Bryan, Ashley. 2003. Beautiful Blackbird. Illustrated by Ashley Bryan. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Ashley Bryan’s Beautiful Blackbird is a classic tale of finding beauty within. Blackbird, whose “feathers gleam all colors in the sun” is determined by the other birds to be “the most beautiful one” and the others desire a bit of black in their feathers to be like him. With his sage advice of “color on the outside is not what’s on the inside”, he invites the birds to a party where he paints them with black feathers and they sing and dance. He always reminds them of their individuality when he says although he is giving them some of his blackness, “I’ll be me and you’ll be you.” Adapted from a tale from the Ila speaking people from Northern Rhodesia, now known as Zambia, Bryan does an excellent job of staying true to the stories roots and spreading a little ‘blackness’ in his readers and enriching their lives by learning a little culture. The cut paper collage illustrations provide authenticity to the tale and allow the reader to focus simply on the colors and shapes to find uniqueness in the characters. The rhythm of the text makes this an enjoyable story to read aloud and even provides opportunities for movement as children can act out the dances and songs. Alliteration and internal rhyme make this story fun and exciting for children everywhere. Ashley Bryan has once again created a beautiful picture book with a powerful message that speaks to readers of all ages and backgrounds.