Press Release: 2018 EJK Bookmaking Awards

Posted 4/18/2018

Sheree Wichard

Winners of 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition Announced By
Ezra Jack Keats Foundation and New York City Department of Education

City Winners Receive $500 Cash Prize; Winning Books and Honorable Mentions on Special Exhibit
May 1-20 at Brooklyn Public Library

Awards Also Given for Student-Made Books in San Francisco, Atlanta and Baltimore

The city winners of the 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition are: (L to R) Bulby’s Light, by Isabella Graziolo (grade 11, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, Manhattan); Under the Sea, by Anthony Hilaire and Angelo Ottaviano (grades 6 and 7, P.S. 77K, Brooklyn); The Witch’s Hat, by Sarah Chen (grade 12, Stuyvesant High School, Manhattan); and I Love to Read, by Raymond Chen (grade 3, P.S. 164, Caesar Rodney, Brooklyn). 

NEW YORK—May 18, 2018—The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, announced today the winners of the 32nd annual Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition for grades 3-12. The winning books and honorable mentions are on exhibit at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library (at Grand Army Plaza), in the Youth Wing, May 1-20.

At the awards ceremony, to be held on May 18 at Brooklyn Public Library, the city and borough winners and honorable mention recipients will be given medals. In addition, the city winners will receive $500, and the borough winners, $100. Each team of educators who assisted the winners will also receive an award—a gift certificate for their choice of 10 children’s books contributed by Keats’ publisher, Penguin Random House.

“Some of the city’s most imaginative young writers and illustrators have spent weeks bringing their ideas to life through the making of a book,” says Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “It was at public school that Ezra first received recognition for his talent, inspiring him to pursue his dreams. Our hope is that this award will inspire these young people as well.”

“Our students’ creativity, thoughtful work, and dedication are demonstrated in these wonderful picture books. Each book is evidence of the exemplary teaching and learning that occurs daily in our public schools,” says Karen Rosner, Coordinator of Visual Arts for the New York City Department of Education and supervisor of the Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking program. “The exhibition of the winning books at Brooklyn Public Library represents our richly diverse student body and the talent of our public school students.”

“For the seventh year, Brooklyn Public Library is proud to showcase the beautifully innovative books made by our city’s talented young writers and illustrators,” says Kimberly Grad, Coordinator of School Age Services at Brooklyn Public Library and one of the judges of the Competition. “The students who participated in this year’s EJK Bookmaking Competition truly embody the spirit of Ezra Jack Keats, who inspired so many readers and writers with his groundbreaking work.”

Brooklyn and Manhattan Students Take Home Top Awards

The Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition is divided into three categories: grades 3-5, grades 6-8 and grades 9-12. This year, there was a tie in the grades 9-12 category. Students in District 75 are encouraged to participate, and several are among our winners.

City-wide Winners

Grades 3-5:

I Love to Read, by Raymond Chen (Grade 3)
P.S. 164, Caesar Rodney, Brooklyn
David Chimoskey and Jayne Swan, Teachers; Erica Steinberg, Principal

The winner says:  “I read a lot! I’ve got a huge pile of books in my room and I read them all. My favorite part of my book is where I’m playing video games and I’m about to lose, so I try to read a book to get over the fact that I’m losing. This really happened to me!”

Grades 6-8:

Under the Sea, by Anthony Hilaire (Grade 6) and Angelo Ottaviano (Grade 7)
P.S. 77K, Brooklyn
Amie Robinson, Lauren Dolcemascolo and Kim Velez, Teachers; Ebony Russell, Principal

The winners say:
Anthony: “The octopus was our inspiration because it has eight arms and shoots ink. I drew all of the animals for the book using color pencils because some of them are so colorful. I can also draw all of the details better with color pencils. Angelo and I decided to include a window on each page so readers could be watching each sea creature as if they were on a submarine.”
Angelo: “I’m so proud we won! We worked on the book for two months! Looking up facts on the internet, spelling words and writing sentences was challenging, but Anthony helped me. And I helped him on the ocean illustrations by first painting the background for the water and then putting layers of ripped tissue paper in all sorts of blues over it to make it look real. I also used different greens for seaweed and yellow and pink for coral. The really fun part was watching Anthony draw because he is so good at it!”

Grades 9-12:

Bulby’s Light, by Isabella Graziolo (Grade 11)
Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, Manhattan
Yeon Ji Park, Teacher; Dr. Lisa Mars, Principal

The winner says: “I struggled quite a bit coming up with a concept for my story. And then…a light bulb went off, literally. I used this struggle as inspiration. Seeing my book evolve from an idea into a reality was very rewarding. I wish everyone who reads it walks away with this message: Be proud of the individual you are.”

The Witch’s Hat, by Sarah Chen (Grade 12)
Stuyvesant High School, Manhattan
Leslie Bernstein, Teacher; Eric Contreras, Principal

The winner says: “The idea for my book came from a mini-English project—we bring in something to share with the class, and on Halloween I brought in a personal art project. I created a spooky scene and included cutouts to tell an evolving story. My challenge was making a carousel-style book, as it requires precise measurements and cutting. I only worked with gray markers; color would have ruined the spooky effect.”


The Selection Panel 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 Guest Artist Kristen Balouch, award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, and:

  • Kimberly Grad, Coordinator of School Age Services, Brooklyn Public Library
  • Melissa Jacobs, Director of Library Services, New York City Department of Education
  • Yesha Naik, Senior Children’s Librarian, Brooklyn Public Library
  • Felix Plaza, Retired Children’s Librarian, Brooklyn Public Library
  • Jo Beth Ravitz, Artist and Art Consultant
  • Susan Straub, Early Literacy Consultant
  • Mark Tuchman, Art Director, School Library Journal
  • Phoebe Yeh, VP/Publisher, Crown Books for Young Readers

Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition Has Found Home in Four Cities

This year, winners of the 32nd annual EJK Bookmaking Competition will be honored at an awards ceremony at Brooklyn Public Library. The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco held its sixth annual awards ceremony on March 18, and Atlanta’s second-year winners received their awards in a ceremony at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on March 4. The Competition will enter its third year in Baltimore in September.

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. Recently, The Snowy Day was adapted by Amazon as a holiday special, which earned two Daytime Emmys®, including Outstanding Preschool Children’s Animated Program; and is the theme of a set of Forever stamps issued by the United States Postal Service. To learn more about the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, visit  Keats. Imagination. Diversity.