ASHLEY BRYAN grew up in Harlem. His first books were illustrated ABC and counting books that he made in kindergarten. He was educated at The Cooper Union art school and Columbia University. Even in the army in France during World War II he continued to sketch, keeping his drawing paper dry under his helmet.

After the war he returned to Europe on a Fulbright scholarship to study art in France and Germany. His travels in Africa inspired him to retell and illustrate the African folktales for which he is so well known, including Beat the Story Drum, Pum-Pum (Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration) and Lion and Ostrich Chicks (Coretta Scott King Honor Book). His West Indian folk tale The Cat's Purr and his collections of Black American Spirituals, Walk Together Children and I'm Going To Sing, were ALA Notable Children's Books. In 1990 he received the Arbuthnot Prize, a prestigious international award given to recognize lifetime achievement in children's literature.

For many years he taught art at Dartmouth College. Now he travels all over the world captivating audiences of children and adults with his powerful storytelling and poetry presentations. When he is not traveling, he lives on an island off the coast of Maine where he paints, makes puppets from objects he finds as he walks along the beach, creates stained glass windows of beach glass, and writes and illustrates books. His recent books include Sing to the Sun (Parents' Choice Award, 1992), an illustrated collection of his own poetry, and Ashley Bryan's ABC of African-American Poetry (1997). Two video documentaries feature his life and work: a National Geographic production made in 1984 and American School Publishers' "Meet Ashley Bryan: Storyteller, Artist, Writer" made in 1992.