Let It Snow
January 2, 2012 8:36 AM   Subscribe

The Snowy Day was groundbreaking, somewhat controversial, and remains enduring. 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Ezra Jack Keats’ picture book about a little boy named Peter experiencing the wonder of a city transformed by snow. It was one of the first children's books to depict a non-caricatured black protagonist. Viking Press has issued a 50th anniversary edition and the Jewish Museum in Manhattan is exhibiting a Keats retrospective through January 29th.
posted by HonoriaGlossop (18 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I read my childhood copy of The Snowy Day to my own kid, he loves it. We also have a beautifully-animated version on a Scholastic DVD. I had no idea that Ezra Jack Keats was Jewish.
posted by pinky at 8:42 AM on January 2, 2012

It's strange to think about that little snowsuited boy going out to his mailbox and finding the AARP magazine.
posted by thelonius at 8:48 AM on January 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

I loved that book too. I haven't read it in years - but does he try to save a snowball?

And maybe it says something good about where I grew up (Toronto, 1980s), but it took me until I was an adult to realize that it was a remarkable thing that a popular kid's book had a non-white main character.

That said, even in the 1980s, publishers were overly conservative (I think racist) - about children's books - a teenager I knew had won a contest to have a picture book published, but the publishers made her change the main character from brown to white. They claimed that white parents wouldn't buy a picture book with a non-white character. Ironically enough, her illustrations were also made with cut paper collage, just like Keats's - and she chose to make her character brown because brown skin looks better in that technique than pale skin.
posted by jb at 8:54 AM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

jb I also grew up in the Toronto area and it must say something, because, at 40 I just found out the kid was black. I read and looked at that book so much and until, just today, never saw the colour of the protagonist and never cared... I still don't... I just remember feeling the way the character does as a kid. I read it to my children when they were little as well
posted by mrgroweler at 9:06 AM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I loved that book as a kid, too. The illustrations were also fabulous.
posted by Maias at 9:13 AM on January 2, 2012

I loved that book too. The artwork is amazing and it was very easy, as a child, to identify with the main character and his pointy snowsuit.
posted by Miko at 9:17 AM on January 2, 2012

Hey, this guy made Peter's Chair. That was a great book. I didn't realize how groundbreaking the work was. Thanks for this.
posted by schroedinger at 9:27 AM on January 2, 2012

I loved this as a kid, and as an adult it was one of the handful I've claimed from my parents' attic. Knowing it was controversial makes a little sense though, now that I think of my aunt who gave it to me. (Love her even more today.) :)
posted by librarianamy at 9:33 AM on January 2, 2012

I love Ezra Jack Keats *so much*! "The Snowy Day" is one of my all-time favorite children's books. Every time my sisters and I went out in the snow, we tried to make footprints like Peter.
posted by epj at 9:42 AM on January 2, 2012

I love the colors in his work... as a little kid, and even moreso as an adult.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:53 AM on January 2, 2012

I haven't read it in years - but does he try to save a snowball?

Peter puts a snowball in his pocket and checks for it the next morning.

My wife designs preschool curricula and the Peter series are among her absolute favorites because they capture the perspective of a child so perfectly. We read The Snowy Day to our own daughter quite a bit, but she prefers A Whistle for Willie.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:09 AM on January 2, 2012

Bought this when we had our first kid. Neither of ours have taken to it, sadly, but I adore it. At least we still have Neil Gaiman to share.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:13 PM on January 2, 2012

Love this book, and my little relatives that I've given it to love it too.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:19 PM on January 2, 2012

My kids liked this book, not as much as some others, but they definitely liked it. The illustrations are really fine. One great part of the book is when the boy sits in the tub thinking about his day. The expression on his face is just right. Kids do a fair amount of thinking about things but it's seldom mentioned in the books for younger readers.
posted by CCBC at 1:27 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Awe...just read this to my daughter yesterday. She loves Peter! And I love the perspective of him being too young to play with the big kids, the crunch, crunch, crunch of his shoes in the snow, and the suspense of what he found to make the straight line in the snow when he's walking. A very cute book, with very hip pajamas!
posted by fyrebelley at 2:06 PM on January 2, 2012

Oh yes, I loved this book too-- and was conscious that my mother read it to me partly as a corrective to our (99%) all-white suburb during the Civil Rights movement in America.
posted by jokeefe at 2:24 PM on January 2, 2012

Wow. Out of nowhere, I can suddenly remember this book. It would have been read to me around 1969, I suppose. Thanks.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:37 PM on January 2, 2012

I totally remembered this book but nothing about the boy's skin color. Success!
posted by benbenson at 4:21 AM on January 3, 2012

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