Forty-three students from all over the city received awards for the books they wrote and illustrated for the competition, with winning titles ranging from Robert the Raindrop’s Happy Day to Journey to the Center of the Digestive System.
The winning books were on display in the children’s room at the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library from May 5 until May 23.
The competition honors the work of author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats, who is known for being one of the first authors to feature black children as heroes in his books. His first book, The Snowy Day, featured a black child as the main character and won him a Caldecott Medal in 1963.
“It doesn’t matter their color, their shape, anything,” Dr. Martin Pope said in a video about his friend Keats, “they’re all his children, and he wants all of his children to have a great life, and he made them have a great life in his books.”
The winners of the competition, from grades three to 12, included both citywide winners and borough-wide winners. Each child received a medal and a gift bag from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation and the city Department of Education, who collaborated to host the competition.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina attended the event and spoke to the students, parents and teachers about her own relationship with books. She explained that during her childhood, she loved to check out the hardcover books from her local library. That love for reading has followed her throughout her life.
“Books are my life,” Farina said.
She spoke about her Book of the Month program, which asks that every principal read a book of her choosing each month and share it with their staff, if possible.
“Books have a way of defining us, but also they become more powerful when we read them together,” Farina said. “So children, congratulations to all of you. Continue to write and write and write, and most importantly, continue to read what you write to other people, because that’s the only way we grow.”