. The man's humility, his deep appreciation of natural beauty, his fascination with other cultures, his love of folk literature, his openness to all forms of artistic expression, and his delight in learning and in passing on his craft to others form the essence of this inviting presentation. His autobiography is a small treasure to share with those who love children's literature and an inspiring read-aloud that speaks to young people about human qualities that lead to success and happiness.—Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Isabel Y. Denham on June 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have just read Ashley Bryan's new autobiography WORDS FOR MY LIFE SONG. As a librarian and teacher, as well as mother and grandmother, I have known his work for years. I have heard him lecture and chant poetry. I have known he was a versatile and ever-growing artist. But this book makes clear the kind of seedbed in which he grew. His parents were immigrants from the island of Antigua, who settled in the Bronx. They were creative in their own special ways - his mother with flowers and song; his father with birds. Besides their own six children, they raised various nieces and nephews. They encouraged their children to be creative in whatever way they chose - with music or art. Ashley was drawing and painting from his earliest years. He also gives credit to classes he and his siblings were able to take through the government programs begun in the Depression, such as the WPA. He learned very early to make art with found objects, which he has continued to do throughout his career. Bible stories and a church also played a strong role in his growing up. Because he was so bright and talented, he was able to get scholarships to outstanding educational institutions, though he did come up against some racial walls. When he was drafted into the Army during World War II, he always carried his sketch pad and pencils with him and drew whenever he could. He took art lessons in the countries where he was stationed. He took part in the Normandy invasion but managed to survive the fighting and keep drawing, even in the trenches. After the war he began to work at illustrating books and continuing his education. He also helped raise his sister's children. We now know him through his illustrations in countless children's books and through his lectures and performances of poetry and song.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Ashley's arms are spread wide, welcoming you into his world on Little Cranberry Island, his life, his painting and into his heart. He'll give you a bit of his soul if you read carefully. He grew up in the Bronx surrounded by his three brothers, two sisters, loving parents and a few "extra special" surprise cousins. It was a vibrant home filled with song, dance, games, birds ... it was a nurturing environment for a budding artist. He wasn't born with a brush in his hands, but he should have been.

As a child Ashley was probably unaware of prejudice, but his father experienced the "prevailing discrimination that limited job opportunities for colored people." He later would learn that opportunity had to be chased down and wouldn't come to him if he walked away. He took the entrance exam to Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering," a school that his art teachers assured him that did "not see [him] there." They never saw his color, but rejoiced in his art and accepted him. In this book you will read the story of a gentle, enormously talented man who has brought his world to you in many books you have read. Ashley invites you to read about his life, a life well spent, one that has given us a new perspective on life.

I loved the gentle flow of the book that conveyed the spirit of a man you will fall in love with and would love to meet, least ways on the pages of his books. His story drifts seamlessly to his past and gives vignettes of his present day life on Cranberry Island. The poetic flow is very appealing. The art, his art, is magnificent and the photographs are very inviting. It is a wonderful world, but you can make it even better by inviting "Ashley Bryan" into yours and onto your book shelves!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Library lady on June 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life's Song

This book is all I expected it to be. Colorful, beautiful pictures, upbeat songs. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful man!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lynda Myles on July 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a happy experience of gorgeous color, wonderful art, beautiful nature, fascinating personal history and heartfelt philosophy of a life fully lived.
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