Ezra Jack Keats Foundation
Known collectively as the Ezra Jack Keats Award, the New Writer Award was established in 1985 and the New Illustrator Award in 2001 to recognize and encourage emerging talent in the field of children’s books. Many past winners have gone on to distinguished careers, creating books beloved by parents, children, librarians and teachers around the world. The EJK Award is given annually to an outstanding new writer and new illustrator by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. An Honor Books category was added in 2012. A distinguished selection committee of early childhood education specialists, librarians, illustrators and experts in children’s literature reviews the entries, seeking books that portray the universal qualities of childhood, a strong and supportive family, and the multicultural nature of our world. The EJK Award was co-presented by the New York Public Library from 1986 to 2011. Since 2012, the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection has co-presented the award at the Children’s Book Festival, held in April at the University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg. To be eligible, writers and illustrators must have had no more than three books previously published. The award includes a prize of $3,000 for each winner.
In April, the winners of the EJK Award travel to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to accept their prizes at a luncheon honoring Ezra Jack Keats. The event, part of the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, is hosted by the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi. The de Grummond and USM have had a long, fruitful relationship with Keats and the EJK Foundation. In 1980 USM awarded Ezra the Silver Medallion for Outstanding Service in the Field of Children’s Literature. In 1985 the Collection became the home of the Keats Archive, the exclusive repository of original Keats artwork and papers. Under the stewardship of curator Ellen Ruffin, the de Grummond has mounted exhibitions of Keats’s work and lent material for others, such as the major retrospective “The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats” (2011-14). The Foundation brought the Award to USM in 2012, to be administered by the de Grummond. The Collection, founded in 1966 by educator Lena de Grummond, is a leading research center in children’s literature. Its holdings include books spanning nearly five centuries, original manuscripts and illustrations, children’s periodicals and games, and bibliographical and critical works. The de Grummond is well-known for its archives of great children’s authors and illustrators, folklore and fairy tales, and African-American illustrated literature. We are thrilled to work with Ellen Ruffin and her staff and USM to preserve the Keats legacy and contribute to the future of children’s literature.