Ezra Jack Keats

Ezra Jack Keats

Ezra Jack Keats (March 11 1916May 6 1983), author of "The Snowy Day", was an easel artist and one of the most important children's literature authors and illustrators of the 20th Century.

Keats is best known for introducing multiculturalism into mainstream American children's literature. He was one of the first children’s book authors in the English-speaking world to use an urban setting for his stories, and he developed the use of collage as a medium for illustration.

Early career

, along with the books that follow it.

In the books that Keats wrote and illustrated, he used a number of innovative techniques to portray his subjects in a unique manner. One of these was his blending of gouache with collage, as well as other multimedia art formats. Another was the problem-solving aspect of his books—each main character solves a problem that faces children of that age. A feature of his characters is that they evolve in dealing with the changing problems that confront children as they grow up. For instance, in "The Snowy Day", little Peter, about four years old, realizes that he should not try to join in some of the activities of the bigger children when he is knocked down by a stray snowball. As Peter grows, he learns how to react to the problems of becoming an older brother ("Peter’s Chair"), to stand up to the ridicule of his peers when he decides to invite a girl, his friend Amy, to his birthday party ("A Letter to Amy"), and to avoid the violence of a gang of older boys ("Goggles!").

Many of Keats' stories illustrate family life and the simple pleasures that a child has in his daily routine. "Jennie's Hat" illustrates the excitement of a child waiting for a present, and the anticipation of what the present would look like. In "Louie", a child learns to cope with moving away from his old neighborhood, and that he can make new ones ("The Trip"). "Goggles" tells the story of finding a pair of goggles, and the chase that follows the boys through the streets of a neighborhood, when the big bullies want to snatch the goggles from them. Keats drew upon his experiences, but these are also the experiences of children growing up in neighborhoods and communities in many parts of the world.

Keats illustrated over 85 books for children, also writing the stories for 24 of them. The Ezra Jack Keats Archive is housed at The University of Southern Mississippi as part of the deGrummond Children's Literature Collection.

Death and legacy

In 1983, Keats died following a heart attack. His last projects included designing the sets for a musical version of his book "The Trip", designing a poster for the New Theater of Brooklyn, and writing and illustrating "The Giant Turnip", a beloved folktale. He never married.

The Ezra Jack Keats Book Award was established in 1985 to recognize and encourage authors and illustrators new to the field of children's books. The Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Awards are given annually to an outstanding new writer and an outstanding new illustrator of picture books for children (age 9 and under) and are presented jointly by the New York Public Library and the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

Honors, monuments, memorials

* His work traveled around the world as part of a United States State Department Exhibit.
* Keats was the first designer (by invitation) of greeting cards for UNICEF.
* A retrospective of Keats’s art was featured at the New York Public Library and at the Children’s Library of Manhattan.
* A novel Imagination Playground was set up by the Prospect Park Alliance in Brooklyn, New York, based on the characters from Keats’s books. The centerpiece is a much visited bronze statue of Peter, reading "The Snowy Day" while sitting on a rock, with one hand on his pet dog Willie, and his little chair (from "Peter’s Chair") nearby.
* Keats is commemorated with a flagstone in the Celebrity Walk in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
* He was an invited speaker at the Iran International Book Festival.
* Japan named an ice-skating rink after him, commemorating the book "Skates".
* Keats appeared on television with Fred Rogers several times.
* He was awarded The University of Southern Mississippi Silver Medallion in 1980 during the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival as outstanding children’s book author-illustrator.
* Portland, Oregon, honored his work with a city-wide parade, as did his readers in Tokyo, Japan.
* Keats' works have been translated into 19 languages, including Japanese, French, Danish, Norwegian, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Turkish, German, Swedish, Thai, Chinese, and Korean.
* The Ezra Jack Keats International School in Brooklyn was named for him (PS 253)


Books written and illustrated

* "A Letter to Amy"
* "Apt. 3"
* "Clementina's Cactus"
* "My Dog is Lost!"
* "The Snowy Day" (winner, Caldecott Medal, 1963)
* "Whistle for Willie" (honor book, Caldecott Medal)
* "John Henry, An American Legend"
* "Jennie's Hat"
* "God is in the Mountain"
* "Peter's Chair"
* "Goggles!" (winner, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award; Hon. Mention, Caldecott Medal)
* "Hi, Cat!"
* "Pet Show!"
* "Skates!"
* "Psst! Doggie!"
* "Dreams"
* "Kitten for a Day"
* "Louie"
* "The Trip"
* "Maggie and the Pirate"
* "Louie's Search"
* "Regards to the Man in the Moon"
* "One Red Sun"

Books illustrated

* "Jubilant for Sure" (by Elisabeth Hubbard Lansing)
* "Indian Two Feet and His Horse" (by Margaret Friskey)
* "In a Spring Garden" (Richard Lewis, editor)
* "The Little Drummer Boy" (by Katherine Davis, Henry Ohorati and Harry Simeone)
* "Over in the Meadow" (by Olive A. Wadsworth)
* "The King's Fountain" (by Lloyd Alexander)
* "The Naughty Boy: A Poem" (by John Keats)
* "Tia Maria's Garden" (by Ann Nolan Clark)
* "The Chinese Knew" (by T.S. Pine and J. Levine)
* "The Eskimos Knew" (by T. S. Pine and J. Levine)
* "The Flying Cow" (by Ruth P. Collins)
* "Our Rice Village in Cambodia" (by R. Tooze)
* "Jim Can Swim" (by Helen D. Olds)
* "The Egyptians Knew" (by T.S. Pine and J. Levine)
* "Speedy Digs Downside Up" (by Maxine W. Kumin)
* "Zoo, Where Are You?" (by Ann McGovern)
* "How to be a Nature Detective" (by Millicent E. Selsam)
* "In the Park: An Excursion in Four Languages" (by Esther R. Hautzig)
* "Two Tickets to Freedom: The True Story of Ellen and Willian Craft, Fugitive Slaves" (by Florence B. Freedman)
* "Penny Tunes and Princesses" (by Myron Levoy)
* "The Indians Knew" (by T.S.Pine and J. Levine)


*Engel, Dean and Florence Freedman. "Ezra Jack Keats: A Biography with Illustrations". Silver Moon Press, 1995.
*Alderson, Brian. "Ezra Jack Keats: Artist and Picture-Book Maker". Pelican Publishing Company, 1994.
*"Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults: A Selection of Sketches" from "Something about the Author", edited by Laurie Collier and Joyce Nakamura. Gale Research, 1993.
* [http://www.edupaperback.org/showauth.cfm?authid=32 Biography from the Educational Paperback Association]
* [http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum/keats/biography.html Biography from The University of Southern Mississippi]
* [http://www.ezra-jack-keats.org Ezra Jack Keats Foundation Web Site]

External links

*"Keats's Neighborhood", a 40th anniversary collection of picture book stories by Ezra Jack Keats, Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers (2002) ISBN 0670035866
* [http://www.ezra-jack-keats.org/programs/nyplawards.htm Information about the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer's and New Illustrator's Award]
* [http://childrensbooks.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=childrensbooks&cdn=parenting&tm=321&gps=309_974_1276_835&f=00&su=p284.8.150.ip_&tt=2&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//www.lib.usm.edu/%7Edegrum/keats/main.html Virtual exhibit of the Ezra Jack Keats Archive with useful links]

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