Birthday Kit: Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet: Ezra Jack Keats and his Books

Biographical Notes

  • Jacob Ezra Katz born March 11, 1916, to Polish Jews living in East New York, Brooklyn
  • Aspired to be an artist from early childhood, despite lack of encouragement
  • Won national student competition painting Shantytown, 1934
  • Father’s death, 1935, meant turning down art school for paid work; jobs included WPA muralist and comic book colorist, 1935-1943
  • After serving in World War II, changed name to Ezra Jack Keats, 1947
  • Studied painting in Paris, 1949
  • Career as an illustrator for books, magazines and advertising; exhibited at Associated American Artists gallery, 1950 and 1954
  • First children’s book illustrated,1954; illustrated some 85 books
  • Co-wrote first book, 1960
  • Wrote and illustrated The Snowy Day, 1962; awarded Caldecott Medal 1963
  • Established the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, 1964
  • Wrote and illustrated a total of 22 published children’s books and an unpublished manuscript
  • Died 1983

Books Written and Illustrated by Keats

My Dog Is Lost! (Mi Perro Se Ha Perdido!), co-author Pat Cherr, 1960
The Snowy Day, 1962
Whistle for Willie, 1964
John Henry, An American Legend, 1965
Jennie’s Hat, 1966
Peter’s Chair, 1967
A Letter to Amy, 1968
Goggles! 1969
Hi, Cat! 1970
Apt. 3, 1971
Pet Show! 1972
Skates!, 1973
Psst! Doggie-, 1973
Dreams, 1974
Kitten for a Day, 1974
Louie, 1975
The Trip, 1978
Maggie and the Pirate, 1979
Louie’s Search, 1980
Regards to the main in the Moon, 1981
Clementina’s Cactus, 1982
Regards to the Man in the Moon, 1987
One Red Sun, 1998
Keats’s Neighborhood, 2002

Select Books Illustrated by Keats

Zoo, Where Are You?, 1964
In a Spring Garden, 1965
God in in the Mountain, 1966
In the Park: An Excursion in Four Languages, 1968
The Little Drummer Boy, 1968
The King’s Fountain, 1971
Two Tickets to Freedom, 1971
Over in the Meadow, 1972

Unpublished Works

Collage: A Memoir of Ezra Jack Keats (manuscript; excerpts published in the journal The Lion and the Unicorn, December 1989)
The Giant Turnip (manuscript and drawings)

Book Honors & Awards

The Snowy Day
Caldecott Medal from the American Library Association, 1963
Film version wins Venice Film Festival Lion of Saint Mark Award for best short film for
children, 1965
New York Public Library’s 150 most influential books of the 20th century, 1996
In a Spring Garden
Library of Congress Books of the Year, 1965
Caldecott Medal Honor Book, 1970
Hi, Cat!
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for illustration, 1970
Apt. 3 and The King’s Fountain
School Library Journal’s Best Books, 1971
The Trip
Children’s Choices Award, International Reading Association-Children’s Book Council, 1977
Child Study Association of America’s Children’s Books of the Year:
The Little Drummer Boy, 1968
A Letter to Amy, 1968
Goggles! 1969
Hi, Cat! 1970
Two Tickets to Freedom, 1971
The King’s Fountain, 1971
Apt. 3, 1971
Pet Show! 1972
Over in the Meadow, 1972
Dreams, 1974
Louie, 1975
Jennie’s Hat, 1986
Apt. 3, 1986
Regards to the Man in the Moon, 1987

Personal Honors

  • Invited to design UNICEF’s first greeting cards (theme: peace),1966; 1 million+ sets sold
  • Guest of Honor, Second Tehran International Festival of Films for Children; animated film of Whistle for Willie shown, 1967
  • Member of White House Forum on Child Development and the Mass Media, 1970
  • Guest on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” four times, 1971-1974
  • University of Southern Mississippi, Silver Medallion for Outstanding Service in the Field of Children’s Literature, 1980
  • Keats Archives established by the de Grummond Collection of Children’s Literature, at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, 1985
  • Peter’s Chair read by First Lady Barbara Bush on ‟Sesame Street,” 1990
  • American Library Association, Posthumous Honoree for Outstanding Advocacy for Libraries in the 20th Century, 2000
  • Ezra Jack Keats Family Concert, annual event in Celebrate Brooklyn! summer series, 2005
  • Society of Illustrators, Posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award, 2006
  • ‟Ezra Jack Plot” composed by Thomas Meadowcroft, based on The Snowy Day, 2007
  • Inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame by Empire State Center for the Book and the Empire State Book Festival, 2015

Locations Dedicated to Keats

  • Skating rink in Kiyose, Japan, named after Keats in honor of his book Skates, opened 1974
  • Ezra Jack Keats stepping-stone on the Celebrity Walk in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, dedicated 1985
  • Ezra Jack Keats International School (P.S. 253) in Brooklyn, New York, attended by children from over 40 countries, renamed 1988
  • Brass plaque commemorating Keats at the Arlington Library, in Brooklyn, where he read as a child, dedicated 1997
  • Bronze statue of Peter and Willie, a storytelling site in the Imagination Playground of Prospect Park, dedicated 1997; to be designated a Literary Landmark 2016

Awards Endowed by the Keats Foundation

    UNICEF Ezra Jack Keats International Award for Excellence in Children’s Book Illustration, 1985-1994
    Ezra Jack Keats Book Award, New Writer,1986; New Illustrator, 2001; Honor Books, 2012
    Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition, 1986
    Ezra Jack Keats Mini-Grants, 1986

Important Exhibitions

  • International touring exhibition organized by the United States Department of State, 1971
  • Ohanashi Caravan (mobile storytelling and puppetry program) tour of Japan in honor of Keats, 1973
  • De Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, “Hopes and Dreams: The Art of Ezra Jack Keats,” University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, 1989
  • Rotunda Gallery, in Brooklyn, New York, “Children’s Book Illustrators,” 1993
  • California African American Museum, in Los Angeles, “Lasting Impressions: Illustrating African American Children’s Books”; traveled to Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Las Vegas, Baltimore, and New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1993-1996
  • New York Public Library, “An Artist’s View of Childhood: An Ezra Jack Keats Retrospective,” 1994
  • Brooklyn Public Library, “Children’s Artist of the City: An Ezra Jack Keats Retrospective,” 1995
  • Traveling exhibition to four museums in Japan, “Hope and Dreams: The Art of Ezra Jack Keats,” 1995-1996
  • Chrysler Museum, in Norfolk, Virginia, “Myth, Magic, and Mystery: One Hundred Years of American Children’s Book Illustration”; traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, and Wilmington, Delaware, 1996-1997
  • National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas, “Ezra Jack Keats: Artscapes,” 2000-2001; traveled around the U.S. through 2003
  • Children’s Museum of Manhattan, “Hopes and Dreams: The Art of Ezra Jack Keats,” 2001
  • De Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, University of Southern Mississippi, “Collage: An Ezra Jack Keats Retrospective,” 2002
  • Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York, “Children Should Be Seen: The Image of the Child in American Picture-Book Art”; traveled to Amherst, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles, 2007-2008
  • Jewish Museum, “The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats”; traveled to Amherst, Massachusetts; San Francisco; Akron, Ohio; Philadelphia; and Los Angeles, 2011-2014


  • Ezra Jack Keats, Art and Picture Book Maker, 1994; and Ezra Jack Keats: A Bibliography and Catalogue, 1996; by Brian Alderson, Pelican Press
  • Ezra jack Keats, A Biography with Illustrations, by Dean Engel and Florence Freedman, Silver Moon Press, 1995
  • Ezra Jack Keats, The Art of People and Place, DVD, 2009
  • The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats, by Claudia J. Nahson, Jewish Museum and Yale University Press, 2011