Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day
Book review by Billy Dickerson
Caldecott winning snow book
Do you remember the days when the first snowfall was a time for delight and amusement? It was certainly easier when you were a little kid to get excited about the arrival of winter.
Remember back to those days and those reasons to embrace a snowy day-snow days, and snow angels, sledding, and the rest were all joys that once filled a snowy day. I don’t know about you, but these days, I’m ready for spring shortly after the first shovelful of snow.
Let’s take some time, though, to look at a book that celebrates that snowy day rather than laments it.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is an important book in children’s literature for a number of reasons. Not only was Keats the first African American to win the coveted Caldecott Medal in 1963, but his book was also one of the first children’s books to feature the adventures of a young African American boy.
The story opens with Peter, a young boy, waking up to discover that it has snowed. Only waiting long enough to eat some breakfast and get dressed up in his snow gear, Peter heads out the door and starts exploring this new, snowy world. This is a great opportunity to explore snow with your child. “What would you do on the first snowy day?” and “What would you do differently?” are questions you can ask while you work your way through the story. This is also a great tale to read to a child who doesn’t get to experience snow because of where they live.
Peter enjoys your typical adventures on a snowy day. After getting dressed up in his snowsuit, he steps out into the snowy world. Think about the games that you played or that you have seen kids playing. It’s certainly fun to leave funny foot prints and make snow angels. You might not be ready for snowball fights, but you can certainly knock some snow off a tree and stick a snowball in your pocket. You might even remember your wonderful day and worry if you will get another one tomorrow.
One of the great features of this story is the artwork. Keats combines complex and simple imagery to help the reader to understand a snowy world. Inside the house, there are many patterns and details, but when Peter steps outside he becomes simpler and so do some of the details of his world. Peter himself becomes an orange snowsuit and a featureless face with no other details. The closest snow is simply blobs of white and the buildings just become blocks of color.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a great story with lots of fun. I read it to my nephew recently and he loved it. He even predicted some of the story from his own life experiences. It is a classic and it is well worth the read. The book is actually getting ready for a 50th anniversary edition to be published. (Webmaster’s note: It’s out! Follow the link above.) Not many children’s books can claim that kind of record.
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