Ashley Bryan, the author and illustrator who for decades illuminated Black experiences in his award-winning books for children, died Friday in Texas. He was 98.

Bryan, a Harlem native, was a student at the Cooper Union when he was drafted at 19 to fight in World War II. After serving, he graduated from Columbia University, and began a long career as an art teacher.

He would go on to write and illustrate dozens of children’s books, including The Ox of the Wonderful Horns, Sing to the Sun, The Night Has Ears, and Beautiful Blackbird. His 2016 book Freedom Over Me was a Kirkus Prize finalist, and he won several Coretta Scott King awards and honors for his work. In 2009, he won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (now called the Children’s Literature Legacy Award), one of the most prestigious prizes for children’s book creators.

His most recent book, Infinite Hope, was published in 2019. In a starred review, a critic for Kirkus wrote, “Watching Bryan generously transform the bittersweet into beauty is watching the meaning of art.”

Bryan’s admirers paid tribute to him on social media. Author Mo Willems tweeted, “Ashley Bryan drew, painted, constructed, deconstructed, wrote, assembled in a myriad of styles, each one entirely his own. Thanks, Ashley, for your 98 years of being an example of how to be human.”

And U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree wrote, “An artist, an author, a poet, and fellow Maine islander, Ashley Bryan lived an extraordinary life and produced breathtaking works of creativity that inspired countless Mainers. We are all richer from his contributions.”

Vicky Smith, a former young readers’ editor at Kirkus and now access services director at Portland Public Library in Maine, offered her own remembrance of Bryan on the Kirkus website.

Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.