top of page
  • Writer's pictureDawn Smith


Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Left image is a book cover illustration with a young boy touching has hair with small crowns above his head. The image on the right is a book cover illustration of a man sitting in a chair holding a guitar.

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, in partnership with the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi, announced today the winners of the 32nd annual Ezra Jack Keats Book Award. Each year a writer and an illustrator are recognized early in their careers for their outstanding work. The 2018 award ceremony will be held on April 12, during the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

The winning new writer and new illustrator will each receive $3,000, triple the amount awarded in previous years. The winners also receive a bronze medallion.

Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, said, "It is a joy each year to recognize and encourage new writers and illustrators who create beautiful books for the multicultural children of America, through the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award. The increase in the award this year reflects our dedication to increasing diversity in children's literature. It also serves to bring greater attention to artists who, like Ezra, seek to inspire all children to achieve their full potential—which I believe will strengthen and enrich our country."

"The celebratory and thoughtful books of this year's EJK Book Award winners remind us of the joy and the enduring impact of Ezra's work. We look forward to their continued, illustrious careers, writing and illustrating delightful children's books that make a difference," said Ellen Ruffin, Curator of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection and the Keats Archive.

Award-winning author T.A. Barron, the 2018 de Grummond Lecturer, will present the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award. Charlotte Jones Voiklis, author of Becoming Madeleine, a book about her grandmother, Madeleine L'Engle, will deliver the Keats Lecture.

The 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award winner for New Writer is: Derrick Barnes, for Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut Illustrated by Gordon C. James Published by Agate Bolden/Denene Millner Books

Barnes' high-spirited book is a celebration of the self-esteem and swagger that boys, specifically African-American boys, feel when they leave the barber's chair with a fresh cut. That confidence, observes the young narrator, makes you feel like "a million dollars—and some change!"… ready to take on the world, and take a step closer to manhood.

Barnes said, "I tried to recapture the feelings that I had as a boy when I rode the city bus to 'the shop' by myself. When he was done, the barber gave me a handheld mirror, and I'll never forget how handsome I thought I looked. I just felt like a better, smarter version of myself. For black boys, the barber shop is an affirming experience that helps them develop a deep sense of self-worth. It prepares them to go out into the world with their heads held high. It's where we go to get tended to and treated with the utmost respect—like royalty."

Gordon C. James also won a New Illustrator Honor for Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut.

Book cover illustration of a man sitting in a chair holding a guitar.

The 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award winner for New Illustrator is: Evan Turk, for Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters Written by Michael Mahin Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Turk's expressive illustrations celebrate the acclaimed blues musician Muddy Waters, a visionary who "was never good at doing what he was told." Muddy grew up in rural Mississippi as a sharecropper but was determined to play the blues. He chased his dream to Chicago, where the sound of his Delta home became the music that set the stage for rock and roll. He was eventually venerated as one of the most important artists in American music.

Turk said, "Muddy wouldn't let anyone tell him that he couldn't be an artist, and more importantly, the kind of artist he wanted to be. Paying homage to the cultural roots of his music, I depicted Muddy's early life and his life in Chicago using two distinct palettes. The browns, blues and patterns of Mississippi mud, the river and the cotton fields give way to the neon colors and bold shapes of the city. The colors and patterns of both worlds begin to weave together, as Muddy created a new sound by staying true to his roots."

The 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award honor winners are:

New Writer Honors

Rachael Cole, for City Moon (illustrated by Blanca Gómez, published by Schwartz & Wade)

Jessixa Bagley, for Laundry Day (illustrated by Jessixa Bagley, published by Roaring Brook Press)

Elaine Magliaro, for Things To Do (illustrated by Catia Chien, published by Chronicle Books)

New Illustrator Honors

Gordon C. James, for Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (written by Derrick Barnes, published by Agate Bolden/Denene Millner Books)

Bianca Diaz, for The One Day House (written by Julia Durango, published by Charlesbridge)

E.B. Goodale, for Windows (written by Julia Denos, published by Candlewick Press)

New Writer Honor & New Illustrator Honor

Bao Phi (writer) and Thi Bui (illustrator), for A Different Pond (published by Capstone Young Readers)

The Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Criteria

To be eligible for the 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award, the author and/or illustrator had no more than three children's picture books published prior to the year under consideration.

The selection committee is comprised of nationally recognized early childhood education specialists, librarians, illustrators and experts in children's literature: K.T. Horning, Chair; Angela Johnson, Claudette McLinn, Sean Qualls, Don Tate, Lettycia Terrones, Caroline Ward, Junko Yokota and Paul O. Zelinsky.

Ex officio members are: Deborah Pope, Executive Director, Ezra Jack Keats Foundation; and Ellen Ruffin, Curator, de Grummond Children's Literature Collection.

For a complete list of past award winners, visit For information about submissions, click here.

About the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

Founded by the late Caldecott award-winning children's book author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation fosters children's love of reading and creative expression by supporting arts and literacy programs in public schools and libraries; cultivating new writers and illustrators of exceptional picture books that reflect the experience of childhood in our diverse culture; and protecting and promoting the work of Keats, whose book The Snowy Day broke the color barrier in children's publishing.

Recently, The Snowy Day was adapted by Amazon as a holiday special, which earned two Daytime Emmys®, including Outstanding Preschool Children's Animated Program; and is the theme of a set of Forever stamps issued by the United States Postal Service. To learn more about the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, visit

Keats. Imagination. Diversity.

About the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection

The de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi is one of North America'sleading research centers in the field of children's literature. The Collection holds the original manuscripts and illustrations of more than 1,300 authors and illustrators, as well as 180,000+ mostly American and British published books dating back to 1530. Since 1985, the de Grummond Collection has been the home of the Ezra Jack Keats Archive, which includes manuscripts, typescripts, sketches, dummies, illustrations and proofs for Ezra Jack Keats' books.

279 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page