Ezra Jack Keats
Guy Lochhead, 04/09/10
American children’s book author and illustrator. Keats was born to Polish immigrants in Brooklyn, New York. He was interested in art from an early age, but was discouraged to pursue it by his father, who worried about him living in poverty. After his father’s death on the day before his graduation, Keats had to turn down three art scholarships to provide for his family. He worked all day and took art classes at night, when he could. His illustrations incorporated collage and gouache in a style not seen in the field before. These were first published in 1954, in Elisabeth Lansing’s ‘Jubilant For Sure’. His first self-written book was published in 1960. Keats’ stories were significant in encouraging multiculturalism. His protagonists are of many races, and interact with all sorts of people. He felt there was a need to write about all sorts of kids, usually in the urban environment he knew so well. He also set up the Ezra Keats Foundation, to “support programs helpful to humanity”. Keats’ books are gentle but unpatronising stories that serve as guides to childhood and adolescent experiences. His relationship with his father was fascinating too. After his father’s untimely death, Keats found in his wallet newspaper cuttings of his son’s achievements. It’s a truly beautiful relationship, when looked into in more detail, and I’d like to include some reference to it. I will also include ‘The Snowy Day’, Keats’ tribute to the magic of waking up to snow, featuring his iconic protagonist Peter. Sickhead.

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