The Night Has Ears!

“I grew up in a household of proverbs. My mother had a proverb for any situation, attitude, or event. As a child, I was soon able to anticipate and finish any proverb that she would start. African proverbs have also become familiar to me through my research of African tales.” ~ Ashley Bryan

Ashley has chosen twenty-six African proverbs from a number of tribes to illustrate in this book. Proverbs abound in oral traditions and written literatures all over the world, often giving insight into the culture and customs of the people. Proverbs are also thought-provoking and often seek to find meaning out of our daily experiences. Proverbs also inspire stories, such as the  Aesop's and LaFontaine's fables in which the plots illustrated the meaning of the proverb, often concluding with proverb.

Though this book is done in watercolor, Ashley has used collage technique in many of his books. Collage is one of Ashley Bryan’s favorite medium having used it in several other award-winning books such as Beautiful Blackbird and Let in Shine. Using a pair of scissors he inherited from his mother, Ashley weaves magic in his books. Collage comes from the French word coller meaning to glue. Artwork is made by putting together different media to create a new whole. A collage may include different types of paints and paper, magazines, newspapers, photographs or other found objects glued together on a piece of paper or canvas. The origins of this technique can be traced back to 200 B.C. China with the invention of paper. The term “collage” is said to have been first used by artists Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in the beginning of the 20th century. According to The Guggenheim Museum it is said that Braque used cut simulated oak-grain wallpaper in his charcoal drawings the same time Picasso is believed to have patched an oilcloth in his canvas painting.

Based on:

The Night has Ears: African proverbs illustrated by Ashley Bryan


  • Colored construction paper, magazines, and other scrap paper
  • Crayons or pencil
  • Watercolor
  • Glue
  • Scissors


Make a collage

Going About Your Artwork
The example used for this project was an owl. But students can chose any animal they like. Draw and cut your animal shapes using different colored papers. Draw several versions of your animal--- sitting, sleeping, eating, in dancing or in leaping position. Make them different sizes as well. Cut out your animals. Make a colorful background for your animals using old magazines or watercolors. First glue down or paint your background, followed by your cut animals. This will give a dimension to your artwork. Have fun telling tales!

Extension Activity
Ashley Bryan's books are full of rhythm, movement, and beauty of life. The title of this book is from the Masai tribe in the African region. What does this proverb mean? Students can explore proverbs from around the world and illustrate  their own book of proverbs.