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The Snowy Day and other favorite picture books by Ezra Jack Keats

Updated on November 3, 2014
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Grandmother to four and Granny Nanny to two, Kathryn researches every baby shower gift, children's toy, book and clothing well before buying

Goggles, The Snowy Day and Whistle for Willie--Some of our favorite Ezra Jack Keats picture books
Goggles, The Snowy Day and Whistle for Willie--Some of our favorite Ezra Jack Keats picture books | Source

A favorite childhood book

When my children were little, one of their all-time favorite books was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

Inevitably, when we reached the last page, little hands turned the book back to the front and a not so little voice demanded, "Again!"

There is something especially wonderful about sitting inside a toasty house while snow falls gently and silently outside, with your child snuggled close on your lap, and reading The Snowy Day for the very first time.

Together with Peter, we jump from bed the morning of the first snow, don a red snow suit and rush out to make brand new tracks going this way and that. Along the way, we lie down, feel the cold through our snow suits and make angels.

On the way we home, we pocket a freshly-packed snowball to save for later. We smell the cold, taste the snowflakes on our tongues.

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"Why is Peter's face brown, Mommy?"

Not only was this a favorite book that we read again and again, even in summer, but as a white parent living in a rural state with less than 1 percent Black population in the mix, I found the book a beautiful introduction to conversations about people with different skin color ("Why is Peter's face brown, Mommy?") and life in a city ("Why aren't there any trees, Mommy?")

Tender illustrations in this picture book, as well as in Whistle for Willie, Goggles, and the many that followed, charm us with Peter's tiny view of the world.

Yet Keats did not sugarcoat it much. Look closely and you see the graffiti, broken pavement and garbage-strewn alleyways of inner city life.

All of these provide teaching moments to help our children grow and understand life beyond their street, school and neighborhood.

Equally important, if our children are growing up on streets similar to Peter's, they get a chance to see how one brave, indomitable little boy faces the dangers of his neighborhood, be they uncovered manholes, construction debris, or bullies.


The Snowy Day is a Caldecott Award winner

Even though this is a newer copy of the book, the Caldecott Medal Award sticker is a little worn where the baby tried to peel it off
Even though this is a newer copy of the book, the Caldecott Medal Award sticker is a little worn where the baby tried to peel it off | Source

A winner of the American Library Association's prestigious Caldecott Award, The Snowy Day is, more importantly, a winner in the hearts of the children who love it.

My daughters bought the Peter books for their children, and I still have a few, including this one, in my own library, that I read to their little ones.

Hear and see Peter on his snowy adventure

This is a sweet video depicting every page in the book, and narrated by a mom, reading to her child.

Two more favorite picture books from Mr. Keats

After The Snowy Day, Whistle for Willie and Goggles are our favorite Ezra Jack Keats stories
After The Snowy Day, Whistle for Willie and Goggles are our favorite Ezra Jack Keats stories | Source

Whistle for Willie

Whistle for Willie, is the next, most popular Ezra Jack Keats book in our children's library.

Right now, it happens to be a special favorite of one of my middle grandchildren, who as I write this is trying to learn to whistle.

Just like Peter, she purses her lips and blows and blows and blows. One day, perhaps very soon, just like Peter, she will get it too.


Peter and Archie outwit the bullies

In Goggles! Peter and his friend Archie come face to face with a gang of big-boy bullies.

This story touched me, even as a grown-up, because my brother and I used to face bullies almost every day when we were little. Big ones.

Like Peter, we had to use our wits to outsmart the bullies and find our way to safety. Sometimes we didn't get there before my brother got a bloody nose trying to protect me and our little sister.

One time, after one of the bullies knocked my brother down, I jumped on the brute's back, clawing with my nails at his neck and head. He threw my skinny self off like I was an old sweatshirt he'd been carrying over his shoulder.

We met our tormentors in a teeny, tiny town, far from any metropolis. Peter and Archie meet their antagonists in the inner city. Still,the secret hiding places in derelict buildings and garbage-strewn alleyways are similar to many of our own in those days.

One of the beauties of Keats's stories is his ability to show Peter's life very much as it is for children living in poverty almost anywhere, as well as the joy with which Peter and his friends face each day, always eager to do more, see more, learn more.


A real boy inspired Keats to create Peter

Did you know Keats patterned Peter, the charming little boy in this series, after a real life boy?

Way back in 1940, long before he first wrote The Snowy Day, Keats was taken by the photographs of a little boy in Life Magazine. So taken was he, that he clipped the photos and pinned them to his bulletin board.

More than twenty years later, after he received the prestigious Caldecott Award for this tale of a sweet boy who ventures fearlessly into the world of traffic and big kids, not all of whom are nice to little boys, Keats called the real life child a hero and one for whom he had always wanted to write a story.

About the author

You may be surprised to learn that Ezra Jack Keats was a white man. Like Peter, Keats grew up in the inner city, rich with a diverse population of many colors and cultures.

He chose at an early age in his career to write picture books about children of color because, as the child of Polish-Jewish immigrants in the early twentieth century, he knew well how discrimination affects a child.

As an illustrator of children's books, he soon noticed that none of the books he was asked to illustrate showed children of color, or children with differences, or much of the life he knew growing up.

He decided to write and illustrate the stories he knew many of the children with whom he grew up wanted to see. Not long after, he won his first award. Then another and another.

Learn more about this gentle teacher and delightful artist on the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation web site.

Discovering Peter all over again with the grandchildren

Today, this very day, in a city that rarely receives snow, and in which we see people of every shape and color every time we walk out the door, my youngest grandchild will snuggle on my lap.

With gentle breezes tickling her hair from the open window, she will giggle as she turns page after page. Together, we will run out the door with Peter to play in the wonderland of a city snow scape and taste snow on his mittens.

At the end, she will do as she always does, as her mama and auntie did before her: Turn the book back to the beginning and in a loud voice demand, "Again!"

Thank you

Thank you for visiting this page. Are you a fan of the Peter books by Ezra Jack Keats? Which is your favorite?

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    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Glad you liked, @CherylsArt.

      @SusanDeppner, it's the best of times, isn't it?

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Great books and what a wonderful presentation! I miss the days of reading to my little boys.

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      The Snowy Day sounds like a fun story for kids. I enjoyed watching the video of it.

    • Seasons Greetings profile image

      Laura Brown 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I'd forgotten this book. Nice to be reminded.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @flinnie lm: You're welcome, and thank you for stopping by.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi what a fun, happy story to read to your child this Christmas holiday. Great review, thanks for sharing.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @Virginia Allain: Thank you, Vallain. I value your input highly.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      The Snowy Day was a favorite at my library storytimes too. You've showcased it very nicely here!

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @jmchaconne: You're welcome, and you've got me wondering now. I did not realize his illustrations were related to airplane camouflage. Do enlighten me and my readers, please!

    • jmchaconne profile image

      jmchaconne 4 years ago

      Thank you for an interesting lens, and gran-kid gift ideas.. haven't read Keats, but as an ex-Army pilot, I can appreciate his airplane camouflage designs.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @Gypzeerose: Thank you.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      What a delightful book - and great book review! Bookmarked so that more can enjoy it.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @Ruthi: Wow, thank you so much for the FB share! Once again, you've made my day, and it's only 7:20 here!

    • Susan Zutautas profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Have never ready anything by Ezra Jack Keats but will have to as this story sounds wonderful.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @Diana Wenzel: Thank you so much! I love to hang out in the children's section of the library. The grandkids are always ready to go. I'm the one saying, "Oh, just one more book, please!"

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      You remind me here of why children's literature is my favorite genre. When I was working my way through college for the first of three degrees, my elementary education degree, my every happy waking moment was spent in the children's section of our library (where I worked). This is a treasure of a book. Delightful, and excellent, review. Appreciated!

    • profile image

      Ruthi 4 years ago

      @ecogranny: You are welcome. I enjoyed your review and shared it on Facebook, too. I appreciate when a writer goes the extra mile in a review and feel you did that, quite well.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @Ruthi: Yes indeed, and I thank you for your kindly and insightful comment. It means more than I can say.

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      Ruthi 4 years ago

      Ezra Jack Keats is one of my favorite authors of books for children. Your review of The Snowy Day is excellent and reinforces my belief that reading WITH our kids is so much more important than reading TO them or just giving them books to read. Reading with our children offers the opportunity for discussion, which is ever so important to education. And we learn much about each other in the process.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @OhMe: Yes it is. Thank you for stopping by.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      @Susan Zutautas: It is. You can see--and hear--the entire story in the video above. So cute!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Sounds like a wonderful childrens book