Ezra Jack Keats was born Jack Ezra Katz on October 31, 1916, in Brooklyn. His parents were Polish immigrants. The family had very little money, and lived in a rough part of town, which would later show up in The Snowy Day.

Ezra showed his talent for art at an early age. His mom was supportive, but his dad was afraid Ezra would not be able to support himself on an artist's paycheck, and so tried to discourage him from pursuing painting as a career. But he constantly gave his son art supplies, which he said he got from artists in exchange for free meals (did he own a restaurant?). Ezra would later learn that his dad had gone out and bought the paint and paper with what few dollars he could spare.

During the Depression, Jack's family was especially hard-hit. Art served as his constant comfort and relief. He never received any formal art training. When he graduated high school he was offered three scholarships, but was unable to accept any, as he needed to work to help support his family.

In the late 30s, he worked for the WPA as a mural painter. When World War II began, he joined the US Air Corps and served as a camouflage expert. After the war, he gravitated towards commercial art, and received his first assignment in 1947, a full-color editorial illustration for Collier's. The next year he traveled through Europe, painting, and when he got back, he exhibited his work in the Associated American Artists Galleries in New York.

After the exhibition, he was asked to design some book covers, and from those he received a commission to illustrate a children's book, Jubilant for Sure, a young-adult novel by Elizabeth Lansing. The illustrations were exhibited at the Metropolitan, and the book was chosen as one of the fifty best children's books of the year.

Ezra had not planned to become an illustrator of clidren's books, but here he was. He spent the next ten years illustrating books written by other people. In 1962 he wrote and illustrated The Snowy Day, to enormous critical acclaim, and controversy.

He continued to write and paint, creating over 85 books for kids. His studio walls were always crowded with pictures sent to him by young readers, and his own works-in-progress -   "I hang my illustrations on my studio wall in rows so that I can see them flow and move in sequence, like a ballet. I guess I'm the choreographer."

His books have been translated into 16 languages and made into internationally award-winning films. He is the namesake of all kinds of things - libraries, art programs, chidren's book awards, there's even an Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

Ezra died on May 6, 1983.


Apt. 3

Clementina's Cactus



Hi, Cat!

John Henry: An American Legend

A Letter to Amy

The Little Drummer Boy


Louie's Search

Maggie and the Pirate

My Dog Is Lost!

One Red Sun

Pet Show

Peter's Chair

Regards to the Man in the Moon

The Snowy Day

The Trip

Two Tickets to Freedom: The True Story of Ellen and William Craft, Fugitive Slaves

Whistle for Willie

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