Friday, 18 January 2013

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

I've been waiting for months to talk about this American classic. Today seems like an opportune moment as the snow blankets my home state of NC and continues to fall outside my window here in London. It's a pleasure to share this Caldecott award winner with readers who may be new to Keats' book and Peter's stories, and it's a chance to remind other readers of why this book is such a favorite.

Peter wakes up to discover snow outside his window. He puts on his snowsuit and spends the day discovering how much fun it can be.  His feet make funny footprints in the snow and it crunches as he walks.  He makes tracks with a stick, snow angels and a snow man. He is endlessly enchanted and entertained by it. Peter even tries to bring a clump home in his pocket and learns the disappointing lesson that snow melts indoors. It causes him to dream a sad dream that all the snow has melted away. However, he is cheered the following day to wake and discover that the icy white landscape outside his window is the same as the day before, beckoning him out to play and make new discoveries.

The Snowy Day is a perfectly simple story and E and I talk a lot about what Peter gets up to outside in the snow. E engaged with Peter from the beginning ... as did I.  However, it's the trademark style of Keats' illustrations that strikes a chord with so many readers. They are collage like, bright and warm. The various snow scenes are drawn from different perspectives which to me makes them more interesting, slightly abstract and that bit more challenging for the young reader.

There has been much written about this book due in part because it features an African-American main character. The author page on the Penguin website puts it into context: "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." First published in 1962, The Snowy Day celebrated its 50th birthday in 2012 and remains a firm favorite. 

If you like Peter as much as we do then I recommend you read, A Letter for Amy.  We're having lots of fun with that one too. 

For more about Keats and for tips from teachers visit the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

p.s. Apologies to any regular readers for the blank post that was distributed earlier! Pete the Cat will feature next week.


  1. I'm not sure that multicultural characters and themes are fashionable even now - I think (at least here in the UK) they are still relatively unusual.

  2. You've made a very good point here. It would well be a short list of UK titles that fall into that category. I would hedge a bet that the US is more on point with the idea but that's a far cry from balanced representation.