The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.
Viking, New York, 1962.
Realistic fiction, 33 pages.
1963 Caldecott Medal Winner
Lexile: AD500L (What does AD mean in Lexile levels?)
AR Level: 2.5 (worth 0.5 points)
Note: This is the first of seven books featuring Peter.
Young Peter’s day in the snow is a classic for all children, as well as a book of historic importance.
I posted some time ago about how I originally got this book – however a friend recently gifted me a new hardcover copy! There is a book by Andrea Davis Pinkney about the making of The Snowy Day that I can’t wait to review as well.
If you’re looking for an #ownvoices children’s bookshelf, this isn’t one you’d be adding to the collection. Ezra Jack Keats was a Jewish Brooklynite who chose to write about a boy who recently immigrated from Puerto Rico for his first, co-written book. When it was time to create a book all on his own, he created a character named Peter, a young black boy in the big city who perfectly captures the wonder of a very young child on a snowy day.
Peter was so popular (going on to win a Caldecott) that Keats returned to the character for six additional picture books that follow Peter, and eventually his best friend, through various events in his early life, such as the arrival of a new sister, inviting a girl to his birthday party, learning to whistle, and a pet show. Some of these books also link to other works by Keats, making up a lovely, multicultural city neighborhood.
It’s difficult for me to review these books with anything like a critical attitude because The Snowy Day was one of my favorite books as a child and remains one of my favorite read-alouds as an adult today. It brings a measure of wonder and joy into that dreary time right after school comes back into session, when Christmas is over and we’re starting to get sick of snow.
I’ve been wanting for years to get a big book edition of this book because I always, without fail, read it every January. Usually I read it to the kindergarten classes and first grade, but I have even had second grade classes see it out and ask me to read it to them as well. I’m not sure if my enthusiasm carries kids into loving this book or if the classic text and pictures do so themselves, but it is a crowd-pleaser. Recently I learned that there are also dolls that go with the first two books, and I would love to add those to my collection as well.
The Snowy Day was not only ground-breaking but also somewhat controversial. Some people were angry about a children’s book with black characters, while others felt that the book should have focused on Peter’s race. But Keats told his own story, using a variety of techniques to create a simple but beautiful tale of a boy in the snow. He experimented with new-to-him techniques like stamping, and this whimsy carries over to his illustrations.
The words are nicely spaced to the pictures with no more than a few sentences per page. It is definitely intended for adult read-aloud based on the sentence structure and vocabulary, but it is also useful and accessible to other groups because the pictures tell a story on their own, and the narrative is simple enough to be learned for retelling. Best of all, this book is good enough that you can read it every day for weeks before you want to throw it across the room.
Overall, most of my readers are probably already familiar with this book, but if you have somehow never heard of it, this is a must-read classic.