Ezra Jack Keats: An American Hero
Posted by: Keir Graff
The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation has a cool new site. I’m a big fan of his books — and so is my two-and-a-half-year-old son. There’s a lot of information about Keats, his books and characters, and the foundation. (No T-shirts for sale, unfortunately.)
Reading Keats’ fascinating life story, it seems all the more amazing that the white son of poor Polish immigrants would grow up to create such memorable black characters in his picture books:
At the age of eight, Ezra won the approval of his father when he was paid twenty-five cents for painting a sign for a local store, providing Benjamin with the hope that his son might be able to earn a living as a sign painter; nevertheless, Ezra was in love with the fine arts.
I grew up with The Snowy Day and John Henry: An American Legend, and my boys will, too.
(When my son was in the hospital last Christmas Eve, the nurse gave him a tiny stuffed chihuahua, who was soon named John Henry due to the latter’s inspiring bravery. Now, when my son performs feats of strength, like pushing open a heavy door, then he calls himself John Henry, too. Come on, say it with me: awwww….)