Finding Ezra Jack Keats: In Search of a Children’s Book Icon

Virginia McGee Butler


On a mission, I entered the Ezra Jack Keats archives in the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) in early 2011.

Chosen by the Keats Foundation Executive Director Deborah Pope and the de Grummond Curator Ellen Ruffin to do research for things to include in Viking’s fiftieth anniversary edition of Keats’ iconic The Snowy Day, I searched for items that would be meaningful for an extra eight-page supplement. Soon I found myself yearning to have had the information I was finding when I had taught Keats’ books in kindergarten and second grade. So much of his childhood and life presaged the stories he would tell and the art he would create in his picture books. On a deadline, I could not dwell on those treasures. I determined to come back and write a biography for those who still teach and read his classic books.

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