Press Release: 2020 EJK Bookmaking Competition

Posted 5/5/2020

Sheree Wichard

Winners of 2020 Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition Announced By Ezra Jack Keats Foundation and New York City Department of Education

In Response to the COVID-19 Crisis, Winning and Honorable Mention Books will be Featured in a Virtual Celebration and Exhibition Page on Brooklyn Public Library Website

The city winners of the 2020 Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition are: (L to R): The Telephone by Andre Kulikov (Grade 8, IS 98-The Bay Academy for the Arts & Sciences, Brooklyn, NY), The Comforts of Home by Nadine Baidan (Grade 11, LaGuardia High School, New York, NY) and World War II, by Patrick Szewczyk (Grade 4, PS 63Q-The Old South, Queens, NY).
The city winners of the 2020 Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition are: (L to R): The Telephone by Andre Kulikov (Grade 8, IS 98-The Bay Academy for the Arts & Sciences, Brooklyn, NY), The Comforts of Home by Nadine Baidan (Grade 11, LaGuardia High School, New York, NY) and World War II, by Patrick Szewczyk (Grade 4, PS 63Q-The Old South, Queens, NY).

NEW YORK—May, 5, 2020—NEW YORK—May 5, 2020—The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, has announced the winners of the 34th annual Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition for grades 3-12. The virtual Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition Celebration and exhibition of the student-made books will be featured on Brooklyn Public Library’s website during the month of May.

In an effort to assure that the inspiring work of these students is given appropriate attention, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), the Ezra Jack Keats (EJK) Foundation and the Department of Education (DOE) have teamed up to create this virtual celebration on BPL’s website. “We are determined that these accomplished students receive the applause they deserve for their beautiful books,” said Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the EJK Foundation. “Especially now, during this dark time, young people need to be reassured that their efforts can improve their lives, as well as enrich ours. This year, as we mourn so many losses, we can celebrate these students and educators for creating beautiful books that bring us hope for the future.”

The EJK Bookmaking Competition Celebration page will include an online catalogue of the winning and honorable mention books, an exhibition of the book covers of school winning books from throughout the five boroughs, statements from each participating institution and a video designed and narrated specifically for this celebration by award-winning children’s book author/illustrator Rowboat Watkins.

There will also be six “visits” to the Virtual EJK Bookmaking Celebration exhibition featuring award winning authors and illustrators: Bryan Collier, Selina Alko, Aram Kim, Carlos Hernandez, Heather Swain and Alan Katz. Students, educators, and guest artists will meet online to discuss the student-made books and the fun in reading, writing and illustrating.

City winners will receive $500, and the Borough winners, $100. All winners will receive medals and all student bookmakers will receive Certificates of Commendation. Due to COVID-19 restrictions all awards will be delivered through the mail. In previous years, winners were honored at an award ceremony which was held at Brooklyn Public Library.

“Each year our office looks forward to the collaborative nature of this most worthwhile project, working with our friends in the Division of Library Services at the DOE, Brooklyn Public Library, and of course the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation,” says Karen Rosner, Director of Visual Arts for the NYC Department of Education. “We marvel at each school wide winning book and applaud our talented students and their devoted teachers. These books offer such joy, especially in these challenging times. May the voices and the creative spirit of our students lift us all.”

“For the 10th year, Brooklyn Public Library is proud to showcase the innovative books made by our city’s talented young writers and illustrators,” says Kimberly Grad, Coordinator of School Age Services at Brooklyn Public Library. We are thrilled to create a special page on our website to celebrate their achievements, and even arrange for our annual visits from award-winning children’s book authors and illustrators to happen virtually.”

Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan Students Take Home Top Awards

The Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition is divided into three levels: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8 and Grades 9-12.

City Winners

Grades 3-5:

World War II, by Patrick Szewczyk (Grade 4, author/illustrator)
PS 63Q, The Old South School, Queens
Maria Panotopoulou, Visual Arts Teacher, Kathleen Cavanagh-Fleischmann, Librarian and Diane Marino, Principal

The winner says: “I love history, and wrote about World World II because it’s so sad and we need to remember how badly the children who were taken from their families were treated in concentration camps. This touched my heart because I am a kid, and Polish, and I cannot imagine myself in that situation. I wanted to show other kids that we live a better life and should appreciate what we have.”

The Telephone, by Andre Kulikov (Grade 8, author/illustrator)
IS 98, The Bay Academy for the Arts & Sciences, Brooklyn
Molly McGrath, Visual Arts Teacher, Marietta Falconieri, Librarian and Maria Timo, Principal

The winner says: “I have always been drawn to old-fashioned things because of how detailed and intricate they are. This ties in with my fascination around the stories and emotions behind these objects. They hold the energy of their previous owners, as well as that time period. I believe the items can give that energy back, which inspired me to write about it. By making this a children’s book, I was hoping it would make a younger audience appreciate the past.”

Grades 9-12:

The Comforts of Home, by Nadine Baidan (Grade 11, author/illustrator)
LaGuardia High School, New York City
Stephanie Mulvihil, Teacher, Yeou-Jey Vasconcelos, Principal

The winner says: “I came to America from the Philippines when I was four years old, and my book is based on my memories. First, I visualized things I’ve seen in the Philippines—the lush vegetation, the tropical climate, where my house was situated. My favorite page is one with a bread man because when I was little, the ‘real’ bread man would come by every morning and ring the bell. I could smell the bread when I made the page. Winning the EJK Bookmaking Award means I can achieve a lot of things I never thought possible and push to strive for more in the future.”


The Selection Panel, with Kimberly Grad as Chair, is composed of librarians, artists, teachers and others involved in promoting diversity in children’s literature. They focus on the quality of writing, illustrations and presentation. This year’s panel included:

  • Rowboat Watkins, Award-winning children’s book author and illustrator
  • Melissa Jacobs, Director of Library Services, NYC Dept. of Education
  • Elise Fauconier, Children’s Librarian, Queens Public Library
  • Ruth Guerrier-Pierre, Children’s Librarian, NYPL Kips Bay Branch
  • Jo Beth Ravitz, Artist and Art Consultant
  • Luann Toth, Managing Editor, Picture Book Reviews, School Library Journal (retired)
  • Donnette Riker, Senior Children’s Librarian, Brooklyn Public Library
  • Jessica Agudelo, Children’s Librarian, NYPL St. Agnes Branch
  • Darcy Tell-Morales, Associate Museum Educator, Education Dept., Metropolitan Museum of Art

About the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation has actively fostered children’s creativity and love of reading since 1985. The Foundation awards 70 EJK Mini-Grants annually to public schools and libraries, for arts and literacy programs, across 50 states; administers the EJK Bookmaking Competition,  grades 3-12, in the nation’s largest school system, for 34 years running; and, with the EJK Award, has, to date, encouraged over 90 exceptional early career authors and illustrators to create children’s books that reflect our diverse culture. In celebration of the 35th Anniversary of the EJK Award, the Foundation is about to launch a year-long public awareness and educational campaign in June 2020.

The EJK Foundation also protects and promotes the work of Ezra Jack Keats, whose book The Snowy Day broke the color barrier in children’s publishing. To learn more about the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, visit