The Snowy Day, by author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats (1916-1983) is a book I loved to read as a child, and in recent years have enjoyed with my own three children.
Today marks the book’s 50th Anniversary, and is the first children’s picture book of its time to feature an African American boy hero. What inspires me today about the narrative is its tribute to the carefree way urban youth independently experienced nature in winter.
Using collage as a medium for illustration, Keats tells the story of young Peter who leaves his apartment alone to join neighbors across the hall to play and explore outside in the snow. Bundled in snowsuits and scarves, he and his friends make patterns in the snow using their feet and sticks and marvel at their creations. Peter is so inspired by the snow, he takes a ball of it home as a souvenir, only to find it goes “missing” later in his warm home.
According to the Washington Post, Viking Press has issued a special edition of the book that includes eight pages of supplemental material, including the magazine photos of a little boy that inspired Keats and a fan letter from poet Langston Hughes. “The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats,” the first major U.S. exhibition about Keats, opened this fall in New York and will travel to Massachusetts, California and Ohio in 2012 and 2013.
Everyone should own a copy of this celebrated tale; for both its historic importance and vision for how urban youth might re-connect freely to nature today.