2019 Ezra Jack Keats Award Ceremony

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Deborah Pope, Chris Raschka, Sophie Blackall, Caroline Ward, Brian Floca, Bweela Steptoe, & Paul O. Zelinsky
Deborah Pope, Chris Raschka, Sophie Blackall, Caroline Ward, Brian Floca, Bweela Steptoe, & Paul O. Zelinsky

Highlights from the 2019 Ezra Jack Keats Award Ceremony and Kaigler Children’s Book Festival included:

Traveling to the festival in a grand caravan of extraordinary children’s book makers and one rock star librarian. Here we are, me, Chris Raschka, Caroline Ward, Brian Floca, Bweela Steptoe and Paul Zelinsky. What a group! And that was only the beginning.

An extraordinary tribute to the legendary Richard Peck, one of the giant authors of American young adult fiction, who died earlier this year. Richard loved the de Grummond, where his papers now reside. Richard’s affection for the de Grummond was richly returned. Sophie Blackall, Paul Zelinsky, Louise Borden and William Joyce, as well as Richard’s sister, Cheryl were among those who spoke about his generosity, his keen interest in the lives and fortunes of his friends, his sense of style and, of course, his talent.

The EJK Award Ceremony itself was amazing. John Sullivan brought the audience to its feet speaking about his almost thirty year journey to having his first book, Kitten and the Night Watchman, published. Oge Mora’s description of how she was inspired by the strong women in her family and by the books of Ezra Jack Keats warmed our hearts, as did Jessica Love’s poetic description of colors not as nouns but as verbs and Matt James humorous tribute to Ezra’s Apt.3 as the book that both frightened and thrilled him as a boy. Caroline Ward’s introductions to the authors and writers were superb and it was a special thrill to have the awards presented by Sophie, who is herself the 2003 EJK Award winner (illustrator).

In addition to the outstanding presentations made by Sophie, Brian, Paul and Chris, it was amazing to be surrounded by the words of Javaka and Bweela Steptoe, William Joyce, Kevin Lewis and Louise Borden to name only a few of the guests and speakers.

Last, but not at all least, Ellen Ruffin was an extraordinary host. Her warmth and humor made every announcement, no matter how serious or slight, a pleasure. Karen Rowell, Director of the Festival and Heather Moore, Co-Director, made everything, including what could have been disasters, go by without a hitch. I also give great credit to Drs. Teresa Welsh and Stacy Creel, both members of the Festival’s Steering Committee, whose vision of an incredible CBF was clearly realized.

Each year, the EJK Award Ceremony and the Kaigler Children’s Book Festival prove to be transformative experiences. My advice? Come and see for yourself!