The Snowy Day
Ezra Jack Keats
The Viking Press, 1962
From the dust jacket, “Waking up to a world of snowy white—what could be better? Young Peter can’t wait to jump into his snowsuit and run out to explore. There are snowmen to build and snowballs to pack, mountains to climb and snowbanks to collapse—to carve a snow angel! And when the day is done, there’s a dark night of dreams and drifting snow, and a new snowy day to wake up to.
“No book has captured the magic and sense of possibility of the first snowfall better than The Snowy Day, winner of the Caldecott Medal. Universal in its appeal, the story has become a favorite of million, as it reveals a child’s wonder at a new world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever.”
First published in 1962, this book has never been out of print owing to its popularity and inspiration of children-who-grow-up to be artists, writers, and advocates. The controversy surrounding the book was due to Peter, the first black child to be a protagonist in a children’s book. In the 1960s the children’s publishing world was steeped in the thought of the day, that black people in general, and black children in particular, were inferior to white people.
Another controversy was that the author of this ground-breaking book was a white Jewish man. Some critics said Keats had no business to write a book featuring a black child. But Keats grew up in early-to-midcentury New York City where antisemitism was rampant and he knew what it felt to be singled out and bullied. Keats had been illustrating children’s picture books for years and it always troubled him that the black community was not represented in a positive manner in media. With that in mind, he wrote and illustrated The Snowy Day.
The book is lovely in both its story and illustrations. The sublime pictures provide just enough detail of Peter and his world to make you want to follow him into the snow and make snow angels with him. As he wanders through his cold world, he seems content and happy to just be who he is.
Rating 4 out of 5 paws because Peter’s sense of wonder, excitement and joy in such a simple thing as snow is infectious and makes me want to recapture my kittenhood.