Little did I know fifteen years ago where my discovery would lead when I walked into the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection display room and found an exhibition of the life and works of Ezra Jack Keats. For those who are not from here (and some who are but are unaware), Dr. Lena Y. de Grummond began a letter writing campaign in 1966 to writers and illustrators for memorabilia that showed the process of producing children’s books to share with her graduate students in the library school at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her small collection has grown to papers from more than 1,300 authors and illustrators and a book collection of more than 180,000 volumes. Some of those authors, including Keats, chose the collection to house their extensive archives.
Beginning with inspiration I found that day for an article “Celebrate Variety” that was published in Highlights for Children, one door has opened to another. When time came for the fiftieth anniversary edition of The Snowy Day, I was invited to be the researcher through 180 or so boxes of correspondence, memorabilia, and original writings and paintings. My meticulous notes have allowed me to share with other researchers as they have visited the collection. Keats own words and those of his friends and colleagues have opened a door for my presentation called “From Katz to Keats” that I have given for groups from kindergarten to grandparents.
My latest open door has given me a way to share the story with my blog readers. Invited into the collection again early this year, I was asked to write his story and find items to illustrate a video for the 100th anniversary celebration of Keats’s birth at the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers and New Illustrators Awards luncheon. The following link will take you to the video produced by the library school at the university, posted on the de Grummond website, for your viewing pleasure when you have about fifteen minutes. Enjoy!