Beyond "The Snowy Day": Ezra Jack Keats Continues to Inspire NYC Schoolchildren

Students love holding a good picture book in their hands – especially if it is one they created. It’s thrilling to know that they have authored and illustrated books they can share with others. You could see this excitement in the eyes of the winners of the 2017 Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition last month, at an awards ceremony fittingly held at Brooklyn Public Library, at Grand Army Plaza, where an exhibition of all schoolwide winners was on view throughout May.

Thirty students collected their medals and celebrated each other’s works of art.  The ceremony was the culminating event of a year-long project supervised by the Office of Arts and Special Projects, and supported through a partnership between the Fund for Public Schools and the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

Elementary, middle, and high schools throughout New York City entered the competition, in which public school students wrote, illustrated and constructed books guided by their art teachers and/or school librarians.

Student preparation involved research, the study of a wide variety of published authors and illustrators that included text and image analysis, exploration and use of various art media, and the editing and revising of text and images. A team at each school selected one book as its schoolwide winner to send to the next round of judging where a panel of judges selected citywide and borough wide winners and honorable mentions. All authors and illustrators of citywide, borough wide, and schoolwide winning books, and honorable mentions received Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking medals. Medals also were mailed to all the schoolwide winners.

Also honored were the art teachers and librarians for fostering their students’ talent by providing instructional support.. They were acknowledged for their roles and received a standing ovation.

Lisa Rosenblum, chief librarian for Brooklyn Public Library gave the welcoming remarks at the ceremony. She was followed by Deborah Pope, executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, who gave out the elementary borough and honorable mention awards; Karen Rosner, coordinator of visual arts for the New York City Department of Education who presented the middle school borough and honorable mention awards; Sean Quall, an award-winning children’s book illustrator, artist and author who spoke about his experience on the judging panel and creating children’s books for publication; and Melissa Jacobs, coordinator of library services for the New York City Department of Education, who gave out the high school borough and honorable mention awards.

Paul King, executive director of the DOE Office of Arts and Special Projects, closed the event by presenting the three citywide awards for the elementary, middle and high school levels. Amber Siurano, from P.S. 63 Old South School in Queens, for The Story of the Mirabal Sisters; Elizabeth Abramowitz, from I.S. 98 Bay Academy in Brooklyn, for her tale, Life of a Brighton Beach Sparrow; and Jennifer Huang, from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, for her story, He Abandoned Us.

The mission of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation is to foster children’s love of reading and creative expression by supporting arts and literacy programs in public schools and libraries.  The Foundation cultivates new writers and illustrators of exceptional picture books that reflect the experiences of children growing up in a diverse culture.

If you’re inspired to help advance arts and literacy programs across NYC’s 1,800 public schools, become a part of efforts with The Fund today.

Matt Darian