2018 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award

Ceremony Highlights

Photo: The winners’ lineup, from left: Gordon C. James, E.B. Goodale, Bianca Díaz, Evan Turk, Derrick Barnes, Elaine Magliaro, and Jessixa Batley
The winners’ lineup, from left: Gordon C. James, E.B. Goodale, Bianca Díaz, Evan Turk, Derrick Barnes, Elaine Magliaro, and Jessixa Bagley.

Accepting their awards, some of our honorees talked about what drives their work:

  _3b_Bianca Díaz, New Illustrator Honor, The One Day House

I grew up in Pilsen, a Mexican American neighborhood in Chicago that was infused with magic, and was the inspiration for the art in this book. My parents met in that neighborhood, both children of Mexican immigrants. Because of the struggle of my abuelos and my parents, I’m able to stand here before you as an artist. It is truly a privilege to be an artist and a creative person, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity.

I do this work because writing stories and making art helps me understand who I am. I do it because I owe it to myself, to my family and to my cousins and my community to pursue my wildest dreams and create positive representations of us and our culture. I am from neither here nor there, neither fully Mexican or American, and fully proud to be both. I live in the borderlands created by an unjust wall.

_2b_Jessixa Bagley, New Writer Honor, Laundry Day

I am sure The Snowy Day is as dear to your hearts as it is to mine. The simple yet rich adventure of a day in the life of Peter as he plays in the snow is to me the perfect picture book. Keats brings in abstract painting techniques and pairs it with poetry that is minimalist, tender, and breathtaking. This is a constant motivation for me to create something as perfectly balanced one day. There are moments that roll around in my mind, much like my favorite line: “And he thought and thought and thought about them.”

Most people don’t understand how hard it is to write a line like that. To tell a story in such a small amount of space requires a deft hand. Those 32 pages, if done right, can transport the reader to a whole new world and make them connect to their own heart. To do that in 500 words or less, needless to say, is a challenge. I might never make books as perfect to readers as The Snowy Day is to me, but if nothing else, I hope I can make them think and think and think about them.

_1b_Elaine Magliaro, New Writer Honor, Things to Do

As an elementary teacher, I found that poetry was the best tool for teaching children about language and how to use words to express meaning and emotion…for teaching them how to write creatively…and for helping them to unlock their own unique voices–as it did for me.

In Things to Do, a little girl looks out her window at dawn, goes outside and experiences the joy of a summer day. She feeds birds, observes honeybees flitting among flowers, splashes in puddles, listens to crickets…wonders at nature. This was my childhood–which I never let go of. Maybe because I spent my adult life around young children.

The work of children is play. Childhood is a time for stopping to really look at things. It’s a time for imagining…daydreaming…exploring…getting excited about ordinary things that grownups overlook. Childhood should never be hurried. That is something I have tried to keep in mind as a teacher…as a parent…as a granny…and as an author who writes for young children.

_4b-goodaleE.B. Goodale, New Illustrator Honor, Windows

On a summer day in 2014, Julia [Denos, the author and a dear friend] sent me an email with the subject line, “Here’s my little window book so far.” In it was Windows, almost exactly the same as it is today. She wondered if I might be interested in illustrating it and I responded, “I think you just wrote the book that I’ve been thinking about for my whole life!” (And I wasn’t exaggerating!).

So I made one sample image, very similar to the cover of the finished book, and Julia and I actually pitched the book as a team. At the time it felt like the most natural thing,

Windows is such a synthesis of our vision, mine and Julia’s, that I truly feel like we made it together. For that reason, I will always see it as a book about friendship.

Statements have been condensed and edited.