Author and artist Ashley Bryan during a previous Bar Harbor Kids' Book Festival. Bryan's book "Beautiful Blackbird" will be distributed to thousands of children in need this month. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Bryan’s ‘Beautiful Blackbird’ to be given to kids in need

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Ashley Bryan Center, a foundation that celebrates the work of award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Bryan, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that addresses education inequity, will distribute 15,000 special edition copies of Bryan’s “Beautiful Blackbird” to children in need in three states this month.

The books will be distributed in Bryan’s home state of Maine; New York City, where Bryan was raised; and Atlanta, where Bryan’s art is currently exhibited at the High Museum of Art. The distribution marks a threefold increase of last year’s inaugural distribution.

Additional copies of the special paperback edition, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, will be available to members of the First Book network on the First Book Marketplace (, First Book’s ecommerce site serving educators working with children in need. It is the first time “Beautiful Blackbird,” winner of the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, will be available in paperback on the site.

“Beautiful Blackbird is a vibrant celebration of diversity that reflects the joy and compassion of its very gifted author,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “Ashley Bryan gave the world such a treasure when he created this book; it is never lost on us what a privilege it is to work with him and to distribute it to children who may not otherwise have any books at all. We are incredibly grateful to the Ashley Bryan Center for this donation, and we hope to continue working with them to share this story far and wide.”

In a survey of the educators First Book serves, 90 percent of respondents agreed that the children in their programs would be more enthusiastic readers if they had access to books with characters, stories and images that reflect their lives and their neighborhoods. In the same survey, 87 percent of educators and program leaders saw an increased interest in reading among the kids they serve after distributing books from First Book.

Bryan, now 94, still paints and memorizes Shakespeare’s sonnets at his home in Islesford. Of the distribution, he said, “Fantastic! It’s not possible that there should be a child without books!”

The story in “Beautiful Blackbird” reflects the core of Bryan’s philosophy: celebrating each individual and “sharing the best we have to offer.”

Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 170 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families in more than 30 countries. First Book currently reaches an average of 3 million children every year and supports more than one in four of the estimated 1.3 million classrooms and programs serving children in need. Visit

The Ashley Bryan Center was created in 2013 to preserve, celebrate and share broadly the work of poet, artist and author Ashley Bryan and his joy of discovery, invention, learning and community. Visit


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