Young Brooklyn writers and illustrators were well-represented in the prestigious 33rd annual Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition. In fact, two of the three top city awardees this year are from the borough.
The awards are presented by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, in partnership with the New York City Department of Education. Students in grades three to 12 are eligible to compete.
At the award ceremony, held on Friday, May 17 at the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, the city and borough winners and honorable mention recipients were given medals.
In addition, the city winners received $500, and the borough winners, $100. Each team of educators who assisted the winners received a certificate and a collection of children’s books contributed by Penguin Random House, the publisher of the books of Ezra Jack Keats.
“For the eighth year, Brooklyn Public Library is proud to showcase the beautifully innovative books made by our city’s talented young writers and illustrators,” said Kimberly Grad, coordinator of School Age Services at Brooklyn Public Library and one of the judges of the competition.
“The students who participated in this year’s EJK Bookmaking Competition truly embody the spirit of Ezra Jack Keats, who inspired so many readers and writers with his groundbreaking work,” Grad went on.
The Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition is divided into three levels: Grades three to five, six to eight and nine to 12.
“Imaginative young writers and illustrators from public schools in each borough have spent months creating and polishing these stunning books,” says Deborah Pope, executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.
“It was in public school that Ezra first received recognition for his talent, inspiring him to pursue his dreams. We are proud to support today’s public schools, to help inspire the Ezra Jack Keatses of tomorrow.”
Tenth grader Annie Li from Brooklyn Technical High School earned top honors for her work “A Magical Place.” Eighth grader Sofia Kudelina from Brooklyn’s I.S. 98 Bay Academy for Arts & Sciences won for her book “Clutter.” Fifth graders Dasha Villalba and Mariana Ramos from P.S. 63 in Queens were awarded for their book “The Day that Changed the World Forever.”
Kudelina, who lives in Coney Island, was thrilled to receive the award. “Winning the Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition means that I’ve grown and improved as an artist,” said Kudelina. “It also shows me that my artwork can reach people in a special way which is my main goal.”
She went on to explain that the theme of her book, letting go of one’s clutter, can be beneficial to finding purpose in life. “This book was a perfect opportunity for exploration, and winning the award serves as a milestone,” she said, adding, “I will use the prize money to visit my grandmother in Russia.”
Li also viewed the award as a validation of something she loves to do. “I live in Borough Park. Winning the Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition really means a lot to me because it gives me the motivation to draw more and is proof that art can really get me places,” Li told this paper.
The selection panel was composed of librarians, artists, teachers and others involved in promoting diversity in children’s literature, with the main focus on the quality of writing, illustrations and presentation.
Pope said she was proud of everyone who entered the competition. “The students, educators and families who dedicate themselves to creating these books are proof of the success possible in our public schools,” said Pope.
“The quality of the books they create are proof of the wealth of talent and resolve to be found throughout our public school student body. I am so proud to be part of this program because it provides a platform on which our children can shine.”