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Brooklyn authors Julia Sarcone-Roach and Rowboat Watkins win Ezra Jack Keats Book Awards

Rainbow reading: Two borough authors win awards for their diverse kids’ books

for Brooklyn Paper
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Brooklyn is literary awesome!

Two up-and-coming local children’s authors just scored prestigious awards for creating kids’ books that feature a diverse cast of characters. But it is no fluke both winners hail from Kings County, said an organizer — the borough is a melting pot that is overflowing with talent.

“Right now, I believe Brooklyn is the hometown for more, and more diverse, children’s book authors and illustrators than any other city in the States,” said Deborah Pope of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, which doles out medals every year for America’s best multicultural literature for youngsters.

This year, the foundation anointed Windsor Terrace author Julia Sarcone-Roach for her book “The Bear Ate Your Sandwich,” and Park Sloper Rowboat Watkins for his illustrations in “Rude Cakes.”

The awards, named for the Brooklyn-born author of classic “The Snowy Day,” recognize top tomes for tots with characters from different backgrounds — not just a variety of races, but also animals and magical creatures, Pope said — and the two winning borough books fit the bill.

Sarcone-Roach’s book is the story of a bear who gets lost in San Francisco — as narrated by a puppy — and also features a little girl of color, showing humor and silliness is enjoyed by all children, Pope said.

Watkins’ work features rude, anthropomorphized cakes and teaches a lesson about respect and parental discipline. Kids often find it amusing to know what inanimate objects could be thinking, and the book is also a great example of non-human characters, according to Pope.

The two authors say they are thrilled to be recognized, and to know their books have such widespread appeal.

“I’m just over the moon,” said Sarcone-Roach, who worked as a book-seller for a decade before penning her own. “It means that I’m doing the right thing and I’m headed in the right direction. I’m so glad that kids and readers can relate to this.”

Watkins said he already has three more picture’ books in the pipeline — the best kind of books, as far as he is concerned, because they resonate with people of all ages.

“I want the books I write to reach the broadest audience possible,” said the Sloper.

The foundation will present the pair — along with other authors from more far-flung places — with their awards at a ceremony during a book fair in Mississippi in April.

Updated 3:48 pm, March 1, 2016
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