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Ezra Jack Keats Award Winners for 2023 to be Recognized During Ceremony at USM Children’s Book Festival April 13

Tue, 03/14/2023 - 04:12pm

Ezra Jack Keats AwardsThe Ezra Jack Keats Foundation (EJK Foundation), in partnership with the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), has announced the winners of the 2023 Ezra Jack Keats Award (EJK Award), as well as four honor books.

The annual EJK Award celebrates exceptional early career authors and illustrators for portraying the multicultural nature of our world in the spirit of Ezra Jack Keats. The award ceremony will be held Thursday, April 13 at 12:30 during the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at the USM Hattiesburg campus, marking the first in-person award ceremony since 2019. The ceremony will be livestreamed on the festival’s website page.

Writers and illustrators to be recognized for their work include the following:

Say Hello to a Worm

*The 2023 Ezra Jack Keats Award winner for Writer

-Kari Percival for How to Say Hello to a Worm, illustrated by Percival, published by RISE X Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Random House. 

Hot Dog

*The 2023 Ezra Jack Keats Award winner for Illustrator 

-Doug Salati for Hot Dog Written by Salati, published by Alfred A. Knopf Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House. 

*The 2023 Ezra Jack Keats Award Honor winners: 

-Writer Honors: Pauline David-Sax for Everything in Its Place, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow, published by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House Children's Books; Juliana Perdomo for Sometimes All I Need is Me, illustrated by Juliana Perdomo, published by Candlewick Press 

-Illustrator Honors: Chioma Ebinama for Emile and the Field written by Kevin Young, published by Make Me a World, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books 

-Zahra Marwan for Where Butterflies Fill the Sky written by Marwan, published by Bloomsbury 

“Children will see themselves in the 2023 EJK Award and Honor books, delight in the illustrations and enjoy reading them over and over again,” said Deborah Pope, executive director of the EJK Foundation. “These books include characters from many walks of life, who discover imaginative ways of coping, triumphing and sharing. I’m grateful to our illustrious committee for choosing these books to display the EJK Award and Honor medallions.” 

Ellen Ruffin, curator of The de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection and the Keats Archive at USM, said “Since 1986, we’ve seen the winners and honorees of the EJK Award blossom into the Ezras of today and tomorrow. We see that same spirit and talent in this year’s winners and honorees. It will be a joy to watch their careers flourish, writing and illustrating delightful children’s books that make a difference.” 

On winning the Writer Award, Percival said, “It is a great honor to win the Ezra Jack Keats Writer Award. As a tiny youngster, his books welcomed me with respect and sensitivity into a child's sense of being in a beautiful world. As an adult, I am inspired by how Keats broke with tradition and pervasive, harmful white supremacist ideology to tell more inclusive stories of our vibrant, diverse communities. 

“The seeds for writing How To Say Hello To A Worm were planted during spring time meet-ups at a community garden, with children and their grownups, in my city neighborhood. The recognition of this Ezra Jack Keats Writer Award brings me hope that many more children and their grown-ups will be inspired to get their hands in the dirt, try to grow food, honor our observations and questions, and cultivate our relationships with our living community.” 

On winning the Illustrator Award, Salati said, “Hot Dog came from reflecting on the common, everyday interactions that we navigate and the inner emotions that result from them. It is my hope that this full range of feelings will ring true to young readers who are so observant of the moment in which they are living. For Hot Dog to be recognized for portraying these universal experiences is a tremendous honor that I am deeply proud of. Thank you to all the members of the Ezra Jack Keats Award Committee for this distinction.” 

About the Ezra Jack Keats Award: Since its inception, the EJK Award has celebrated over 100 exceptional early career authors and illustrators for portraying the multicultural nature of our world, the universal experience of childhood and the importance of family and community. Past winners include now renowned bookmakers Oge Mora, Meg Medina, Christian Robinson, Bryan Collier, and Sophie Blackall. The Ezra Jack Keats Award is co-produced by the EJK Foundation and the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at USM. A distinguished selection committee of children’s literature and early childhood education specialists, librarians, authors and illustrators review the entries and announce the winners and honorees on the second Tuesday in March each year. 

About the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation: The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation has actively fostered children’s creativity and love of reading since 1985. The Foundation awards 70 EJK Mini-Grants for arts and literacy programs annually to public schools and libraries across 50 states; administers the EJK Bookmaking Competition, for grades 3-12, in the nation’s largest school system; and with the EJK Award, encourages exceptional early career authors and illustrators to create children’s books that reflect our diverse culture. The 30-minute documentary, “Tell Me Another Story” was made by the EJK Foundation to bring attention to the need for inclusive children’s books. The EJK Foundation is proud to protect and promote the work of Ezra Jack Keats. 

About Ezra Jack Keats and the Impact of The Snowy Day: Ezra Jack Keats (1916-1983) is considered one of America’s greatest children’s book illustrators and authors. The first book he both wrote and illustrated was The Snowy Day, published in 1962. In 1963 it won the Caldecott Medal, the most prestigious children’s book award in the United States. Keats went on to write and illustrate over 20 now classic books including Peter’s Chair, Whistle for Willie and A Letter to Amy. He wanted no child to be an outsider. “If we could see each other exactly as the other is,” he wrote, “this would be a different world.” The Snowy Day broke the color barrier in mainstream children’s publishing by being embraced across social and ethnic lines. The vivid illustrations and text, beloved by generations of readers, have earned it a place in the pantheon of great children’s literature. In January 2020, New York Public Library revealed that The Snowy Day was the most circulated book in its 125-year history, and the Library of Congress identifies it as a book that has shaped America.

About the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection: The de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection is one of North America’s leading research centers in the field of children’s literature. Founded in 1966 by Dr. Lena Y. de Grummond, the Collection holds the original manuscripts and illustrations of more than 1,300 authors and illustrators, as well as 180,000-plus published books dating from 1530 to the present. The collection contains the works of many notable authors and illustrators including Randolph Caldecott, John Newbery, Kate Greenaway, H.A. and Margret Rey, the papers of the young adult author, John Green, as well as the Ezra Jack Keats Archive. Researchers from across the United States and around the world visit the collection on a regular basis to study its extensive holdings.