Sunday, January 29, 2012

Happy Birthday to The Snowy Day

While planning for the upcoming Winter Picasso's Basement classes beginning next weekend I've thought about how little Winter we've actually seen. I'm grateful this year: we have a new dog and while he loved our one snowstorm I don't really look forward to walking him in freezing rain or down icy streets!

This brought to mind one of my favorite books, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. There is no book that better captures the excitement of a day home playing in the snow. The dreamy yet crisp images. The crunching sounds of the snow under your feet. The neighborhood as it is transformed into a world of new sounds, sights and smells.

As a child I didn't know that this was the first book to feature a black child as the main character. I didn't know the author was white, that people were concerned about white authors portrayals of black characters because they'd never done it well before. I just knew that it was exciting and fun and beautiful all at once      

Keat's characters and his art work stay with you. As a little girl I loved looking at the hats he created in Jenny's hat with fanciful textured collaged patterns. His simple shapes were charming but intriguing. His stories were of everyday events: making hats, painting a chair, playing in snow, putting on a pet show. Around age 8 I started writing my own books. Looking back they were very much influenced by the work of Ezra Jack Keats. Stories about pets in a pet show. Cut outs of people mixed with painted images.

The Snowy Day has turned 50. It makes me realize how important children's books and children's artwork is. That it can continue to excite, to make children want to read and to draw. And to run and play in the snow. Happy 50th to The Snowy Day. I am sure it will be just as exciting to a child in 50 more years!

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