Fun Fact Friday: Ezra Jack Keats

Today’s “Fun Fact Friday” is focused on Ezra Jack Keats, author of “The Snowy Day,” “Peter’s Chair,” “Pet Show,” and many more classic books for children. With a career that spanned over 20 years, we have more than just one fact to share about the beloved author and illustrator!

Many people know that “The Snowy Day” was the first book to feature a Black character and win a major children’s literary award (the Caldecott), but fewer people know that it is the most checked-out book in the history of the New York Public Library! 

Despite his passing in 1983, his works are still a staple of many childhoods and his generosity continues to live on. All of the royalties from his books go to the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation which in addition to supporting arts and literacy programs in public schools and libraries also responds to all letters from children who continue to write to Keats. Keats had so enjoyed receiving letters from children during his lifetime that he wanted to ensure any child who wrote to him would always receive a response. 

Not only is Keats immortalized through the work of his foundation and the legacy of his books, but he is also literally memorialized in several of his picturebooks. Like a mustached Waldo, Keats hid drawings of himself in a handful of his books including “Pet Show.” 

In addition to all of this, Keats was also the first artist invited to design greeting cards for UNICEF, and was the first children’s book author invited to donate his papers to Harvard University. He is so universally recognized for his works that there is even a roller rink in Japan named in his honor and he appeared on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood not one time but four!

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