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  • Writer's pictureDawn Smith

2024 Ezra Jack Keats Award Winners and Honors Announced

Banner of book covers for the winners and honor winners

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 2024 Ezra Jack Keats Award (EJK Award), as well as four honor books and four finalists. 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 11 2024, at 12:30 PM ET, during the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at USM in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The ceremony will be livestreamed beginning at 1:00 PM ET – for details

The 2024 Ezra Jack Keats Award Winner for Writer is:

Anne Wynter for Nell Plants a Tree

Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

Published by Balzer & Bray/ Harper Collins

The 2024 Ezra Jack Keats Award Winner for Illustrator is:

Sarah Gonzales for The Only Way to Make Bread

Written by Cristina Quintero 

Published by Tundra/Penguin Random House Canada

The 2024 Ezra Jack Keats Award Honors are:

Writer Honors

Kim Rogers for Just Like Grandma illustrated by Julie Flett

Published by Heartdrum/HarperCollins

Helena Ku Rhee for Sora’s Seashells illustrated by Stella Lim

Published by Candlewick Press

Illustrator Honors

Fran Alvarez for Dancing Hands written by Joanna Que & Charina Marquez

Published by Chronicle Books

Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez for Benito Juárez Fights for Justice 

Published by Godwin/Henry Holt

Writer Finalists: 

Sandhya Parappukkaran & Michelle Pereira for The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name 

Published by Abrams/Abrams Books for Young Readers

Jack Wong for When You Can Swim 

Published by Orchard Books/Scholastic

Illustration Finalists: 

Adriana M. Garcia for Remembering 

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Juan Camilo Mayorga for Lucky Me 

Published by Orca Books

Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the EJK Foundation said, “The 2024 EJK Award and Honor books are filled with the same joy and sense of recognition that have made EJK’s books beloved classics. This year the stories we celebrate include the deft resolution of tensions that often come with cultural differences, reflect children’s concern with conservation and highlight precious intergenerational connections, all through the lens of diversity, kindness and humor. These books are bound to delight children for decades!”

Karlie Herndon, Curator of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection and the Ezra Jack Keats Papers at the University of Southern Mississippi, said, “The EJK Award supports so much more than good books: it recognizes the bravery, integrity, and creativity of new writers and illustrators working today to show up for the child readers who need their stories. I am so proud to be a part of an award that uplifts these creators while continuing to impart the Keats spirit in the world of picture book publishing.” 

On winning the Writer Award, Anne Wynter said, “Thank you to the committee for consistently celebrating diversity and recognizing how vital it is for children to see themselves in – not just a single book – but in many books! I’m so grateful to be a part of Ezra Jack Keats’ extraordinary and enduring legacy.”

On winning the Illustrator Award, Sarah Gonzales said, “The EJK Award illuminates human uniqueness and togetherness, the traits of  Keats’ work that inspire me.  In my resilient immigrant family, we were strong, as individuals and as a group. With Cristina’s beautiful words I hoped to represent the strength of sharing as a community, the warmth of childhood memories and the happiness of baking bread.” 

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.

About the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation has fostered children’s creativity and love of reading since 1964. The Foundation 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, made by the EJK Foundation to bring attention to the giants who have and continue to work to address the need for inclusive children’s books, has been used in over 120 libraries and universities across the country for training and as part of course curriculum. 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 which was published in 1962 and awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1963. He went on to write and illustrate over 20 now classic books including Peter’s Chair, Whistle for Willie and A Letter to Amy. Keats wanted no child to be an outsider and his books reflect his desire for a better world for all children, “If we are to invest in the future, it must be by really concerning ourselves with what goes inside our kids.”

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. The Library of Congress identifies it as a book that has shaped America. 

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