Sunday, July 12, 2015

Happy Birthday, Ashley Bryan - July 13

Happy Birthday, Ashley Bryan - July 13

According to Ashley Bryan, "You must wake up as a child. You must wake up with the curiosity and adventure that a child faces when awaking." (Mackinvia-Connext).  One morning this week, my family awoke at grandma and grandpa's house. We were heading home around lunch time, but we had something to do before leaving town. I was running around the house, putting things away, packing up the van when my wife said, "I feel a sense of urgency."

I replied, "Yes, I want get going. I want to have enough time at the beach." I was excited for our author birthday celebration for Ashley Bryan. I was curious to see how this adventure would unfold. I didn't want to be rushed once we got to the beach. I wanted this author birthday celebration to be something special.

Today is Ashley Bryan's 92nd birthday! He has created more than thirty books including All Things Bright and Beautiful, What a Wonderful World, and Turtle Knows Your Name.  He made his first book in Kindergarten, began reciting poetry in second grade, and attended free art and music classes provided by Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. In 1940, he enrolled at Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering, but after two years of studying a variety of art techniques he was drafted into the army. Despite the demands of serving during World War II, Ashley still found time for art.  He always carried a sketchbook around with him and while stationed in Scotland he was granted special permission to visit Glasgow School of Art.

On June 6, 1944, Ashley Bryan served as a stevedore, a person who loads and unloads cargo, when the Allies invaded Normandy, France at Omaha Beach. He carried his art supplies and sketchbook in his gas mask. "When I climbed down into the landing craft, my sketchbook was out, I was sketching men climbing down the ladder. And when we were on the beach I was drawing the men in the foxholes." (An Artist At D-Day).

After returning home at the end of the war, Ashley studied and traveled. He finished his work at Cooper Union, studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, obtained a degree in Philosophy at Columbia University, studied French at the Université d'Aix-Marseille in France, and studied German at the University of Freiberg in Germany. In between all of his studies and travels he found time to teach art to children and adults. (source: Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life Song).

At the age of 40, Ashley Bryan began illustrating children's books with books like Moon, for What Do You Wait? and Fablieux. In 1971, he wrote and illustrated his first book, The Ox of the Wonderful Horns and Other African Tales. He went on to win three Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards (Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum, Beautiful Blackbird, and Let It Shine) and published five books that were awarded Coretta Scott King Honor awards. In 2012, he was awarded the Coretta Scott King Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. He continues to entertain audiences with his "call and response" method of storytelling where he says a line of a poem and encourages people to repeat it. His latest book was released May 2015, By Trolley Past Thimbleton Bridge (illustrated by Marvin Bileck.)

I was lucky enough to listen to and meet Ashley Bryan at the Mazza Museum in November 2014.
To celebrate Ashley Bryan's birthday, my mom took our family to one of her favorite places to explore, Sheldon's Marsh in Huron, Ohio along Lake Erie. It would be the perfect location to bring to life Ashley Bryan's Puppets, a book that features photographs of over 30 of Ashley Bryan's hand-made puppets. Ashley made the puppets from materials he collected from beaches and wrote a poem to accompany each one.
My mom took me and my sister on walks here when we were little.
"From the child who rescued stray objects from the streets grew the adult who gathers seashells, driftwood, bones, rocks, and sea glass." -Ashley Bryan, Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life Song
Piles of treasures were all along the beach from a recent storm. I picked up this yellow cordage thinking it might make a nice belt for a puppet.
The hunt was on for treasure.

"I wanted to show that with imagination, the castoff items we see on the beach can be brought to life." - Ashley Bryan, Publishers Weekly
Ashley Bryan is a sea-glass collector. He has made many sea glass panels of art, too. We found only one piece of sea glass on our treasure hunt and it happened to have the letter A.
Grandma showed her grandsons the piece of driftwood that she found. 
My children were so happy to spend time with their grandma.

We took a moment to read All Things Bright and Beautiful near the crashing waves and under the warm sunshine.
We continued our treasure hunt at another beach.
Luckily, I found a green plastic container to carry all my treasures.
A fun morning at the beach for my crew.
Our treasure hunt was coming to a close.
We found plenty of items to make our puppets. Now all we needed was our imagination.
That afternoon, after returning home, we sorted our treasures.
We cleaned the driftwood and other items the best we could with a brush and the garden hose.
We laid everything out to dry.
I bleached some of the items that smelled a little fishy.
The next day, my oldest son was eager to make his puppet. I encouraged him to assemble his puppet on the table.
My oldest daughter assembled her puppet too.
We used nails and screws to assemble the puppets.
Accessories were added - ropes, cordage, fishing gear.
He was so proud of his puppet.
My oldest daughter tied a belt and added a necklace to her puppet.
She was also quite pleased with her creation.
I also made a puppet.
A close up of my puppet. 
I love his big ear!
A close-up of my son's puppet. He named him Bobby.
A close-up of my daughter's puppet.
We had to wait a day for the glue to dry on my son's puppet. I love the face he made with skipping stones for eyes, a shell for a mouth, and a bone mustache! He named him Capuchin (as in a capuchin monkey). 
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin this picture.
"It is one of the most creative things you can do -- to read -- because you engage the mind when you read. You create the scene, you create the instant, you create the action, everything about it being created." (Reading Rockets).

Check out Ashley Bryan's latest book, By Trolley Past Thimbleton Bridge (May 2015):

1. Ashley Bryan Center website
2. Interviews - Publishers Weekly, Reading is Fundamental, Mackinvia-Connext
3. Audio Interviews - The Story: I'm Going to Sing, The Story: An Artist at D-Day, Savvy Painter
4. Biography - NCCIL, Pennsylvania Center for the Book
5. Video Interview - Reading Rockets
6. Author and Illustrator Ashley Bryan Comes of Age - Portland Press Herald
7. Ashley Bryan Papers - deGrummond Children's Literature Collection
8. Ashley Bryan Exhibit featured in Islesford, ME - WABI

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