Sydney Smith Wins the 2020 Ezra Keats Award!

The 2020 Ezra Jack Keats Award winner for Writer is:

Sydney Smith, for Small in the City
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Published by Neal Porter Books, an imprint of Holiday House Publishing, Inc.

What’s it like to be small living in a big city? Well, it can be pretty scary…unless you know someone who can relate to your experience and is always there with some helpful advice. In the first book that he has both written and illustrated, Sydney Smith tells a thoughtful tale about seeing a big world through little eyes. When you’re small in the big city, people don’t see you, loud sounds can frighten you, and knowing what to do is sometimes difficult. But this little kid knows the ropes and is happy to help.

Smith said, “Winning the Ezra Jack Keats Award is incredibly meaningful. Keats wrote about children and their experiences with empathy and inclusivity. The risk of writing for children is to be an adult telling children what it’s like to be a child. Keats has inspired many, including myself, to simply be a human sharing the wonders of the human experience. With Small in the City, everyone, children and adults, know the feeling of being insignificant in a huge city surrounded by the chaos, the hustle, and intense feelings. We don’t give a lot of credit to children for their capacity to navigate emotions —their spectrum is wider than we acknowledge.

Small in the City, by Sydney Smith, inside spread streetcar. Handout
Sydney Smith for Kids Books

“My favorite moment in the book is actually one I can’t predict—when the reader comes to understand the reason why the character is saying what they are saying and why they are doing what they are doing. The moment the reader realizes there is something else happening.”

The Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Committee

The selection committee is comprised of nationally recognized early ejkaward_goldchildhood education specialists, librarians, illustrators, authors and experts in children’s literature. The 2020 Ezra Jack Keats Award Committee included: Rita Auerbach, Chair; Claudette McLinn, Chris Raschka, Don Tate, Lettycia Terrones, Melissa Sweet, Paul O. Zelinsky, Vaunda Nelson and Deborah Taylor.

Ex officio members are: Deborah Pope, Executive Director, Ezra Jack Keats Foundation; and Ellen Ruffin, Curator, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection.

To be eligible for the 2020 Ezra Jack Keats Award, the author and/or illustrator cannot have more than three children’s picture books published prior to the one under consideration.

For a complete list of past award winners, visit For information about submissions, visit

About the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation fosters children’s love of reading and creative expression by supporting arts and literacy programs in public schools and libraries through the EJK Bookmaking Competition and Mini-Grant program; cultivates new writers and illustrators of exceptional picture books that reflect the experience of childhood in our diverse culture through the Ezra Jack Keats Award, which will celebrate its milestone 35th Year in 2021; and protects and promotes the work of Keats. Ezra Jack Keats is considered one of America’s greatest children’s book authors and illustrators, whose book The Snowy Day broke the color barrier in children’s publishing. To learn more about the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, visit

About the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection

The de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi is one of North America’s leading research centers in the field of children’s literature. The Collection holds the original manuscripts and illustrations of more than 1,400 authors and illustrators, as well as 180,000+ mostly American and British published books dating back to 1530. Since 1985, the de Grummond Collection has been the home of the Ezra Jack Keats Archive, which includes manuscripts, typescripts, sketches, dummies, illustrations and proofs for Ezra Jack Keats’ books. For more about the de Grummond, visit