Young bookmakers shine in annual contest

Brooklyn and Queens students took home the top awards at the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation’s annual Bookmaking Competition for third through 12th grades.

Student-made books that won the citywide, borough-wide and school-wide levels, as well as honorable mentions, were on display at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library at Grand Army Plaza in May. The citywide and borough winners and honorable mention recipients accepted their medals at an awards ceremony at the Tweed Courthouse, headquarters of the New York City Department of Education. In addition, the citywide winners received $500 and borough winners $100 from the foundation.

The foundation is named for children’s books author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats, who won the 1963 Caldecott Medal for illustrating “The Snowy Day,” which he also wrote.

John Lee’s “When Fall Turns Into Winter.”

“Ezra first received recognition for his talent at public school, which encouraged him to pursue his dreams,” says Deborah Pope, executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “Our hope is that this award will inspire these talented young writers and illustrators to follow their dreams, too.”

• • •

Citywide elementary (grades 3–5) winner: “When Fall Turns Into Winter,” written and illustrated by John Lee.

The fifth-grader at PS 193 in Whitestone, Queens wanted to express his love of nature through scenes of the changing season.

Citywide middle school winner Amelia Samoylov.

“I got the idea for my book when I was outside — the falling leaves from the trees and the changing of the seasons caught my attention and became my inspiration,” said the Alfred J. Kennedy School student. “I’ve liked to draw pictures of animations and the environment ever since I was young. I used pastels for the drawings in my book, because I had so many colors to choose from, and because I could smudge the colors together to shade my work. This is the first contest I’ve ever won, so I’m very excited!”

• • •

Citywide middle school (grades 6–8) winner: “The History Wheel of Coney Island,” written and illustrated by Amelia Samoylov.

Samoylov, an eighth-grader at IS 98 in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, constructed a Ferris wheel with movable parts to showcase her book about Coney Island.

Amelia Samoylov’s “The History Wheel of Coney Island.”

“My home — Coney Island — is such a special place and so close to my heart that I wanted to learn about its rich history and share it with others. Because the Ferris wheel is such a big part of Coney Island, I created a large, movable one that became the centerpiece of my book,” said the Bay Academy for Arts and Sciences student. “I included other famous landmarks such as Luna Park and Nathan’s, too. I used different materials such as a simple cardboard box, thick paper, chalks, and watercolor pencils to make the book special.”

• • •

Citywide high school (grades 9–12) winner: “The Brown M Train,” written and illustrated by Kevin Zeng.

The 12th-grader at PS 77 in Park Slope, Brooklyn used his book to argue against subway service changes since Hurricane Sandy.

Citywide high school winner Kevin Zeng.

“I made my book as a protest. I want the MTA to reinstate the brown M train. Now I have to ride the R train, which is too slow and too crowded. So many people get off the R train at once that I can’t even run down the stairs fast enough to catch the train!” said Zeng. “I love to draw, so using colored pencils, I spent three months drawing pictures for my book and making a case for bringing the M train back. I presented my book to the president of the MTA. I’ve also started a petition. I’m not going to give up until the brown M train is back in service!”

• • •

Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina spoke at the ceremony, welcoming the winning students and their families and teachers to the Tweed Courthouse. Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda E. Johnson gave the keynote address, and acclaimed children’s book author-illustrator and educator Pat Cummings was the guest speaker.

The annual competition begins each fall, when public school students are invited to come up with an intriguing theme for their books.

Kevin Zeng’s “The Brown M Train.”

The 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 2015 Bookmaking Competition Winners at the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation website,