Friday, February 1, 2013

The Snowy Day: Ezra Jack Keats (1962)

             The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1962) is a story about a young boy named Peter who adventures out into the snow.  While playing, he admires the tracks he makes in the snow, builds a snowman, sleds down the hill, and creates snow angels.  After the fun-filled day, Peter thinks about his adventure, and patiently awaits another.  This story can be classified as a realistic fiction picturebook for children.  When assessing the quality of The Snowy Day, Peter’s character was quite dimensional and believable, as he was brave to set out on his snow-day journey alone, was adventurous in all of the activities that he tried, reflective on his day, and hopeful for another (Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010; Keats, 1962).  The story was also set in Peter’s house and surrounding neighborhood, reflecting the word in which we live in.  The events within the plot were also those which many children engage in today, such as sledding, making footprints in the snow, and making snowballs. 
            Keats’ (1962) illustrations were also outstanding, complementing the narrative perfectly.  When first looking at the book, both the front and back covers are full of colorful scenes from the book.  The book and pictures are also an appropriate size for the events within the book, as well as for the young readers whom may curl up to read it.  Even the pages leading up to the story are full of color and snowflakes which were actually homemade stamps (The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, 2013).  The pages to come smoothly follow the narrative with both indoor and outdoor scenes, and were designed with patterned paper cutouts in a collage format (Galda et al., 2010, The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, 2013).  Keats’ even incorporated oilcloth and fabric into this award winning book; with so many techniques and medium involved, the illustrations cannot help but appear textured.   Each illustration also takes up 2 pages, capturing the reader’s attention and directed him or her to the next page.  The font is an appropriate size for young readers, is black, and is found both over and above illustrations.  Keats also balances out his illustrations, not making pages appear cluttered.  The author also uses curving lines, various colors, and basic shapes that are known to children.  The main character, Peter, is found in most images.  Overall, Keats appears to use the Impressionistic style of art, as he uses light and color in a beautiful combination to enhance the mood and experiences for the reader (Galda et al., 2010). 

            I am so glad that I purchased this book, as both the narrative and illustrations are heart-warming and bring me back to my childhood.  Being from Wisconsin, I know the winter weather all too well, and the excitement that comes along with snow-day activities.  I took my son sledding for the first time last weekend, and now he too can make numerous connections to the story; his face lit up when he saw that young Peter went sledding or down the hill within The Snowy Day.  I also love the innocence of the book, as Peter tries to keep a snowball in his pocket for the next day, and after checking for it, it is gone (or rather melted!). 
            Ezra Jack Keats was surrounded by art since he was a young boy (The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, 2013).  Keats was actually paid for his first project, a local store sign, when he was 8.  While in school, Keats received many awards for his artwork as well.  Both of his parents were supportive of his desire to pursue art, despite his father’s hesitancy due to the financial difficulties one may encounter.  Keats went on to illustrate for comic books, murals, and other publications.  In 1954, Keats published his very first picturebook, and continued on to write and illustrate.  Keats even traveled to many classrooms around the U.S., and his advice to students was to “’Keep on reading!’” (The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, 2013).  Though his list of books both written and illustrated is extensive, one might be interested in reading Keat’s Neighborhood, Dreams, A Letter to Amy, and Peter’s Chair. 
Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:
1.       The first activity could actually be utilized by students of any age; one could simply modify the rubric/requirements for the task.  This activity asks the students to write a poem about snow, or another experience that he or she has encountered; examples may be sunshine, the wind, rain, and any other mood-evoking experience.  Students should begin with the statement, “Snow is…,” and brainstorm ideas before completing a first draft.  Students should be sure to take into account the 5 senses, adjectives, verbs, poetic techniques/figurative language, and poetic structures/styles (all depending upon the age of the student).  After revising the first draft, students can finalize a copy to share with the class, including an illustration if time. 
2.      The second activity is a “Connections” assignment.  Though making connections are useful at any age, this task would be most beneficial for those in kindergarten-3rd grade.  The teacher would first read The Snowy Day, and have children enjoy the narrative and illustrations.  Following the reading, the teacher would discuss connections, and include the three that the students would be focusing on: text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world.  The teacher would then read through the story again, having the students choose parts which he or she can relate to.  Students may make statements such as, “I make snowballs,” “I read a story about a boy who built a snowman,” or “This reminds me of the blizzard we had last winter.”  Teachers should also have students write an example of each type of connection in his or her Writing Journal to be sure that he or she can reference the connections when needed in the future. 
Reader Response Questions:
Did you like the ending to this book? Why or why not? (What if the snow had melted?)
Do you think the title fits the book? What other titles might fit?
Can you relate to Peter? If so, in what ways?

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.  (2013).  Ezra Jack Keats: A biography.  Retrieved from
The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.  (2013).  “The Snowy Day.”  [online images]. 
Retrieved from
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., Sipe, L. R. (2010). Literature and the Child (7th ed.). Belmont, CA:
Keats, E. J. (1962).  The Snowy Day.  New York, NY: Penguin Group


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  2. For younger children, I think it would be fun for the children to make paper snowflakes.