The Snowy Day
Winter is here. I make it a policy to not step outside when it hits below zero. However, there are moments when the beauty of winter will lure me out. I love the quiet in the city after a snowstorm. Still buried under a thick blanket of snow, the city is quiet and still and for a moment you forget just how busy and hectic life can get. Keep reading…
First published in 1962, The Snowy Day was written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. The Snowy Day crossed social boundaries by being the first picture book to feature a black boy as the main character. It’s a simple tale that captures the magical experience of the first snowfall of the season. Peter wakes up to discovers the city blanketed in snow. Dressed in a bright red snowsuit he heads out and explores the neighborhood, discovering the simple pleasure of making fresh tracks in the snow, knocking snow off tree branches and making snow angels.
The inspiration and model for Peter came from a 1940’s photo spread in Life Magazine. The story was drawn from Ezra’s childhood memories of snow days in Brooklyn. According to some, the elegance and simplicity of the writing was influenced by Erzra’s love of haiku poetry.
The illustrations are as simple as the writing, collaged together with big bold flat pieces of paper. Ezra uses very little to tell a lot. The illustrations somehow seem to visually capture the sights and sounds of a first snowfall. The lack of detail just adds to the silence that comes on the tail of every snowfall. Cushioned by the snow the world sounds muffled and distant. Bright colourful papers and patterns punch through the snow bringing life to the silence.
When it hits below zero I crank up the heat and pull out my copy of The Snowy Day and remind myself that winter can be beautiful.
The Snowy Day, a children’s book review by Thao Lam
Author and Illustrator Ezra Jack Keats
(March 11th, 1916 to 1983)
Many people are surprised when they discover that Ezra is Jewish and not African American. Ezra Jack Keats was born on March 11th, 1916 and was raised in East New York, which was then the Jewish quarter of Brooklyn. Ezra excelled in school, especially in art. His father was not supportive of his career choice. Concerned that his son would never be able to support himself as an artist, Ezra’s father wanted him to learn a more practical skill.
Despite having received three scholarships, Ezra Jack Keats was unable to attend art school. His family was very poor; they suffered extreme hardship during the Great Depression. Ezra worked to help support his family and took art classes when he could. He worked as a mural painter and a comic book artist, illustrating backgrounds for Captain Marvel comics.
Ezra joined the Army in 1943 where he spent his time designing camouflage patterns. After serving in World War II. Ezra returned to New York and began a career in illustration. He worked for magazines and illustrated book covers. He was soon commissioned to illustrate children’s books after the editorial director of Crowell Publishing saw one of his book covers on display in a Fifth Avenue bookstore.
In the years that follow, Ezra Jack Keats illustrated many children’s books. By the time of his death in 1983, Ezra illustrated of over 109 children’s book, 24 of which he also wrote.
For a more detail biography on Ezra Jack Keats visit
Publisher Viking Children’s Books; 1 edition (Jan 1 1996)