My America


Bryan painted this large watercolor as part of a collaboration with the prolific author, illustrator, and artist Dr. Jan Spivey Gilchrist (born 1949), winner of the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King Award and many other honors. Gilchrist and Bryan both created illustrations to accompany Gilchrist’s poem “My America,” which celebrates the United States’ natural wonders, its landscapes, and its people. Bryan portrayed the country’s “mighty waters” rushing and roaring across the page.

Ashley Bryan (1923–2022)
Mighty waters, 2006
University Of Pennsylvania, Kislak Center For Special Collections, Ashley Bryan Papers

© 2022 The Ashley Bryan Center. Used with Permission.

© Jan Spivey Gilchrist


Sandy Campbell: My America, published in 2007, was an unusual project: the author and artist Jan Spivey Gilchrist wrote a poem and then both she and Ashley created illustrations for each line of the text. In this clip, Ashley, Jan, and her editor discuss the process of making the book.

[editor]: Jan had become very friendly with Ashley Bryan, who is another super talent in the children's book world.

Ashley Bryan: She got the idea of doing the book we do together, but neither one of us would see what we were doing. She wrote the poem “My America.”

Jan Spivey Gilchrist: This is actually a poem I wrote, based on my son who was a student ambassador. And I called up my editor and said, I would like for Ashley and I to both illustrate this book.

[Editor]: The cool idea she had, Ashley, in addition to being a wonderful writer, is also a super talented artist. And the idea was that both Jan and Ashley would contribute their art for this book.

Ashley Bryan: And we decided we would not see what each one was doing.

Jan Spivey Gilchrist: He was working on this book in Africa. And I was working on it here. We never saw our art, because we illustrated the same words, which had never been done before.

Ashley Bryan: That's Jan. Fantastic, terrific, great. All day long. Hoorah! That's her.