Ashley Bryan Submitted photo

LA Arts, the Lewiston Public Library, and the Lewiston Schools’ 21st Century program invite families to enjoy Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival events in Kennedy Park from 12-3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18, in Kennedy Park. In the event of rain, activities will be held in Callahan Hall in the Lewiston Public Library. All events are free and open to the public. This year’s festival will feature a 4,500 book giveaway.

The Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival was founded in 2020 by Indigo Arts Alliance to honor Maine’s legendary and highly acclaimed children’s author and illustrator Ashley Bryan, whose award-winning picture book “Beautiful Blackbird” is a celebration of Blackness. Bryan was one of the first Black writers and illustrators of children’s books, opening the doors for Black book creators worldwide to add their contribution to children’s literature and encourage the publication of other children’s books for Black children. The Festival seeks to educate and entertain children, and brings attention to the critical need for more characters from the African diaspora in children’s literature. This year’s festival holds special significance as Ashley Bryan passed away in February of this year.

ArtVan will feature drop-in poetry and collage-making inspired by Ashley Bryan’s artwork. Submitted photo

Featured activities include:
12 p.m.: Lunch: catered by Mogadishu Store
12-3 p.m.: ArtVan drop-in poetry and collage-making inspired by Ashley Bryan’s artwork
12-3 p.m.: Community mural-making inspired by Ashley Bryan’s artwork
12:30-2:30 p.m.: Read-alouds at the Kennedy Park gazebo by Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline, Mana Abdi, Malik Hall, and other community leaders.
2:30 p.m.: Student drumming workshop with Mohammed Hassan

Local partners Maine Community Integration, Djibouti American Community Empowerment Project, and Lewiston Auburn Youth & Family Enrichment Services will host their annual back-to-school backpack and school supplies giveaway event from 12-3 p.m. in Kennedy Park.

Featured books for the 2022 festival
In addition to local book distribution, all titles are available to borrow at the Lewiston Public Library.

“I Am Loved,” written by Nikki Giovanni & Illustrated by Ashley Bryan, is a gorgeous gathering of poems and illustrations that celebrates the fact that there is nothing more important to a child than to feel loved.


“Thank You, Omu!,” Oge Mora’s award winning Nigerian American book, brings to life a heartwarming story of sharing and community in colorful cut-paper designs, honoring the resilience of immigrant matriarchs.

“Nana Akua Goes to School,” written by Tricia Elam Walker & illustrated by April Harrison, is a moving Ghanaian American story that celebrates cultural diversity of our classrooms, explores a child’s fear of being different, and showcases the great love between a grandparent and grandchild.

“Black Is a Rainbow Color,” written by Angela Joy & illustrated by Ekua Holmes, reflects on the meaning of being Black in this moving anthem about a people, a culture, a history, and a legacy that lives on.

“Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky,” written by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond & illustrated by Daniel Minter, is a vibrant book following one color’s journey through time and across the world as it becomes the blue we know today.

“The 1619 Project: Born on the Water,” written by Nikole Hannah-Jones & Renée Watson & illustrated by Nikkolas Smith, thoughtfully chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States. With powerful verse and striking illustrations, this book provides a pathway for readers of all ages to reflect on the origins of American identity.

“New Kid,” by Jerry Craft is a timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real, authentically capturing the struggles and tensions children of color face in traditionally White spaces.

Indigo Arts Alliance (IAA) is a Black-led organization dedicated to the professional development and amplification of Black and Brown artistic vision and practice. Founded in 2018 and formally launched in 2019, IAA is an incubator space with a mission to build global connections by bringing together Black and Brown artists from diverse backgrounds to engage in creative process through an Artists in Residency program. Visit to learn more and support their work.

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