Highlights from the 2019 Ezra Jack Keats Award Ceremony and Kaigler Children’s Book Festival included: Traveling to the festival in a grand caravan of extraordinary children’s book makers and one rock star librarian. Here we all are, Sophie Blackall, Paul Zelinsky, Chris Raschka, Brian Floca and Caroline Ward, what a group! And that was only the beginning. An extraordinary tribute to the legendary Richard Peck, one of the giant authors of young adult fiction, who died earlier this year. Richard loved the de Grummond and that is now where his papers reside. Richard’s affection for the de Grummond was richly returned. Sophie Blackall, Paul Zelinsky, Louise Borden and William Joyce, as well as Richard’s sister, Cheryl were among those who spoke about his generosity, his keen interest in the lives and fortunes of his friends, his sense of style and, of course, his talent. The EJK Award Ceremony itself was amazing. John Sullivan brought the audience to its feet speaking about his almost thirty year journey to having his first book, Kitten and the Night Watchman, published. Oge Mora’s description of how she was inspired by the strong women in her family and by the books of Ezra Jack Keats. Jessica Love’s poetic description of colors not as nouns but as verbs and Matt James humorous tribute to Ezra’s Apt.3 as the book that both frightened and thrilled him as a boy. Caroline Ward’s presentation of the authors and writers was superb and it was a special thrill to have the awards presented by Sophie, who is herself the 2003 EJK Award winner (illustrator).
In addition to the outstanding presentations made by Sophie, Brian, Paul and Chris, it was amazing to be surrounded by the words of Javaka and Bweela Steptoe, William Joyce, and Louise Borden.
Last but not at all least, Ellen Ruffin was an extraordinary host. Her warmth and humor made every announcement, no matter how serious or slight, a pleasure. Karen Rowell, Director of the Festival and Heather__________, Co-Director made everything, including what could have been disasters, go by without a hitch.
Each year, the EJK Award Ceremony and the Kaigler Children’s Book Festival prove to be transformative experiences. My advice? Come and see for yourself!