Famous Prospect Park statue of Peter and Willie, two of Keats’ most beloved characters, to be declared a Literary Landmark as part of the weekend festivities
NEW YORK – In honor of the late children’s author-illustrator Ezra Jack Keats’ centenary, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation is planning an “Ezra Jack Keats’ 100th Birthday Blowout Weekend,” June 9th through June 11th, in Brooklyn. The special weekend begins with an Ezra Jack Keats Book Giveaway, part of Brooklyn Public Library’s Summer Reading Kickoff; continues with the designation of a Prospect Park statue of two of Ezra’s most beloved characters as a Literary Landmark; and is capped off with the Ezra Jack Keats Family Concert, part of the Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival.
“Ezra was born in Brooklyn,” says Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, “so what could be more fitting than to celebrate his 100th birthday here. I want to thank our partners, Brooklyn Public Library, the Prospect Park Alliance and BRIC for helping us plan this three-day blowout birthday party. You only turn 100 once!”
Ezra Jack Keats Foundation To Join Brooklyn Public Library’s Summer Reading Kickoff
Thursday, June 9th, marks the Summer Reading Kickoff at Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), held on the plaza in front of Central Library (at 10 Grand Army Plaza) from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. And this year the EJK Foundation, starting at 12:00 noon, will be giving away books by Keats and other authors while supplies last. There will also be a photo op for kids to pose as favorite Keats characters.
“We’re delighted to welcome the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation to our annual Summer Reading Kickoff event.Ezra Jack Keats is one of the most influential American children’s book writers. Brooklyn Public Library is happy to partner with the Foundation to promote his legacy,” says Rachel Payne, Coordinator, Early Childhood Services, Brooklyn Public Library.
Statue of Peter and Willie in Prospect Park to be Declared Literary Landmark
On Friday, June 10th, a bronze statue of the popular Keats characters Peter and his dog, Willie, in Prospect Park’s Imagination Playground, will be declared a Literary Landmark, with a plaque from the New York City Parks Department. The event will include an award to the statue’s sculptor, Otto Neals, and storytelling for students in attendance from two nearby schools, P.S. 321 and P.S. 9.
“We’re delighted to recognize Ezra Jack Keats and his contributions to children’s literature by designating this statue of Peter and Willie an honorary Literary Landmark. The statue of these beloved Keats characters has become a favorite place for the children of New York City to gather for reading and storytelling,” says Sally Gardner Reed, Executive Director of United for Libraries, an advocacy organization that dedicates historic literary sites.
The character of Peter made his first appearance in Keats’ 1962 classic, The Snowy Day, which broke the color barrier in mainstream children’s literature when its young, African American protagonist, In his iconic red snowsuit, was instantly embraced by the public. The Snowy Day was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1963 and designated a “book that shaped America” by the Library of Congress in 2012.
Ezra Jack Keats 100th Birthday Blowout Concert Part of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival
On Saturday, June 11th, at 4 p.m. at the Prospect Park Bandshell, families will enjoy a free concert by popular folk performer Dan Zanes. An annual tradition, the Ezra Jack Keats Family Concert will be full of additional surprises this year in honor of Ezra’s 100th:
- A Keats StoryWalk set up near the Bandshell in Prospect Park;
- A large mural of New York for children to decorate using art supplies generously provided by Artist & Craftsman Supply, 307 2nd Avenue, Park Slope;
- Ezra Jack Keats Bookshop, hosted by powerHouse Books, with an array of Keats favorites;
- TADA! Youth Theater performing a section of the musical “Adventures from Ezra Jack Keats“;
- Movies of two of Keats’ stories shown onstage;
- A raffle of Keats books conducted by special guest Ellen Ruffin, Curator of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, home to the Keats Archive.
Says Jack Walsh, Vice President of Performing Arts at BRIC and Executive Producer of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, “This 100th birthday party for Ezra will be a very special occasion that celebrates storytelling, music, art, kids and families—and, of course, Brooklyn! With Dan Zanes, a Celebrate Brooklyn! favorite, TADA! and all the offstage activities planned, the 2016 Ezra Jack Keats ‘Birthday Blowout’ concert will be a huge success and leave a lasting impression on everyone who attends!”
About the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation
Keats established The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation in 1964. After his death in 1983, Martin Pope, Keats’ best friend from childhood, and his wife, Lillie Pope, led the Foundation into the field of education with programs that extended to future generations of children the kind of help and encouragement that kept Keats going when he was growing up.
Now under the leadership of Deborah Pope, daughter of Martin and Lillie, the Foundation supports arts and literacy programs in public schools and libraries; cultivates new writers and illustrators of exceptional picture books, and promotes increased diversity in children’s literature. Keats. Imagination. Diversity.
To learn more, visit www.ezra-jack-keats.org.