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Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Ceremony Set for Virtual Presentations April 6-8

Tue, 03/01/2022 - 03:38pm | By: David Tisdale

Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival All things related to the wonder and joy of children’s literature are on the schedule April 6-8 when The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) presents, online, the annual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival and Ezra Jack Keats (EJK) Book Award Ceremony.

Out of an abundance of caution, the festival’s steering committee chose to continue holding the event in a virtual format due to ongoing concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Brian SelznickEach year, the festival honors a noted children’s literature author or illustrator with its top award, the Southern Miss Medallion, for his or her contributions to the genre. This year’s recipient is award-winning author and illustrator Brian Selznick, the Caldecott Medal-winning creator of The New York Times bestsellers The Invention of Hugo Cabret, adapted into Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning movie Hugo; and Wonderstruck, adapted into the eponymous movie by celebrated filmmaker Todd Haynes, with a screenplay by Selznick. Selznick will give the festival’s main keynote address

Selznick is also author of The New York Times bestsellers The Marvels and Baby Monkey, Private Eye co-written by David Serlin. Most recently, he illustrated the 20th anniversary paperback edition covers of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. His books have been translated into more than 35 languages.

“We’re going into our third completely virtual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, and while we very much miss our in-person community we do feel it is safest for everyone involved,” said Karen Rowell, “I am proud that despite the continuing pandemic we never stopped bringing award-winning authors and illustrators to our Festival. We are planning to be back in person in 2023.” 

Additional keynote speakers for the festival include Jen BryantLesa Cline-Ransome and James RansomeNic StoneRaúl the ThirdAngie Thomas, Dr. Eric Tribunella, and Donna Washington

Thomas is a Mississippian and author of the acclaimed The Hate U Give, and her keynote address is this year’s first to be sponsored by a generous gift from retired SLIS Director Dr. Theresa Welsh to establish the USM SLIS Lecture; Dr. Tribunella, an expert on children’s literature, is a member of the USM School of Humanities faculty.

The Ezra Jack Keats Award was created to nurture illustrators and writers, early in their careers, who create extraordinary books that reflect our diverse population, the universal experience of childhood and the strength of family and community. Over the years the EJK has succeeded in fostering the early careers of many of our country’s leading children’s book makers.

Ezra Jack Keats Award This year marks the 10th year of USM’s de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection co-administering the Ezra Jack Keats Award. In 2012, Dr. Deborah Pope moved the Keats Book Award from the New York Public Library to USM and the award ceremony in conjunction with the Kaigler Children’s Book Festival.

Not only does the de Grummond serve as the repository for the work of Ezra Jack Keats, but the festival offers a perfect setting for the recipients of the Award. The audience is combined of authors, illustrators, librarians, academics, and general lovers of children's literature, said Ellen Ruffin, curator of the de Grummond Collection. 

“It has been a thrill to follow the successes of the Keats Award recipients as their careers have taken off,” Ruffin continued. “In 2012, Meg Medina received the Keats Award for her wonderful picture book, Tia Isa Wants a Car. It seemed her career was shot out of a cannon because she began publishing young adult novels, books for middle grade children, and even more picture books. In 2019, when she was awarded the Newbery Medal for Merci Suarez Changes Gears, we all felt a sense of pride.”

Ruffin noted that USM was part of a milestone with the Keats Award when, in 2021, it celebrated its 35th year of recognizing new authors and illustrators whose books portray the universal qualities of childhood, a strong and supportive family, and the multicultural nature of our world. 

“The award ceremony is something we all look forward to at the Kaigler Children’s Book Festival,” Ruffin continued. “Even though this year's ceremony is going to be virtual, the presentation is almost as thrilling as it is when we meet face-to-face. It's possible for people to see past award sessions by looking at 

In 2021, the Keats Foundation produced the film "Tell Me Another Story," which focuses on the nature of and need for the award:

Richard Peck, a longtime supporter of the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival, made a generous donation in 2016 that now provides an annual stipend to offset the cost of attending the festival for a limited number of festival attendees; the deadline for application is March 4. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available through the festival. For more information, including details about registration, visit