The Empire State Center for the Book knows how to throw a party! The occasion was the sixth annual celebration of New York State’s premier literati, past and present, held at the Princeton Club of New York. Besides Keats, the 2015 honorees were Keats, Allen Ginsberg, Isaac Asimov, David Remnick, Francine Prose, Colm Tóibín and Dawn Powell. The gala brimmed with humor, pride and joy. Robin Asimov spoke mischievously about her father’s brilliance and his inability to fill his car with gas. Remnick described interviewing Ginsberg in the bathtub. E.B. Lewis spoke movingly about the impact of Keats’s books on children and the parents they become.
I was there to accept the award for Ezra, and in great company. With me were a Who’s Who of acclaimed children’s book writers and illustrators—the legendary Paul O. Zelinsky, E.B. Lewis, EJK Book Award winners Shadra Strickland and Tonya Cherie Hegamin and Ezra’s dear friend Fran Manushkin—most of the staff of Ezra’s publisher Penguin Random House Young Readers, and other friends of the Foundation. The beautiful plaque will be installed in the Children’s Wing of the Central Branch of Brooklyn Public Library in honor of Ezra’s centenary, in 2016.
Ezra is only the second children’s book author-illustrator in the Writers Hall of Fame, after his good friend Maurice Sendak, inducted in 2013. As understanding of the importance of children’s literature grows, we can look forward to Ezra and Maurice being joined by more of their colleagues.