2021 Ezra Jack Keats Award Winners

2021 Writer Award Winner

Tricia Elam Walker

“My mother, a children’s librarian, desperately sought books that reflected the experiences of black people and was bereft at the dearth. She wanted them for all children because she believed the world would be a better place if our value was understood.

When The Snowy Day appeared, we celebrated the warm velvety brown of Peter and the quiet ordinariness of the story itself. It didn’t shout it’s arrival; it preferred a measured tone so readers gently learned the lessons of diversity and acceptance embedded in those pages. I thought of my mother first when I learned I won the EJK award.

Thank you EJK Award Committee. This means that my mission to illuminate and celebrate difference is appreciated and that perhaps more children of all colors will embrace it.”

Nana Akua Goes to School

It’s Grandparents Day for Zura’s class! Her classmates brag about their grandparents. But Zura worries her friends will be alarmed by the traditional West African marks on her beloved Nana’s face. This story focuses on how differences can inspire fear and how fear can be dispelled with understanding.

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2021 Illustrator Award Winner

Heidi Woodward Sheffield

“I don’t set out to write a particular story. The story finds me. Sometimes it starts with a word, a texture, or a picture. One day, passing by a construction site, I saw a bricklayer pick up a heavy cinder block and pause silhouetted against the sky. And a young boy’s voice came into my head: ‘My papi is strong. He’s a bricklayer. His arms are like stone.’ And Brick by Brick was born. The story of a young boy so proud of his papi and how they worked together to achieve their dreams bit by bit and brick by brick.”

“I am so incredibly honored to receive the Ezra Jack Keats Award. To me, the most powerful thing about Keats was his belief that all children need and deserve to see themselves represented in books, especially at this moment in time.”

Brick by Brick

Luis’s papi builds the buildings that make the city. Luis is proud of his papi’s strength and his family’s goals. This joyous story is beautifully told through clear, poetic text and vivid illustrations. The story’s culminating event confirms everything Luis has said about his papi and family.

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2021 Award Honorees

  • Writer Award Honoree

    Raymond Antrobus
    Can Bears Ski?
    Illustrated by Polly Dunbar
    Candlewick Press

    Little Bear knows when his bed shakes his father is nearby and it’s time to dress for school. He likes clothes with LOUD colors. But why is everyone asking him, “Can Bears Ski?” What a silly question! Then his dad brings him for a hearing test and the answer is revealed.


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  • Writer Award Honoree

    Jarrett & Jerome Pumphrey
    The Old Truck
    Norton Young Readers

    An old truck helps a family farm flourish as a young girl grows up. But the truck grows and breaks down. This book joins the love of tradition and old things to an embrace of the new by centering on a woman farmer who brings an old rusty truck back to life


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  • Illustrator Award Award Honoree

    Steve Small
    I'm Sticking With You
    Written by Smriti Prasadam-Halls
    Godwin Books

    Bear and Squirrel are inseparable friends. This suits Bear fine, Squirrel not so much. Bear tends to break Squirrel’s favorite things. Squirrel becomes impatient and rude with Bear. But Bear remains faithful. After Squirrel has told Bear to go away, Squirrel has a realization about Bear that will warm your heart.

  • Illustrator Award Honoree

    Victoria Tentler-Krylov
    The Cyclops of Central Park
    Written by Madelyn Rosenberg
    G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

    His hometown of New York City, frightens Cyclops but when Eugene, his lovable but mischievous sheep, goes missing, Cyclops must find him. Bright, colorful illustrations convey the density and playfulness of the big city leading Cyclops to find Eugene and fall in love with adventure.


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