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  • Writer's pictureDawn Smith

2022 Ezra Jack Keats Award Winners and Honors Announced

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

Gold seal for Ezra Jack Keats Award

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation (EJK Foundation), in partnership with the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), today announced the winners of the 2022 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. This year, the virtual award ceremony will be held on Thursday, April 7, 2022, 2pm ET, during the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at USM in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Register now.

Collage of book covers.

The 2022 Ezra Jack Keats Award winner for Writer is: Paul Harbridge for Out Into the Big Wide Lake Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon Published by Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House

The 2022 Ezra Jack Keats Award winner for Illustrator is: Gracey Zhang for Lala’s Words Written by Gracey Zhang Published by Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic

The 2022 Ezra Jack Keats Award Honor winners are: Writer Honors

Joanna Ho for Playing at the Border (illustrated by Teresa Martinez, published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins)

Anne Wynter for Everybody in the Red Brick Building (illustrated by Oge Mora, published by Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins)

Illustrator Honors

Marta Bartolj for Every Little Kindness (written by Marta Bartolj, published by Chronicle)

Kenesha Sneed for Many Shapes of Clay (written by Kenesha Sneed, published by Prestel, an imprint of Penguin Random House)

“The spirit of Ezra Jack Keats can be found in all EJK Award and Honor Books, a spirit that reflects in an ever expanding definition of diverse children’s literature,” said Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the EJK Foundation. “This year’s EJK Award winning and honor books provide inclusive stories about children with many shades of skin, children who happen to have Down Syndrome, children dealing with loss, children who live in the city or country, in the U.S. and abroad, and children having trouble sleeping through the night. EJK Award books entertain while opening children’s minds and hearts. This year is no exception.”

Added Ellen Ruffin, curator of The de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi, “The de Grummond Children’s Literature collection is thrilled to encourage the creation of beautiful and engaging books for the diverse children of our country. It’s an honor to work with the amazing members of the EJK Award committee, to celebrate these authors and illustrators, and together build a library in which children see themselves and others in the books they read every day.”

On winning the Writer Award, Paul Harbridge said, “I learned about diversity teaching English as a Second Language to immigrants in Toronto, the most culturally diverse city in the world, and as a speech-language pathologist working first with persons from the Deaf community and later with adults with developmental disabilities. But the best lesson about diversity came from growing up with Linda, my little sister with Down Syndrome. Yes, she was different in some ways but at the same time she was not different at all. Like me and my other brothers and sisters, she needed a chance to explore the world around her, encouragement to go after her goals, a pat on the back when she succeeded, and a reassuring hug when she stumbled. And that is the beauty of Ezra Jack Keats’s books. In The Snowy Day, Peter could have been from any background, any gender, or ability. Winning the EJK Award for Writing is so special to me because it means, in my own small way, I am carrying on Mr. Keats’s work to show the world that, despite our differences, at heart we are all the same.“

On winning the Illustrator Award, Gracey Zhang said, “When I was writing and illustrating Lala’s Words, I sought to create a story that came from my own experience of familial relationships and communication that felt decidedly unique and my own. While sharing stories with others, many of whom were also children of immigrants, I found a common understanding and that we shared similar experiences. I purposely set the book in the neighborhood of Ridgewood, Queens, a vibrant and diverse community of people and buildings I fell in love with. I was extremely moved when I received the call for the Ezra Jack Keats Award for Illustrator—an award that stands for acceptance of differences and recognition of our diversities and strength. To have Lala recognized for furthering these values is an immense honour and celebration of those stories we share.”

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 The University of Southern Mississippi. 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 for 35 years running; and with the EJK Award, has encouraged exceptional early career authors and illustrators to create children’s books that reflect our diverse culture for thirty six years. The EJK Foundation is proud to protect and promote the work of Ezra Jack Keats.

About Ezra Jack Keats and 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 wrote and illustrated was The Snowy Day, published in 1962. In 1963 it was awarded the Caldecott Medal, the most prestigious children’s book award for illustration 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 in 2017 the U.S. Postal Service issued a The Snowy Day Stamp.

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+ 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, Ezra Jack Keats, and the papers of popular young adult author, John Green. Researchers from across the United States and around the world visit the collection on a regular basis to study its extensive holdings.

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