Maine author and illustrator Ashley Bryan’s children’s book “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life” won a Newbery Honor Award on Monday, a runner-up to the Newbery Medal. The American Library Association announced the awards at its winter meeting in Atlanta. The prizes recognize excellence in children’s literature.
The Newbery Medal was awarded to the book “The Girl Who Drank the Moon” by Kelly Barnhill. Other books receiving runner-up honor awards were “The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog,” written by Adam Gidwitz and illustrated by Hatem Aly; and “Wolf Hollow,” written by Lauren Wolk.
“Freedom Over Me” also won two honors medals for the Coretta Scott King Book Award on Monday.
Bryan finished the book last year, after working on it for several years. The project began when he purchased slave records at auction in Maine. Those papers included the names, ages and sale prices of several slaves, and Bryan told their stories by imagining their lives as free people.
The book also was a finalist for a Kirkus Prize in children’s literature.
Bryan, 93, has written more than 50 children’s books, many dealing with African-American spirituals and traditions. He has won many honors, including multiple Coretta Scott King awards and a Lupine Award from the Maine Library Association. A New Yorker, he came to Maine to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in the late 1940s. He has lived year-round in Islesford on Little Cranberry Island since retiring from Dartmouth College in the 1980s.
Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: