With delight, I write this on a snowy day, a fitting setting for a tribute to one of my favorite children’s author, Ezra Jack Keats. Actually, he is beloved by many, including celebrities from Whoopi Goldberg to Tony Marx, President of the New York Public Library. At KidsPlay, he is celebrated too as a source for one of our popular Story Walk books The Snowy Day and as a KidsPlay Author of the Month.
After creating 70 books as an illustrator for other authors, Keats went on to write and illustrate 22 children’s books of his own. His illustrations use opaque watercolor, collage, and bright colors that invite readers into his books. He developed his technique for his own books by, as he describes it, “playing” with materials and techniques such as splatter painting. At KidsPlay, of course, play is in our name; however, there are other reasons to highlight Ezra Jack Keats as a children’s author.
A first in children’s literature, he presented real children from urban settings. The source for his stories was his own background from a lower-income family in New York. Recognized as the first children’s author to show multicultural families in urban settings, his famous character Peter is a problem solver dealing with real childhood issues—for example, a snowy day and a melting snowball, learning to whistle, making friends, and dealing with a gang of older kids. Peter is also a child who is black, a first in children’s books. The popularity and presence of Peter as a character required no other comment than to be a realistic reflection of an urban, more modern setting.
The Peter series books with bright illustrations, simple texts, and real child-sized problems were among Keats’ other children’s books treating children with respect and affection as problem solvers. KidsPlay believes in children as makers, problem solvers, and people reflecting many cultures and family settings. Of course, we are proud to highlight the work of Ezra Jack Keats.
Please take the time to enjoy his books and the website that honors his life and recognizes the power of reading and the wonder of many kinds of children and families. email@example.com
Now, I must attach my Snowy Day stamps to some greeting cards for mailing AND go outside to make some snow angels. Thank you, Mr. Keats!
-Patty Cassella, Learning Experiences Specialist