A Black Artist's Hourney from World War II to Peace
by Ashley Bryan
Picture Book / Autobiography
ages 10 and up
From celebrated author and illustrator Ashley Bryan comes a deeply moving picture book memoir about serving in the segregated army during World War II, and how love and the pursuit of art sustained him.
In May of 1942, at the age of eighteen, Ashley Bryan was drafted to fight in World War II. For the next three years, he would face the horrors of war as a black soldier in a segregated army.
He endured the terrible lies white officers told about the black soldiers to isolate them from anyone who showed kindness—including each other. He received worse treatment than even Nazi POWs. He was assigned the grimmest, most horrific tasks, like burying fallen soldiers…but was told to remove the black soldiers first because the media didn’t want them in their newsreels. And he waited and wanted so desperately to go home, watching every white soldier get safe passage back to the United States before black soldiers were even a thought.
For the next forty years, Ashley would keep his time in the war a secret. But now, he tells his story.
The story of the kind people who supported him.
The story of the bright moments that guided him through the dark.
And the story of his passion for art that would save him time and time again.
Filled with never-before-seen artwork and handwritten letters and diary entries, this illuminating and moving memoir by Newbery Honor–winning illustrator Ashley Bryan is both a lesson in history and a testament to hope.
This is a beautifully constructed autobiography, which not only brings across the artist's life and the times periods in which he lived, but allows the reader to get lost in the pages.
While this book is sold as being for grades 5 and up, I personally find that even older audiences will find much joy in reading it. Formed like a picture book, this is not a tale for the younger audience, but rather allows older readers to get lost in the pages. The autobiography starts with a very quick flash back to the artist's, Ashley Bryan, childhood and quickly heads into his high school years, when he searched for a college, and beyond. The writing takes a simpler style, making it appropriate for ages 10 and up, but even then, some of the terms later on will need explaining as he hits the army. He presents his life in a way which is easy to read and yet, very personal and informative. The younger end of the audience might not feel drawn to this book unless directed to it by a teacher/guardian, and even then, certain ones will enjoy it more than others. Slightly older audiences, all the way to adults, will enjoy the memories quite a bit.
The artwork is a sheer joy. The author does a wonderful job at mixing his own paintings with historic photos, pencil sketches, and other media. It's one of those books to spend time with and suck the various elements in, while diving into his life and gaining a greater understanding of not only Ashley Bryan but the world at that time. Even this aspect, though, will more readily speak to slightly older audiences than younger ones. Still, kids will pick it up and glance a couple pages every now and then on their own simply because it is so lovely to flip through. It's definitely a book to get lost in and was a real treat to read.
Note: I received an ARC copy and only the first twenty-four pages. So, these above thoughts go on the assumption that the rest of the book will continue in the same manner and quality as this beginning bit.
And here he is...
Ashley Bryan grew up to the sound of his mother singing from morning tonight, 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 also been the recipient fo 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 recognition. 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.