The Snowy Day
"One morning Peter woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night. It covered everything as far as he could see."
For me, The Snowy Day is a perfect picture book. Art, text, pace, and tone are flawless.
Even today when I read this book, all outside noise is muffled. Like a real snowy day, I feel the wonder of a five-year-old girl waking up to a transformed world under a blanket of white. Now I live in Arizona, no possibility of a snow day where I live.
Pete's sense of wonder and discovery still resonates with me: the feeling of being alone, but part of such a spectacular world. Keats wanted no child to be an outsider. “If we could see each other exactly as the other is,” he wrote, “this would be a different world.”
Keats's superb collage illustrations show the details of city life: street light, iron fences, and suggestions of buildings, but he always keeps the focus on Pete's wonder of his snowy day. Keats says while working on this book, “I was like a child playing, I was in a world with no rules.”
Though Peter would now be a senior citizen, his story is as fresh today and it was back in 1962. Groundbreaking in its time for showing an African-American child, this book is often cited by authors and illustrators as an inspiration for beginning their own careers. It was for me.
Back when I was Art Director at Viking Children's Books, I worked with Ezra Jack Keats on one of his last books, Clementina's Cactus. Now that I live in the desert and see cacti all the time, I think of Keats and his remarkable ability to see wonder and dignity in all things and in all people.
Reviewed by: B. G. HENNESSY