Ezra Jack Keats Award 35th Anniversary

The EJK Foundation has identified themes that may be of interest because of the universal experience of the subjects and therefore the rich possibilities for animated student discussion. Please choose a theme to see a synopsis of that theme and the associated list of books.


These books introduce communities in which people live, work, and play together in beneficial ways that aid, support, and encourage their members. The characters value one another and their shared spaces.

Emotions and Feelings

Social emotional learning builds on recognizing and managing one’s emotions. These books introduce characters who are feeling intense emotions, both positive and negative, and who find ways to respond to their feelings constructively, either on their own or with the help of other people.


The books portray relationships and interactions among young characters and their parents, grandparents, siblings, and other individuals who comprise their closest communities. The families are different, but each one radiates love, support, and encouragement.

First Day of School

These books share the anticipations and anxieties of children and parents who are beginning a new school year, providing validation of the characters’ feelings and reassurance that the first day may not be as scary as they initially thought.


These books honor friends who help, teach, encourage, and play with one another, showing how essential true friendships are to a full life.


Discovering who you are is an essential component of social emotional learning and gaining independence and confidence. In these books, characters explore their personal, familial, and cultural identities and become proud to express who they are.

Immigrants and Refugees

These stories highlight aspects of the immigrant and refugee experience, such as leaving behind relatives and friends, learning new languages, and adjusting to new cultures and circumstances. They are told through the perspectives of first and second generation immigrants.


These books feature characters responding to loss, such as the loss of a family member, friend, pet, or home. Learning to grieve is a difficult but essential part of social emotional learning.

Pets and Farm Animals

These books depict the joys and responsibilities of caring for animals at home and on farms, as well as the companionship, entertainment, and love provided by the animals.


These stories offer different examples of poetry, such as rhymes, list poems, cumulative poems, and odes, while also expanding the possibilities of what a poem can be and how it can be portrayed visually, as well as textually.

Seasons and Nature

These stories celebrate the wonders of nature and the four seasons, while also recognizing the sometimes harsh realities that are part of the natural world.


A positive self-image provides a foundation for social emotional learning. As the characters in these books navigate difficult or unfamiliar situations and master new skills, they develop greater self-knowledge, accompanying confidence, and increased independence.

Strong Girls

These books feature female protagonists who demonstrate strength of mind and spirit in a variety of ways, situations, times, and places.

  • 2022 New Illustrator Award

    Gracey Zhang
    Lala's Words

  • 2022 New Illustrator Award

    Kenesha Sneed
    Many Shapes of Clay

  • 2022 New Writer Honor

    Anne Wynter
    Everybody in the Red Brick Building
    Illustrated by Oge More

  • 2022 New Writer Award

    Paul Harbridge
    Out Into the Big Wide Lake

  • 2021 New Illustrator Award

    Steve Small
    I'm Sticking With You
    Written by Smriti Prasadam-Halls

  • 2021

    Heidi Woodward Sheffield
    Brick by Brick

  • 2021 New Writer Honor

    Jarrett & Jerome Pumphrey
    The Old Truck

  • 2021 New Writer Honor

    Raymond Antrobus
    Can Bears Ski?
    Illustrated by Polly Dunbar

  • 2021 New Writer Award

    Tricia Elam Walker
    Nana Akua Goes to School
    Illustrated by April Harrison

  • 2021 New Illustrator Honor

    Victoria Tentler-Krylov
    The Cyclops of Central Park
    Written by Madelyn Rosenberg

  • 2020 New Writer Honor

    Matthew Farina
    Lawrence in the Fall
    Illustrated by Doug Salati

  • 2020 New Writer Honor

    Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie
    Layla's Happiness
    Illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin

  • 2020 New Illustrator Honor

    Doug Salati
    Lawrence in the Fall
    Written by Matthew Farina

  • 2020 New Illustrator Honor

    Kate Read
    One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller
    Written by Kate Read

  • 2020 New Illustrator Honor

    Zeke Peña
    My Papi Has a Motorcycle
    Written by Isabel Quintero

  • 2020 New Illustrator Award

    Ashleigh Corrin
    Layla's Happiness
    Written by Mariahdessa Ekere Tallie

  • 2020 New Writer Award

    Sydney Smith
    Small in the City
    Illustrated by Sydney Smith

  • 2019 New Writer Honor

    Juana Martinez-Neal
    Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

  • 2019 New Illustrator Honor

    Jane McGuinness
    Prickly Hedgehogs!
    Written by Jane McGuinness

  • 2019 New Writer Honor

    Keith Calabrese
    Lena’s Shoes are Nervous
    Illustrated by Juana Medina

  • 2019 New Writer Honor

    Matt James
    The Funeral
    Illustrated by Matt James

  • 2019 New Illustrator Honor

    Jessica Love
    Julián is a Mermaid
    Written by Jessica Love

  • 2019 New Writer Award

    John Sullivan
    Kitten and the Night Watchman

  • 2019 New Illustrator Award

    Oge Mora
    Thank you, Omu!

  • 2018 New Writer Honor and New Illustrator Honor

    Bao Phi / Thi Bui
    A Different Pond

  • 2018 New Writer Honor

    Rachael Cole
    City Moon
    Illustrated by Blanca Gómez

  • 2018 New Illustrator Honor

    Gordon C. James
    Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
    Written by Derrick Barnes

  • 2018 New Writer Award

    Derrick Barnes
    Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
    Illustrated by Gordon C. James

  • 2018 New Writer Honor

    Jessixa Bagley
    Laundry Day

  • 2018 New Illustrator Honor

    Bianca Diaz
    The One Day House

  • 2018 New Writer Honor

    Elaine Magliaro
    Things to Do
    Illustrated by Catia Chien

  • 2018 New Illustrator Honor

    E.B. Goodale
    Written by Julia Denos

  • 2017 New Illustrator Honor

    Daisy Hirst
    The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head
    Written by Daisy Hirst

  • 2017 New Illustrator Award

    Micha Archer
    Daniel Finds a Poem

  • 2017 New Writer Honor

    Stacy McAnulty
    Excellent Ed
    Illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach

  • 2017 New Writer Award

    Jeri Watts
    A Piece of Home
    Illustrated by Hyewon Yum

  • 2016 New Illustrator Honor

    Ryan T. Higgins
    Mother Bruce

  • 2016 New Illustrator Honor

    Rowboat Watkins
    Rude Cakes

  • 2016 New Writer Honor

    Megan Dowd Lambert
    A Crow of His Own

  • 2016 New Writer Honor

    Julia Sarcone-Roach
    The Bear Ate Your Sandwich

  • 2016 New Illustrator Award

    Phoebe Wahl
    Sonya's Chicken

  • 2015 New Writer Award

    Chieri Uegaki
    Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

  • 2015 New Illustrator Award

    Chris Haughton
    Shh! We Have a Plan

  • 2015 New Illustrator Honor

    Mike Curato
    Little Elliot, Big City

  • 2015 New Illustrator Honor

    Evan Turk
    Grandfather Gandhi

  • 2015 New Writer Honor

    Misty Copeland

  • 2015 New Writer Honor

    Alan Rabinowitz
    A Boy and a Jaguar

  • 2015 New Writer Honor

    Adam Auerbach
    Edda: A Little Valkyrie’s First Day of School

  • 2014 New Illustrator Honor

    Aaron Meshon
    Take Me Out to the Yakyu

  • 2014 New Writer Award

    Ame Dyckman
    Tea Party Rules

  • 2014 New Illustrator Award

    Christian Robinson

  • 2014 New Illustrator Honor

    Marta Altés
    My Grandpa

  • 2014 New Illustrator Honor

    K.G. Campbell
    Tea Party Rules

  • 2014 New Writer Honor

    Linda Davick
    I Love You, Nose! I Love You, Toes!

  • 2014 New Writer Honor

    Pat Zietlow Miller
    Sophie’s Squash

  • 2013 New Illustrator Award

    Hyewon Yum
    Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten!

  • 2013 New Writer Award

    Julie Fogliano
    And Then It’s Spring

  • 2013 New Illustrator Honor

    Sanjay Patel
    Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth

  • 2013 New Illustrator Honor

    K.G. Campbell
    Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters

  • 2012 New Illustrator Honor

    David Ercolini
    Not Inside this House!

  • 2012 New Illustrator Award

    Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
    Same, Same but Different

  • 2012 New Writer Honor

    Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
    Same, Same but Different

  • 2012 New Writer Award

    Meg Medina
    Tía Isa Wants a Car

  • 2012 New Writer Honor

    Nicola Winstanley
    Cinnamon Baby

  • 2012 New Writer Honor and New Illustrator Honor

    Anna Witte (writer) and Micha Archer (illustrator)
    Lola’s Fandango

  • 2011 New Writer Award

    Laurel Croza
    I Know Here

  • 2011 New Illustrator Award

    Tao Nyeu
    Bunny Days

  • 2010 New Illustrator Award

    Taeeun Yoo
    Only a Witch Can Fly

  • 2009 New Illustrator Award

    Shadra Strickland

  • 2009 New Writer Award

    Stian Hole
    Garmann's Summer

  • 2008 New Writer Award

    David Ezra Stein

  • 2008 New Illustrator Award

    Jonathan Bean
    The Apple Pie that Papa Baked

  • 2007 New Writer Award

    Kelly Cunnane
    For You Are a Kenyan Child

  • 2007 New Illustrator Award

    Kristen Balouch
    Mystery Bottle

  • 2006 New Writer Award

    Mary Ann Rodman
    My Best Friend

  • 2006 New Illustrator Award

    Yunmee Kyong
    Silly Chicken

  • 2005 New Illustrator Award

    Ana Juan
    The Night Eater

  • 2004 New Illustrator Award

    Gabi Swiatkowska
    My Name Is Yoon

  • 2004 New Writer Award

    Jeron Ashford Frame
    Yesterday I Had the Blues

  • 2003 New Writer Award

    Shirin Yim Bridges
    Ruby's Wish

  • 2002 New Illustrator Award

    Jerome Lagarrigue
    Freedom Summer

  • 2001 New Illustrator Award

    Bryan Collier

  • 2001 New Writer Award

    D.B. Johnson
    Henry Hikes to Fitchburg

  • 2000 New Writer Award

    Soyung Pak
    Dear Juno

  • 1999 New Writer Award

    Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
    Elizabeti's Doll

  • 1997 New Writer Award

    Juan Felipe Herrera
    Calling the Doves (El canto de las palomas)

  • 1995 New Writer Award

    Cari Best
    Taxi! Taxi!

  • 1995 New Writer Award

    Cari Best
    Taxi! Taxi!

  • 1993 New Writer Award

    Faith Ringgold
    Tar Beach

  • 1991 New Writer Award

    Angela Johnson
    Tell Me a Story, Mama

  • 1989 New Writer Award

    Yoriko Tsutsui
    Anna's Special Present

  • 1987 New Writer Award

    Juanita Havill
    Jamaica's Find

  • 1986 New Writer Award

    Valerie Flournoy
    The Patchwork Quilt

  • New Writer Honor

    Yoriko Tsutsui
    Anna's Special Present