Spotlight on "The Snowy Day"

February 24, 2016 | Jennifer

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The Snowy DayEzra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day was the first full-colour, mainstream picture book to feature an African American protagonist.  This book originated during the Civil Rights movement in 1962, contrasting riots and protests with an innocent and universally relatable character, Peter. The book was met with criticism over whether racial identity was accurately portrayed by the white author, but was awarded the Caldecott Medal the following year. 

Peter’s race is never actually mentioned in the book and it isn't important to the story's trajectory, a boy’s first impression of the snowfall. Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, said it best:  “…you don’t put a colour on a child’s experience of snow.” The book depicts an urban setting, but plenty of whimsy and wonder too.  Young Peter is the star of The Snowy Day and six other titles:

Whistle for Willie Peter's chair A Letter to Amy 

Goggles Hi cat Pet show!

1.  "Whistle for Willie" by Ezra Jack Keats / 2.  "Peter's Chair" by Ezra Jack Keats / 3.  "A Letter to Amy" by Ezra Jack Keats / 4.  "Goggles!" by Ezra Jack Keats / 5.  "Hi, Cat!"  by Ezra Jack Keats / 6. "Pet Show!" by Ezra Jack Keats 

One piece of powerful fan mail that Keats received from a teacher read:  “The kids in my class, for the first time, are using brown crayons to draw themselves. These are African-American children. Before this, they drew themselves with pink crayons. But now, they can see themselves." This quote is a reminder that children need books as mirrors to see themselves, not only as windows to see the world around them.


1. "Ezra Jack Keats:  A Biography with Illustrations" by Dean Engel / 2.  "Keats's Neighbourhood" by Ezra Jack Keats

To learn more about Keats' contributions to the literary world, have a look at the illustrated biography or discover more of his titles in this treasury.  Then, see below for pictures of children enjoying an exhibit based around the iconic book.

Exploring "The Snowy Day" exhibit
Photo Credit: mliu92 on a CC License
Making a Pretend Snow Angel
Photo Credit: mliu92 on a CC License