7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #665: Featuring Ashley Bryan

h1 November 24th, 2019 by jules

Today I’ve got some spreads from one of my very favorite 2019 books — Ashley Bryan’s Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, October 2019). This is a 112-page picture book memoir that chronicles the award-winning author-illustrator’s (often harrowing) experiences in the segregated army of World War II (he was drafted in 1943 while an art student at Cooper Union) and, essentially, how his love of art got him through. This is the first time Bryan writes publicly of his war experiences and shares them with the wider world.

The book includes hand-written letters and postcards, old photographs and documents, diary entries, art that has not been previously published, sketches, and more. Fortunately, I have some spreads here today to show you how the book is laid out; as the Kirkus review notes, it’s very scrapbook-esque.


(Click to enlarge cover)


There are some deeply moving moments here in this merging of story and art. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Also, over at the Horn Book’s Calling Caldecott this past week, guest posters Elisa Gall and Jonathan Hunt discussed this book (in a post about two books from 2019 that they feel could be awarded both the Caldecott and Newbery Awards). If you want to read more about Ashley’s book, I’m sending you in that direction, because I appreciate what the two of them have to say about how this book is constructed and designed. As Elisa writes:

What particularly stands out to me is the tension (in both text and visuals) between the horrors Bryan experienced and the healing, inspiring qualities of an artistic life, such as the one that helped him to survive.

So true.

Their post is here. Below are some spreads. Also, if you’re interested in hearing even more about the book, don’t miss Nick Patton’s conversation with Ashley here at The Picturebooking Podcast.


“It was early spring, 1943, and I had had a sense that my notice would be coming soon; many friends at Cooper Union had already been drafted, as had a number of fellows in my Bronx neighborhood. When I went home and told my mother, she had an unexpected reaction. She said, ‘Son, what will you do when there’s no icebox door
for you to pull open every five minutes?'”

(Click to enlarge spread)



“As an adult I found out that when I was a young child, I was the first Black
to be registered at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx.”

(Click either image to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)


“I drew those barrage balloons again and again, but only recently discovered that
it had been a Black company that had set them up.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“Segregation came into play once more. Ships departing for the United States
took the white companies home first.”

(Click to enlarge spread)



“What I painted most steadily for the next several decades were the flowers
that brightened the gardens on Little Cranberry Island, my home.
There was beauty to be joyfully captured. Beauty to sustain me.”

(Click either image to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)


INFINITE HOPE: A BLACK ARTIST’S JOURNEY FROM WORLD WAR II TO PEACE. Text copyright © 2019 by The Ashley Bryan Center, a Maine Corporation. Images here today reproduced by permission of the publisher, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, New York.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

I’m keeping things on the short side today, because I am away! We Danielsons are spending the weekend with good friends and have been invited to their early Thanksgiving meal. I love these friends like family, so I’m looking forward to it (as I type this mid-week).

I guess now is the time to wish you kickers a good holiday (this coming week), however it is that you spend it! I’m perma-grateful that you share a tiny part of your Sundays with me.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

7 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #665: Featuring Ashley Bryan”

  1. Oh Jule, thank you for featuring this book by Ashley Bryan. I love his work and I think this is going to be a great addition to any library.
    Enjoy your Friendsgiving and time together.
    My kicks:
    1. Teaching poetry to 2nd graders
    2, Teaching poetry to kinders.
    3, Learning.
    4.Finished Under the Broken Sky in one sitting.
    5. Meeting up with a friend.
    6. Clear frosty days.
    7. Twinkling lights.
    Have a wonderful week. Enjoy family and friends.

  2. This book looks like it will be a riveting and beautiful read -what a life Ashley Bryan has lived! Did a quick deep dive as sadly, I was not as familiar with his work as I should be, and found this quote of his: “At every moment I strive for connection. If you are in the moment, you are stretching out to reach that which you recognize in others. That’s my secret.”

    Jules – have a wonderful holiday with your friends and family!

    Jone – you’ve had a poetry filled week! Frosty days ad twinkling lights are definitely good ways to get into the spirit of the season.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Got to see an early access screening of Knives Out last night. It’s a very clever and fun whodunit with a great cast – was not sure what to expect and totally loved it.
    2) Finished an important case (to me) with a better than expected result for a young client, always a good thing.
    3) Made pie crust yesterday for baking pies later this week.
    4) Reservations out for Thanksgiving dinner. (No dirty dishes to cleanup after dinner!)
    5) Cleaning house before the holidays – getting rid of clutter feels so good.
    6) Ordering delivery from DC Vegetarian for lunch with a friend – it saved time and was soooo yummy!
    7) Getting to spend time over lunch at home with one of Daisy and my favorite people, who was in town only briefly. Daisy pulled out all her show-offy cute puppy antics and was still smiling long after her uncle had left. We are lucky to have such a good friend in our lives, however brief our visits tend to be.
    7.5) Heading into the holiday week far less stressed than I was this time last year. Very thankful.

    Thankful for this lovely corner of the interwebs – thank you Jules for creating such a light-filled space of joy and art and goodness.

    Have a wonderful week imps, and happy celebrating, however you celebrate!

  3. Happy Thanksgiving week, Imps!

    Hi Ashley! Thank you for sharing your work.

    Jules: Have fun!

    Jone: I always know the kicklist is yours when I see poetry included! I love twinkling lights.

    Rachel: Have fun with the prep and the foodstuffs! Hi Daisy!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Interaction
    2) Activity
    3) Stories
    4) Storytelling
    5) Discussions
    6) Introductions
    7) Go

  4. Little Willow – love the stories and storytelling kicks! Daisy sends greetings your way!

  5. Ooooooh, Jules. This is lovely. Always here for Mr. Ashley. I imagine Robin would have delighted in this — and her delight makes me smile.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. ♥

  6. Jone, are you volunteer-teaching in friends’ classrooms? I loooove that you are doing this.

    Rachel, I love your second kick. (I love to hear about your work.) I am so eager to see Knives Out, and it looks like it’s PG-13, which means the girls can see it with us. Love your 7.5 kick. And thanks for loving the ol’ blawg. I’m so grateful you come to visit.

    Little Willow: Story is, well … everything, as the young ones say.

    Tanita, yes. Robin would have loved this book, I’ve no doubt.

    Happy holidays to you all!

  7. Jules, Just saw your question about volunteering…not really. I usually get to teach a poetry lesson when I sub for my friends.

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