February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Chieri Uegaki and Chris Haughton Win 2015 Ezra Jack Keats Book Awards


The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation in partnership with the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi announced the winners of the 29th annual Ezra Jack Keats (EJK) Book Award on February 11. Each year, the award honors new authors and illustrators of children’s books. The 2015 winners are Chieri Uegaki, author of Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin (Kids Can Pr.) and Chris Haughton for the illustrations in Shh! We Have a Plan (Candlewick).

“The Ezra Jack Keats Book Award celebrates and inspires exceptional new writers and illustrators, who are seldom recognized in the early stages of their careers,” says Deborah Pope, executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “These new artists have created books of beauty in the spirit of Keats that portray the universal qualities of childhood, a strong and supportive family and the multicultural nature of our world.”

Ellen Ruffin, curator of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection says, “It is a privilege to administer the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award. The de Grummond Collection’s holdings of Keats’s work remind us of the unique contributions he made to the world of children’s literature. We enthusiastically embrace the 2015 EJK Book Award winners, whose own books may one day join Ezra’s in the de Grummond Collection.”

Uegaki’s Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin is a celebration of music, multicultural studies, and intergenerational relations. The title character has signed up to play the violin at her school’s talent show. The trouble is that she’s had only three lessons. Hana’s brothers tell her she isn’t good enough, but she is determined to prove them wrong. Inspired by her talented grandfather, or Ojiichan, who played the violin when she visited him in Japan, she practices every day. Though her confidence wavers a bit on the night of the show, Hana surprises everyone, including herself, and delivers her best performance ever.

Uegaki said, “Learning that I would be the recipient of this year’s Ezra Jack Keats Book Award for new writer was one of the most surreal moments of my writing life to date. I wrote Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, because I wanted to pay tribute to my two grandfathers. I also tried to write the kind of story that I would have wanted to read as a child and to create the kind of main character I would have wanted to see in a picture book. To now have that effort recognized by the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award jury is an honor that is altogether wonderful, humbling and incredibly encouraging.”

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin was illustrated by Qin Leng.

Haughton created a nocturnal landscape of deep purples and blues for Shh! We Have a Plan. Four friends creep through the woods and spot an exquisite bird high in a tree! “Hello birdie,” waves one. “Shh! We have a plan,” hush the others. They stealthily make their advance, nEJKAward_NEWgold_layeredets in the air. As one comically foiled plan follows another, it becomes clear that their quiet, observant companion, hand outstretched, has a far better idea. Haughton’s boldly graphic, vibrantly colorful illustrations convey the humor in this simple story of best laid plans going awry.

Haughton said, “It is an honour to be presented with the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award. I’m a huge fan of Keats’ work and am very inspired by his collages and deceptively simple graphic approach. More than that though, what I admire most is his forward-thinking spirit and the inclusivity and kindness that emanate from his work. In the central image in Shh! We Have a Plan, the individual colours of the birds surrounding the main character come together to form a hopeful rainbow. The message of the image, and of the book, is the power of kindness and the courage to do things differently and stand up against the status quo. These messages are ones I see throughout Keats’ life and work, and it is a huge honor to be associated with him through this award.”

Shh! We Have a Plan was written and illustrated by Haughton.

In addition to the award winners, five authors and illustrators received 2015 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Honors:

2015 New Author Honor

  • Adam Auerbach for Edda: A Little Valkyrie’s First Day of School (published by Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of Henry Holt; illustrated by Adam Auerbach)

  • Alan Rabinowitz for A Boy and a Jaguar (published by Houghton Harcourt; illustrated by Cátia Chien)

  • Misty Copeland for Firebird (published by Putnam Books for Young Readers; illustrated by Christopher Myers)

2015 New Illustrator Honor

  • Evan Turk for Grandfather Gandhi (published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers; written by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus)

  • Mike Curato for Little Elliot, Big City (published by Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers; written by Mike Curato)

The 2015 award ceremony will be held on April 9 during the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. The winners receive a gold medallion as well as an honorarium of $1,000.

Deborah Wiles, the 2002 recipient of the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award for new writer for her picture book Freedom Summer, will be guest presenter; renowned illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky, recipient of the 2015 University of Southern Mississippi Silver Medallion, will keynote.

The Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Criteria

To be eligible for the 2015 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award, the author and/or illustrator will have no more than three children’s picture books published prior to the year under consideration.

The selection committee is comprised of early childhood education specialists, librarians, illustrators and experts in children’s literature, including: Caroline Ward, chair, Rita Auerbach, Carolyn Brodie, Jason Chin, Pat Cummings, K.T. Horning, Sean Qualls, Lisa Von Drasek, and Paul O. Zelinsky.

Ex-Officio members are: Deborah Pope, executive director, Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, and Ellen Ruffin, curator, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection.

For a complete list of past Ezra Jack Keats Book Award winners, visit the Ezra Jack Keats Award website.

For information about submissions, visit the De Grummond Children’s Literature Collection website.

About the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

Founded by the late Caldecott award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats, 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 experience 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.

About the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection

The de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi is one of North America’s leading research centers in the field of children’s literature. The Collection holds the original manuscripts and illustrations of more than 1,300 authors and illustrators, as well as 180,000+ mostly American and British published books dating back to 1530. Since 1985, the de Grummond Collection has been the home of the Ezra Jack Keats Archive, which includes manuscripts, typescripts, sketches, dummies, illustrations, and proofs for Ezra Jack Keats’ books.