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A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day

The story of The Snowy Day begins more than one hundred years ago, when Ezra Jack Keats was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. The family were struggling Polish immigrants, and despite Keats’s obvious talent, his father worried that Ezra’s dream of being an artist was an unrealistic one.

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About the Book

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day

The story of The Snowy Day begins more than one hundred years ago, when Ezra Jack Keats was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. The family were struggling immigrants, and despite Keats’s obvious talent, his father worried that Ezra’s dream of being an artist was an unrealistic one.

But Ezra was determined. By high school he was winning prizes and scholarships. Later, jobs followed with the WPA and Marvel comics.

It was many years before Keats’s greatest dream was realized and he had the opportunity to write and illustrate his own book.

For more than two decades, Ezra had kept pinned to his wall a series of photographs of an adorable African American child. In Keats’s hands, the boy morphed into Peter, a boy in a red snowsuit, out enjoying the pristine snow; the book became The Snowy Day, winner of the Caldecott Medal, the first mainstream book to feature an African American child.

Andrea Davis Pinkney’s lyrical narrative tells the inspiring story of a boy who pursued a dream, and who, in turn, inspired generations of other dreamers.

About the Author:

Andrea Davis Pinkney says, “As an African American child growing up in the 1960s, at a time when I didn’t see others like me in children’s books, the expressiveness of Keats’s illustrations had a profound effect.”  Today, Ms. Pinkney is the distinguished and bestselling author of many books for children and young adults, including picture books, novels, and non-fiction. Her books have received multiple Coretta Scott King Book Awards, Jane Addams Honor citations, nominations for the NAACP Image Awards, the Boston Globe/Horn book Honor medal, and many other accolades. In recognition of her significant contributions to literature for young people through her body of work, she was selected to deliver the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and frequent collaborator, Brian Pinkney, and their two children. Read more about her here.

A Few Reviews:

“Such an incredibly beautiful book. The text dances off your tongue as you read it aloud. This is easily my favorite book by Ms. Pinkney yet, and the illustrations are captivating as well! It’s absolutely worth owning a hardcover of this one.” – Sarah Mackenzie (Amazon Review)

“Pinkney dives into the life and work of Ezra Jack Keats, specifically focusing on The Snowy Day and his creation of the main character, Peter. Using poetry (what the author refers to as “collage verse”), mainly addressed to Peter, Pinkney pieces together Keats’s biography, tracing spots where early versions or hints of Peter can be found, and reflects on what a monumental event the publication of the picture book was and still is. Students will learn about Keats’s early life, his tireless dedication to provide for his immigrant family, his love and pursuit of art, and how he changed his name from Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz to Ezra Jack Keats to avoid anti-Semitism in the United States after World War II. Pinkney’s verse seamlessly weaves together story and fact to craft an intimate conversation about the artist’s history and impact. (“Brown-sugar child,/when you and your hue/burst onto the scene,/all of us came out to play.”) Readers familiar with Keats will notice allusions to his other works throughout. The illustrations complement the text, and Keats’s own style, by using mixed-media collages of prints, fabrics, photos, and paint, all of which capture the liveliness of the urban setting and historical points. This uplifting telling ends with a discussion of the cultural importance of Peter and how Keats’s vision paved the way for authors and artists to look for and include children of color in their work. VERDICT This celebration of a visionary children’s book author and illustrator is a lovely addition for most collections.” —Briana Moore, Elmont Memorial Library, NY


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A celebration of the extraordinary life of Ezra Jack Keats, creator of The Snowy Day.
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