‘Tis the season of snow in my hometown of Chicago, and in tribute, I present one of my all-time favorite books: Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day. (Observant readers will notice that I have Peter doll–Peter is the boy in this story–on my book shelf.)
This is one of the loveliest children’s books ever–so simple and so perfect in its description of a child’s first snow. It also illustrates the magic that can happen when someone is both an artist and a writer. Keats (and his editor) knew how to leave room in his words for the pictures, and knew how to let his images carry the weight of the story. But never mind the analysis. Just enjoy the wonder:I have two versions of The Snowy Day on my shelf: an over-sized board book, and the version in Keats’ Neighborhood, a tribute book that includes 10 stories, fantastic behind the scenes information–including the photo from Life Magazine that was the inspiration for Peter–and this nugget:
“The Viking editor of The Snowy Day, Annis Duff … paid careful attention to each word chosen for the spare text. After seeing the first dummy, she encouraged Keats to create the entire book in full color–rather than color alternating with black-and-white pages, as had been the original plan. … [S]he obviously knew this decision would be very expensive.”
“Proudly, Duff presented to the world the first major full-color picture book to portray a black child–often featuring it as the first book in Viking advertisements–although neither the ad copy nor the text of the book ever mention Peter’s race.”
So much wrapped up in this one little book!
Keats’s Neighborhood also includes homages from other beloved illustrators like Jerry Pinkney, Eric Carle and Simms Taback.
For all its goodies, Keats’s Neighborhood is essential to my collection. But its treatment of the 10 Keats stories–including Goggles!, Whistle for Willie and Jennie’s Hat— leaves much to be desired. For example, in the original edition of The Snowy Day, Peter finds a stick……pokes at a tree branch……and suffers the consequences.Aside from the joy of seeing these images large and full-page, there’s so much going on here in terms of pacing, timing and consideration for page turns. The next page in this sequence is this:
But sadly, it doesn’t appear in Keats’s Neighborhood, except to punctuate the end of the introduction.
Speaking of experiences, there is a traveling exhibit featuring Keats’s work called The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats. I can hardly wait to see it.
All images from The Snowy Day written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats, ©1926. Published by the Penguin Group.
Keats’s Neighborhood first published in 2002 by the Penguin Group.