Press Release: 2016 EJK Bookmaking Awards in Baltimore

EJK Bookmaking

Posted 5/16/2016

Sheree Wichard

Winners of the First Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition in Baltimore
Announced By Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

Baltimore Winners
The city-wide winning books of the first Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition in Baltimore are: From left, The Invasion of the Creatures, written by Liahna Rebello and illustrated by Kenzi Merchant, grade 4, Monarch Academy; Trust Killsby Trey Robinson, Jr., grade 11, Patterson High School; and Kyonom, by Marc Miango, grade 8, Garrett Heights Elementary School.

Baltimore—May 16, 2016—The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, in partnership with Enoch Pratt Free Library, The Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Jump in Studio and Baltimore City Public Schools announced the winners of the first Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition in Baltimore for grades 3–12. School-wide winning books are on display in the Fiction and Teen Department of the Central Library May 16th through June 6th.

At an awards ceremony at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum on May 14th, during  the African American Children’s Book Festival, the three city-wide winners and three runners-up were given medals. In addition, the winners will receive $500 and the runners-up $100.

And this year, in honor of the late author-illustrator Ezra Jack Keats’s 100th birthday, each of the educators who assisted the winners and runners-up will also receive an award—a gift certificate that will allow them to choose 25 children’s books (picture, middle school or young adult) contributed by Keats’s publisher, Penguin Random House.

“It’s a thrill for us to bring the EJK Bookmaking Competition, which just celebrated its 30th year in New York and 4th year in San Francisco, to Baltimore. This year’s talented young writers and illustrators have worked over many weeks to bring their creative ideas to life through books,” says Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

Says Shadra Strickland, lead organizer of the Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition in Baltimore and founder of Jump In Studio, “As the 2008 winner of the EJK Book Award, I know first-hand how impactful it is for young artists to be recognized for their work. The books submitted to the inaugural competition reflect the multicultural nature of our city and the incredible talent in our schools.”

The Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition is divided into three categories: elementary (grades 3–5), middle school (grades 6–8), and high school (grades 9–12).

City-wide Winners

Elementary School winners:
The Invasion of the Creatures, written by Liahna Rebello and illustrated by Kenzi Merchant (grade 4)
Monarch Academy
Book Summary: They’re horrible, they’re terrible, and they’re going to destroy the world! Can Liahna and Kenzi stop the OW species, which was created by Professor Lunatic?
Liahna says:  “I asked Kenzi, ‘Do you want to create your own species?’ She said, ‘Yes!’ I said, ‘Do you want them to be more like human, animals, plants or aliens?’ ‘Um…’ said Kenzi. ‘How about all of them!’ So we combined them all to get…the Huanplow! We called them the ‘OW’ species, and combined other things to get the other OWs. Then we made them try to invade the world!”
Kenzi says:  “Coming up with the story was more challenging than the art because we had to come up with ideas of what was going to come next, and keep it funny. We decided to add ourselves into the book, too. My favorite page is when we were outside of the jewel-covered door and I was worried about someone eating us!”

Middle School winner:
Kyonom, by Marc Miango (grade 8)
Garrett Heights Elementary School
Book summary: Kyonom is about a wild boy who has no name and is filled with terrible feelings of hate. His spiritual quest is to overcome his feelings and discover his true self.
Marc says: “I was inspired by many artists and manga to create Kyonom.”

High School winner:
Trust Kills, by Trey Robinson, Jr. (grade 11)
Patterson High School
Book summary: Trust Kills is a story of life or death. Short on rent for the month, our protagonist trusts a friend to help him earn a bit of quick money. Things take a turn for the worse.
Trey says: “The story is based off real-life experiences. I wanted to inform readers that people who present themselves as your friends may truthfully have your worst interest at heart. I found my images online, altered and laid them out on the computer, then printed, cropped and glued the pages. Finally, I used a needle and thread to bind my book. Binding books takes a lot of patience. I wanted the book to have a dark and ominous theme and wanted the illustrations to convey that. I used black-and-white images to create a dramatic feeling and added red for emphasis.”


This year’s judges were:

  • Shadra Strickland, illustration professor, Maryland Institute College of Art
  • Deborah Taylor, Coordinator, School and Students Services, Enoch Pratt Free Library
  • Terry Taylor, Education Programs Manager, The Reginald F. Lewis Museum
  • Elizabeth Napier, Education Specialist, Baltimore City Schools

About the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

Founded by Ezra Jack Keats, the late Caldecott award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation fosters children’s love of reading and creative expression by supporting arts and literacy programs in public schools and libraries; cultivating new writers and illustrators of exceptional picture books that reflect the experiences of childhood in our diverse culture; and protecting and promoting the work of Keats, whose book The Snowy Day broke the color barrier in mainstream children’s publishing. Keats. Imagination. Diversity.

For more information about the Foundation, please visit