Author and Illustrator Ashley Bryan wins 2009 Wilder Award

Contacts: Macey Morales / Jennifer Petersen
ALA Media Relations

For Immediate Release                                  
January 26, 2009         

Ashley Bryan is the winner of the 2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honoring an author or illustrator, published in the United States, whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children. His numerous works include “Dancing Granny,” “Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum,” and “Beautiful Blackbird.”

The award was announced today, during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Denver. The award is administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the ALA, and is named for its first recipient in 1954.

“For 40 years and nearly as many books, Ashley Bryan has filled children’s literature with the beats of story, the echoes of poetry, the transcendence of African-American spirituals, the beauty of art and the satisfaction of a tale well-told.  Generations of readers have seen themselves in the pages of Bryan’s books.  He has inspired today’s children’s book writers and illustrators to tell, paint, sing and weave their own stories for generations to come,” said Wilder Committee Chair Cathryn Mercier.

Born in 1923 in New York City, Bryan has been painting since childhood. His education, interrupted by Army service in World War II, includes a degree from Columbia University. A painter, reteller, illustrator of children’s books and Professor Emeritus at Dartmouth College, Bryan lives and works on Little Cranberry Island in Maine. 

Ashley Bryan’s award-winning works include “Walk Together Children,” an ALA Notable Book in 1974 and “Beautiful Blackbird,” Coretta Scott King Book Award Winner in 2004.  In addition Bryan has received one other Coretta Scott King Book Award, plus six honors. He has also received the 1990 Arbuthnot Award, the 1993 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the 2006 Hans Christian Andersen United States Nomination for illustration, the Silver Medallion for Contributions to Children’s Literature and the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award  

Dynamic use of line marks Bryan’s varied art forms, which include chalk sketches, full-color paintings, stylized drawings and cut-paper collages.  Grounded in the stories, poetry and songs of the common man – past and present – Bryan’s work celebrates the individual life, rejoices in cultural specificity and embraces a shared humanity.

“Beautiful Blackbird” showcases the unique characteristics of Ashley Bryan’s works.  His rhythmic cadence retells a Zambian tale about how African birds attained their distinctive markings. Bold, colorful cut-paper collages, striking geometric designs, and energetic visual movement capture the spirit of a community enriched by the individuality of its members.

Members of the 2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award Committee are: Chair Cathryn Mercier, Simmons College, Boston; Barbara Elleman, South Hadley, Mass.; Therese Bigelow, Chesapeake (Va.) Public Library; Carla Kozak, San Francisco Public Library; and Amanda Williams, Austin (Texas) Public Library.

ALSC is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children.  With a network of more than 4,200 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty, ALSC is committed to creating a better future for children through libraries.  To learn more about ALSC, visit their Web site at

For more information on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and other ALA literary awards, please visit .