"One winter morning Peter woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night. It covered everything as far as he could see."
Peter wakes up to a glorious snowfall. He puts on his snow suit and goes outside to have great adventures in the snow. He makes footprints and snow angels, slides down enormous hills, and finally comes back to his warm house at the end of the day. But the next morning there will be the bright world of snow to explore once again.
This is one of the most beautiful picture books to ever win the Caldecott medal. Ezra Jack Keats masterful use of collage, simple shapes, color, and blank space is wonderful, but it's the way he conveys the childlike wonder and innocence that makes this book a well-loved classic. Keats makes the snow multicolored rather than just white. The footsteps in the snow are blue, the sky is different colors and textures. Peter's red snowsuit is a bright contrast in the snowy world.
Peter's bright snowsuit is an apt metaphor for the historical impact of this little picture book. Ezra Jack Keats was upset with the lack of multiculturalism in picture books of the day and set out to quietly write a book with a little black boy who was there "simply because he should have been there all along." This sparked some controversy in 1960's America. Some criticized it for not making Peter's race an issue. But it was a success and was the first Caldecott medalist to feature a black hero, a significant achievement for that time, although not completely new for the Caldecott committee which was no stranger to awarding multicultural books (see predecessors Mei Li, Nine Days to Christmas, Baboushka and the Three Kings.)
Many black children growing up got to see themselves in Peter, who did things that they did and enjoyed things that they enjoyed. This alone influenced the course of children's books over the next fifty years, along with Keats unique and beautiful style of art. And yet the most endearing thing about the book is that it is universal. Keats captures one of the most wonderful feelings of childhood. Race and time and place don't really matter, as proven by this book's continued popularity. The Snowy Day is a book full of wonder that every child can relate to, even those who have never experienced a snow day for themselves.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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