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  • Writer's pictureDawn Smith

2023 Ezra Jack Keats Award Winners and Honors Announced


Gold and silver seals with Ezra Jack Keats Award and Ezra Jack Keats Honor next to the de Grummond logo of a cat following a girl walking. and reading a book with a banner underneath that reads de Grummond Children's Literature Collection

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 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 on Thursday, April 13, 2023, at 1:00 PM ET, during the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at USM in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, marking the first in-person award ceremony since 2019. The ceremony will also be live-streamed on the festival’s website.


The 2023 Ezra Jack Keats Award winner for Writer is:

Kari Percival for How to Say Hello to a Worm

Illustrated by Kari Percival (Published by RISE X Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Random House)


The 2023 Ezra Jack Keats Award winner for Illustrator is:

Doug Salati for Hot Dog

Written by Doug Salati (Published by RISE X Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Random House)


The 2023 Ezra Jack Keats Award Honor winners are:

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 Zahra 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.”


Added Ellen Ruffin, Curator of The de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection and the Keats Archive at The University of Southern Mississippi, “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, Kari 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, Doug 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.”


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