Students from Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan took top honors in the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation’s annual Bookmaking Competition. Each year, one citywide winner is chosen from each of three grade levels: elementary, middle school, and high school.
The citywide winners joined the borough winners (five from each grade level) and the honorable mentions to accept their medal in a ceremony at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library in May. In addition, citywide winners were handed a check for $500 (and borough winners received $100) from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. Students and teachers alike also received swag — books for the children, and gift order forms for the adults, all generously donated by Penguin Random House.
The books were on display during the month of May at the annual Brooklyn Public Library exhibition at Grand Army Plaza.
The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, in partnership with the city’s Department of Education, has held the competition for more than 30 years.
“Ezra first received recognition for his talent at public school,” says Deborah Pope, executive director of the foundation, named for children’s book author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats, whose classic book, “The Snowy Day,” won the 1963 Caldecott Medal. “The bookmaking program gives us the opportunity to call attention to the unparalleled benefits of a strong public school system. And we hope the experience, and the award, will inspire these young talents to pursue their dreams, as Ezra did.”
Here are the citywide winners:
Elementary (grades 3–5)
Amber Siurano, “The Story of the Mirabal Sisters”
The fourth-grader at PS 63 Old South School in Queens wanted to honor her great-grandfather by writing about women who fought for the same cause.
“History is my passion, and I was inspired to write about the fascinating story of the Mirabal sisters. My mom told me about them and how they stood up to and fought against the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. The Mirabal sisters inspired me to tell their story so that they would not be forgotten. I dedicate my book to my great-grandfather, who inspired me, too.”
Middle school (grades 6–8)
Elizabeth Abramowitz, “Life of a Brighton Beach Sparrow”
Abramowitz, a sixth grader at IS 98 Bay Academy in Brooklyn, created a children’s book about her neighborhood and her favorite inhabitant.
“Brighton Beach is a vibrant, diverse area, home to people from all over the world, and where being different is okay. My inspiration for this book came from watching the sparrows. I thought it would be a great idea to write about Brighton Beach as seen through the eyes of a sparrow named Wings. I wanted to convey my ideas through colorful illustrations that reflect the beauty of my neighborhood.”
High school (grades 9–12)
Jennifer Huang, “He Abandoned Us”
A senior at Manhattan’s Stuyvesant High School, Huang made a pop-up book to test her theories about God.
“The seven sins and God have always been topics of interest to me. I used what I had studied from the Bible to re-create a possible theory: After six days of creation, instead of resting, God abandoned us on the seventh day. The reason could be that the people sinned. I used silhouettes of fairy tale characters to depict the seven deadly sins. I wanted to prove that our favorite characters — heroes and heroines, along with villains — were not without faults. Perhaps God left because the humans He made in His image were failures, unworthy of miracles and of His presence.”
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The annual competition begins each fall, and ends in January, when one student-made book is selected to represent each school and sent on to the Department of Education for the judging, in February.
The bookmaking process is integrated into classroom instruction with a strong emphasis on the study of picture books. Under the supervision of a teacher or librarian, the students create engaging text and illustrations using a range of media. Expressive writing and artwork are strongly encouraged.
For a complete list of citywide and borough winners, visit 2017 Bookmaking Competition Winners at the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation website, www.ezra-jack-keats.org.