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Brent Ashabranner facts for kids

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Brent Ashabranner
Born (1921-11-03)November 3, 1921
Died December 1, 2016(2016-12-01) (aged 95)
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Education Oklahoma A&M
Spouse(s)
Martha White (m. 1941)
Children 2
Military career
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1942–1945
Battles/wars World War II
Writing career
Notable awards ALA Notable Book
1983 The New Americans: Changing Patterns in U.S. Immigration
1984 To Live in Two Worlds: American Indian Youth Today
1984 Gavriel and Jemal: Two Boys of Jerusalem
1985 Dark Harvest: Migrant Farmworkers in America
1986 Children of the Maya: A Guatemalan Indian Odyssey
1987 Into a Strange Land: Unaccompanied Refugee Youth in America
1988 Always to Remember: The Story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Boston Globe–Horn Book Award – Non-fiction Honor Book
1986 Dark Harvest: Migrant Farmworkers in America

Carter G. Woodson Book Award
1983 Morning Star, Black Sun: The Northern Cheyenne Indians and America's Energy Crisis
1985 To Live in Two Worlds: American Indian Youth Today
1986 Dark Harvest: Migrant Farmworkers in America

Christopher Award
1987 Into a Strange Land: Unaccompanied Refugee Youth in America

School Library Journal – Best Book of the Year
1986 Children of the Maya: A Guatemalan Indian Odyssey

Brent Kenneth Ashabranner (November 3, 1921 – December 1, 2016) was an American Peace Corps administrator, including its 1967–69 deputy director, and author of more than 30 books, primarily non-fiction children's literature, which received over 40 awards.

Early life

Ashabranner was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma in 1921, the son of a pharmacist father and sibling of older brother Gerard. After five years, his parents moved the family to El Reno, Oklahoma, where they bought a pharmacy with oil royalties his mother received from family land, and were successful at business. His father lost the drugstore, however, to the Great Depression economy in 1932, followed by closure of their bank. A year later, the family moved to Bristow, Oklahoma, where Ashabranner's father had been offered a better job. Ashabranner was an avid reader and writer in school and became increasingly interested in foreign countries. Sports interests included track and tennis. Ashabranner graduated from high school in 1939.

His brother Gerard studied law informally, though persistently, while working for a local lawyer and passed the state bar exam, enabling him to practice law and support himself. Ashabranner enrolled in Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University–Stillwater) majoring in English. The school's library introduced him to many of the best writers of the time, including Hemingway and Fitzgerald. While waiting in line to register for classes, Ashabranner met Martha White from Roswell, New Mexico, who would be his future wife. Seeking additional income, Ashabranner's English professor suggested he write pulp fiction; choosing the Western genre, Ashabranner began earning a penny a word – $50 for a 5,000-word story. At the end of his sophomore year, the same professor offered him $100 per month for part-time work in his office. Ashabranner and his wife were married three months later in mid 1941.

With America's entry into World War II five month's later, Ashabranner joined the U.S. Navy's Construction Battalion (Seabees), with training at Camp Peary near Williamsburg, Virginia. His education status led to his being assigned to the camp's personnel office and he continued working with camp administrators for two years, during which Ashabranner's wife moved to Williamsburg. Ashabranner was then assigned to the naval amphibious forces. His vessel visited much of the Pacific before the war ended in August 1945. The couple resumed their lives in Stillwater in 1946, re-enrolling at Oklahoma A&M and selling his stories. They earned undergraduate degrees in English and Home Economics, respectively, in 1948 and Ashabranner continued on to earn a master's degree in English (1951). He took a job as an instructor in the school's English department and the couple had two daughters in the early 1950s.

Helping other countries

In 1955, Ashabranner was given a chance to work in Africa. With its well-rated agricultural department, Oklahoma A&M was asked by the Truman administration's Point Four Program to help Ethiopia start an agricultural college. The school was in agreement and had for several years sent people for this purpose. Ethiopia later asked for help with creating school books, and Oklahoma A&M was again asked to recruit advisors, one of whom was Ashabranner. The job was for two years, after which he and his family were to return to Stillwater and the English department. Instead, they ended up living in Africa and Asia for 25 years.

Ethiopia

Ashabranner's job, in national capital Addis Ababa, was to start two magazines modeled after My Weekly Reader and Scholastic Corporation's Junior Scholastic. One magazine would be for Ethiopia's elementary grades and written in Amharic, the national language, and the other would be written in English for later grades. The goal was to teach readers about their country and its history. While Ashabranner struggled with Amharic, his work partner, Russel Davis, learned it much more readily. The two traveled Ethiopia for a month with native counterparts to take in the country's culture. They visited the historic city of Aksum, and various cultural groups including the Amharas, Gallas, Guragies, and Falasha. Ashabranner and Davis used what they learned from this trip, and others like it, to tell educational stories in their magazine articles, and they wrote their first book, The Lion's Whiskers, published in 1959. Ashabranner's wife, Martha, once taught home economics skills at a local girl's school, as well.

Libya and Nigeria

When their time in Ethiopia was up, the Point Four Program asked Ashabranner to help them in Libya. After much consideration, he resigned from the newly renamed Oklahoma State University and his family went to Libya. Davis returned to the U.S. and became an educator at Harvard University, but they continued to write six more books together. While in Libya, one such book was Ten Thousand Desert Swords in 1960. The family next went to Nigeria, long a colony of Britain and about to receive its independence. While Ashabranner worked there, U.S. President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps and its first director, Sargent Shriver, visited Nigeria to see about establishing the program. Ashabranner, at that time part of the United States Agency for International Development, was assigned to escort Shriver, who then appointed Ashabranner in charge of setting up operations after Nigeria agreed to participate. Also while there, Ashabranner became a non-fiction writer, working with Davis on their last and best-selling book together, Land in the Sun: The Story of West Africa (1963).

India, America, and Southeast Asia

Ashabranner's next assignment was in India, where he was the local director when its Peace Corps program became the largest in the world in 1965. After nearly four years in India, the next Peace Corps director asked Ashabranner to return to America and become the international program's deputy director. He bought a house in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. and his daughters graduated from Walter Johnson High School there. In May 1969, Ashabranner was among the guests invited to the Nixon White House for Joseph Blatchford's swearing-in ceremony as the third Peace Corps director. Ashabranner's daughter Melissa earned degrees from Temple University and Yale, while daughter Jennifer took professional training in pet grooming and photography. Ashabranner and his wife then returned oversees while he worked with the philanthropic Ford Foundation, moving from the Philippines to Indonesia in 1976.

Full-time writing

In 1980, Ashabranner and his wife returned to America to be near their daughters and devote his full-time work to writing non-fiction books for young readers. Most of his more recent work is illustrated by Paul Conklin, whom Ashabranner first met in Nigeria. Daughter Jennifer also illustrated several of Ashabranner's books, beginning with Always to Remember (1988) about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He collaborated with daughter Melissa in Into a Strange Land (1987) and Counting America (1989). In 1988, Ashabranner and his wife moved to Williamsburg, Virginia. While the last book he had published was in 2002, Ashabranner told his doctor he'd be writing as long as he lived.

Death and legacy

Ashabranner died on December 1, 2016 and was survived by his wife and daughters, three grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.

Author Muriel Miller Branch, who wrote in 2000 about the Gullah people, described Ashabranner as a mentor who first discerned her writing talent.

Ashabranner's wife, Martha, died at age 98 on May 30, 2020.

Published works

For children

  • The Lion's Whiskers (with Russell Davis), Little, Brown (Boston), 1959, and editor, The Lion's Whiskers and Other Ethiopian Tales, revised edition, illustrated by Helen Siegl, Linnet Books (Hamden, Connecticut), 1997.
  • Point Four Assignment: Stories from the Records of Those Who Work in Foreign Fields for the Mutual Security of Free Nations (with Russell Davis), Little, Brown (Boston), 1959.
  • Ten Thousand Desert Swords (with Russell Davis), Little, Brown (Boston), 1960.
  • The Choctaw Code (with Russell Davis), McGraw (New York), 1961, reprinted, Linnet Books, 1994. ASIN B000PS5K4S
  • Chief Joseph: War Chief of the Nez Percé (with Russell Davis), McGraw (New York), 1962.
  • Land in the Sun: The Story of West Africa (with Russell Davis), Little, Brown (Boston), 1963.
  • Strangers in Africa (with Russell Davis), McGraw (New York), 1963.
  • Morning Star, Black Sun: The Northern Cheyenne Indians and America's Energy Crisis, photographs by Paul Conklin, Dodd (New York), 1982.
  • The New Americans: Changing Patterns in U.S. Immigration, Dodd (New York), 1983.
  • To Live in Two Worlds: American Indian Youth Today, photographs by Paul Conklin, Dodd (New York), 1984.
  • Gavriel and Jemal: Two Boys of Jerusalem, photographs by Paul Conklin, Dodd (New York), 1984.
  • Dark Harvest: Migrant Farmworkers in America, photographys by Paul Conklin, Dodd (New York), 1985, reissued, Linnet Books, 1993.
  • Children of the Maya: A Guatemalan Indian Odyssey, photographs by Paul Conklin, Dodd (New York), 1986.
  • Into a Strange Land: Unaccompanied Refugee Youth in America (with Melissa Ashabranner), Dodd (New York), 1987.
  • The Vanishing Border: A Photographic Journey along Our Frontier with Mexico, photographs by Paul Conklin, Dodd (New York), 1987.
  • Always to Remember: The Story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Dodd (New York), 1988. ASIN B01A64M05M
  • Born to the Land: An American Portrait, photographs by Paul Conklin, Putnam (New York), 1989.
  • I'm in the Zoo, Too!, illustrated by Janet Stevens, Cobblehill Books (New York), 1989.
  • Counting America: The Story of the United States Census (with Melissa Ashabranner), Putnam (New York), 1989.
  • People Who Make a Difference, photographs by Paul Conklin, Cobblehill Books (New York), 1989.
  • A Grateful Nation: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Putnam (New York), 1990.
  • The Times of My Life: A Memoir, Dutton (New York), 1990.
  • Crazy about German Shepherds, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Dutton (New York), 1990.
  • An Ancient Heritage: The Arab-American Minority, photographs by Paul Conklin, Harper (New York), 1991.
  • Land of Yesterday, Land of Tomorrow: Discovering Chinese Central Asia, photographs by Paul, David, and Peter Conklin, Cobblehill Books (New York), 1992.
  • A Memorial for Mr. Lincoln, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Putnam (New York), 1992.
  • Still a Nation of Immigrants, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Dutton (New York), 1993.
  • A New Frontier: The Peace Corps in Eastern Europe, photographs by Peter Conklin, Dutton (New York), 1994.
  • Lithuania: The Nation That Would Be Free (with Stephen Chicoine), photographs by Stephen Chicoine, Cobblehill Books (New York), 1996.
  • Our Beckoning Borders: Illegal Immigration to America, photographs by Peter Conklin, Cobblehill Books (New York), 1996.
  • A Strange and Distant Shore: Indians of the Great Plains in Exile, Dutton (New York, NY), 1996.
  • To Seek a Better World: The Haitian Minority in America, photographs by Peter Conklin, Cobblehill Books (New York), 1997.
  • Their Names to Live: What the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Means to America, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Twenty-first Century Books (New York), 1998.
  • The New African Americans, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Linnet Books (Hamden, Connecticut), 1999.
  • Badge of Valor: The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Twenty-first Century Books (New York), 2000.
  • A Date with Destiny: The Women in Military Service for America Memorial, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Twenty-first Century Books (New York), 2000.
  • No Better Hope: What the Lincoln Memorial Means to America, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Twenty-first Century Books (New York), 2001.
  • Remembering Korea: The Korean War Veterans Memorial, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Twenty-first Century Books (New York), 2001.
  • On the Mall in Washington, D.C.: A Visit to America's Front Yard, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Twenty-first Century Books (New York), 2002.
  • The Washington Monument: A Beacon for America, photographs by Jennifer Ashabranner, Twenty-first Century Books (New York), 2002.

Other

  • The Stakes Are High (editor), Bantam (New York), 1954.
  • A First Course in College English (textbook, with Judson Milburn and Cecil B. Williams), Houghton (Boston), 1962.
  • A Moment in History: The First Ten Years of the Peace Corps, Doubleday (New York), 1971.
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