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Ezra Jack Keats in Story and Song
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This project is funded by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

+ About the Performance
This program was recorded 10/24/2009 at Symphony Space.

The enthralling multicultural stories and artwork of Ezra Jack Keats, the author of the Caldecott Medal-winning classic The Snowy Day and the first children's book author and illustrator to portray children of color as main characters in widely-published books, are celebrated with live readings from Sonia Manzano ("Maria" from Sesame Street) and Dominic Colon ("Manny Spamboni" from Electric Company), big-screen projections, and original Keats-inspired tunes from Symphony Space favorites The Deedle Deedle Dees, and Randy Kaplan.

"His text and collage art celebrate the lives of creative urban children." -Children's Literature

+ About the Artists

About Ezra Jack Keats
Long before multicultural characters and themes were fashionable, Ezra Jack Keats crossed social boundaries by being the first American picture-book maker to give the black child a central place in children’s literature. The characters in Mr. Keats’ books come from the community around him. Many of his stories illustrate family life, the simple pleasures, and more complex problems that a child often encounters in his daily routine. To create his books, Mr. Keats drew upon his own childhood experiences, from having to flee from bullies, to taking a ribbing from his pals for liking girls. But these are also the experiences of almost all children growing up in neighborhoods and communities in many parts of the world. This commonality explains the continuing popularity of Mr. Keats’ books and characters.

Mr. Keats wrote and illustrated 24 children’s classics, including the Caldecott Award-winning book The Snowy Day (named one of the 150 most influential books of the 20th century by the New York Public Library), Whistle for Willy, and Peter’s Chair. Fourteen of his books were named Book of the Year by the Child Study Association of America. The Trip was honored by both the International Reading Association and the Children’s Book Council. Keats’s books have been translated into 17 languages and they continue to be enjoyed by generations of children around the world.

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, established by Mr. Keats, is dedicated to supporting arts and literacy programming on a national level, in public libraries and schools, storytelling in public parks, and bookmaking programs. In 2012, the EJK Foundation and Viking Penguin will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the printing of The Snowy Day. This celebration will include museum exhibits, anniversary editions of the book, and other surprises yet to be announced. For more information, visit

Randy Kaplan has released two children’s albums: Five Cent Piece (2006) and Loquat Rooftop (2008). Rooftop was voted one of the Top Ten Children’s CDs of 2008 by NPR (National Public Radio) and Cool Mom Picks. Mr. Kaplan has also guest-hosted The Absolutely Mindy Show (XM ch. 116) and performed a concert at XM Radio Headquarters in Washington D.C. In addition to his work with kids’ music, he has recorded seven albums for adults. For more information, visit

Founded in 2003, The Deedle Deedle Dees are a Brooklyn-based educational rock band. Bandmates Lloyd Miller / Ulysses S. Dee (on bass, guitar, and vocals); Anand Mukherjee / Innocent Dee (guitar and vocals), Ely Levin / Otto von Dee (drums and vocals), and Chris Johnson / Booker Dee (piano, banjo, bass, and vocals) just finished their new album, American History + Rock-n-Roll = The Deedle Deedle Dees. The Dees are busy preparing to shoot an internet television show that will introduce elementary-aged kids to history via songs, books, visits to historical spots, and cameos by history experts. For more information, visit

Dominic Colon’s television credits include guest appearances on Law and Order, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, The Knights of Prosperity, Six Degrees, Malcolm in the Middle, and Third Watch. He starred in the multi-award-winning film On the Outs, and has appeared in many other films, including We Own the Night, August Rush, Bella, and the recent HBO film Taking Chance. His stage credits include Slanguage and Til the Break of Dawn. Mr. Colon is the Theater Director of Teatro El Puente, a youth theater company that tours NYC performing plays on social issues. He is currently best known to children as Manny Spamboni on The Electric Company.

Sonia Manzano is known to millions of children and parents through her role as Maria on Sesame Street, a character she has played since 1971. Her theatre credits include The Exonerated and the original production of Godspell. She has won 15 Emmy Awards as a writer for Sesame Street. She has written for the Peabody Award-winning Nickelodeon series Little Bill, and is the author of the picture books No Dogs Allowed! and A Box Full of Kittens. Dogs has been turned into a musical. She is currently working on a memoir.

Abena Koomson is a writer, educator, and performer. Her writing, including Blind Visions and Eve Descending, has been performed in several productions throughout NYC. Excerpts of her one woman show Cozi Sa Wala were performed as part of Lincoln Center's La Casita summer festival. In July 2008, Abena performed her poetry and music to a sold out audience at MASS MoCA. She is currently on sabbatical from Winston Preparatory School—where she serves as Dean and Writing instructor—in order to explore her artistic pursuits, which include the upcoming run of FELA! on Broadway, directed by Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones.


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