2019 Ezra Jack Keats Award Winners


2019 Writer

John Sullivan

Sullivan said, “Winning the EJK Award means a lot to me. It means my book has played a small part in bringing people together. Done well, a children’s book shows that people have the same hopes and fears, and that how we behave, not surface differences, is most important.”

When asked what inspired the idea for his book, Sullivan added, “My first year as a night watchman, many years ago, I found a stray kitten on a worksite, fell in love with her, named her Beebe and we spent the next 17 years together. My book tells our story while showing children the value of compassion for animals.”

Kitten and the Night Watchman

Published by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

What does a night watchman do all night? For children whose parents work at night, and for children who wonder what goes on at night when they’re asleep, this is a perfect book. The story gently weaves the work a night watchman does with the poetry of a sleeping construction site, the warmth of new kitten and the pleasure of going home at sunrise to a loving family. Other Awards: Margaret Wise Brown Prize

2019 Illustrator

Oge Mora

Mora said, “I have always looked up to Ezra Jack Keats and I am incredibly honored to be a small part of his storied legacy. Keats understood that diversity isn’t an ideal, diversity is our world. For my grandmother, cooking was about bringing people together. My books are my way of honoring that love and sharing it with the world.”

Like Keats, Mora illustrated her book using collage, and remarked, “I approach collage with no rules. A sky can be yellow. A map can be a pot holder. A floral pattern a savory stew. Spontaneity is what makes collages exciting to make and look over. I use collaged text throughout the book to seamlessly blend my writing, and art together.”

Thank you, Omu!

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

In the busy city who would think that Omu’s fragrant and tasty stew could bring people together as if they lived in a small town? This is a playful kind of stone soup tale, but told in reverse! The bright illustrations, reminiscent of Keatsian collage, show us that kind human connections form intimate support groups amidst any kind of bustle. Other Awards: Caldecott Honor

2019 Honor Books

  • Writer Honor

    Juana Martinez-Neal
    Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

    Does Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela need all these names? Alma doesn’t think so until Daddy tells her the fascinating story of the ancestors with whom she shares a name and a wonderful character trait. The story deftly shows a child that the world is bigger than she thought, but in a warm and comfortable way.

  • Writer Honor

    Keith Calabrese
    Lena’s Shoes are Nervous
    Illustrated by Juana Medina
    Atheneum Books for Young Readers

    First of all, it isn’t Lena who’s nervous about school, it’s her shoes. Luckily, Lena is a gifted negotiator, well up to the task of giving her shoes the confidence they need to be brave. Also refreshing is the fact that Dad is the patient parent in the background, making sure Lena’s shoes get where they need to go.

  • Writer Honor

    Matt James
    The Funeral
    Illustrated by Matt James
    Groundwood Books

    Mom cries a lot at Uncle Frank’s funeral, but it turns out to be okay. Norma and Ray fidget at the service, sneak outside to play during the home visit and have some great adventures. Norma decides Uncle Frank would have enjoyed his funeral. Written from the child’s perspective, this book provides a gentle picture of an experience that could otherwise frighten a child.

  • Illustrator Honor

    Jessica Love
    Julián is a Mermaid
    Written by Jessica Love

    The fluid and lyrical images of this book work in perfect tandem with the simple text to tell the story of how Julián and his Abuella flow gracefully into the stream of participants in a mermaid parade. We aren’t sure how Abuella will feel about Julián dressing as a mermaid but it’s wonderful when we see how matter of factly she supports his dream.

  • Illustrator Honor

    Jane McGuinness
    Prickly Hedgehogs!
    Written by Jane McGuinness

    You may not have known that you wanted to learn everything about hedgehogs but the engaging illustrations in this book do everything but actually hug you into its world. Hedgehogs may be prickly but children will return often to this non-fiction book because the world of the hedgehog looks like a happy, warm, snuggly place.