Friday, October 22, 2021

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Tell Me Another Story

Do you remember the first time someone read The Snowy Day to you? You probably recall the cover, particularly. I think my mother and I checked it out of the Brighton branch of the Boston Public Library before I could read but I also remember it from school. For those who don’t know, author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats changed children’s books in 1962 by writing this picture book about an African American child and putting him unmistakably on the cover. The book beautifully captures a small child’s joy playing in the snow and the imagination that makes it fun.
Keats received the 1963 Caldecott Medal for his iconic artwork, and The Snowy Day was the first picture book with an African American protagonist to win a major children’s book award. Keats was ahead of his time in recognizing that children should be able to see themselves in the books they love. He wrote and or illustrated more than 85 books but this was his masterpiece and received the most awards. He created the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, which champions diversity in children’s literature, and endowed it with his royalties. His original artwork and his papers are housed at the de Grummond Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi.
The de Grummond Book Group meets monthly to discuss a chosen book but today we watched a new documentary from the EJK Foundation, Tell Me Another Story, about diversity in children’s literature (click here to view). If we’d been together instead of on Zoom, we would have been fighting over the Kleenex because it was very moving. And if Ellen Ruffin hadn’t thought of watching it together as a group, I might not have got around to watching it. Afterward, we talked about the film and other books we have read recently that were memorable. Now I have several new authors to read! So many books, so little . . . you know.
Ezra himself-what a kind face!
I think all fans of literature will find this documentary very interesting!  I've been in those publishing editorial and sales meetings where people said pessimistically that books with diverse characters wouldn't sell.  That was a real chicken and the egg argument so I am glad to see so many recent successes.

Snowy Day images copyright to Penguin USA and Ezra Jack Keats photo to the EJK Foundation


Lex @ Lexlingua said...

I did not know about any of this/ had never heard of this book. But you've just won me over with the background information. I'm going to look this up, thank you!

Deniz Bevan said...

Love this book! It's on regular rotation for our bedtime story reading :-)