Today is the birthday of children’s author and illustrator, Ezra Jack Keats. Keats is known for more than twenty books he wrote and illustrated, in addition to many more he illustrated for others. He was a favorite read, especially on a snowy day, when our girls were growing up, and he is still is a favorite of mine.
The first book Ezra Jack Keats wrote and illustrated himself , “The Snowy Day”, was published in 1962. It was awarded the Caldecott Medal for children’s literature in 1963. It was followed by several other books about the little boy you see here on the cover, Peter, and many other books that have entertained and honored childhood for fifty years. “
The Snowy Day” is a simple story of a little boy on a snowy day in the middle of a very big city. It was remarkable for its time in that it was one of the first books for children that depicted a child of color. It remains a classic today.
I was first introduced to Peter on a snowy of my own, in a children’s literature class in college. My “kiddie lit” teacher was a diminutive woman who was often seen carrying teetering piles of children’s picture books out of her office, the Normal Public Library, and the Milner Library on our campus. Her love of children’s books, authors and illustrators and her dedication to bringing literature alive for youngsters in a meaningful way by teaching elementary education majors was contagious (though I had a lingering case of kiddie lit fever from the time I learned to love books on my grandmother’s lap).
When our darling grandson was born, his parents chose the name of Ezra. I could always tell who the elementary school teachers were when I said our grandson’s name was Ezra, for they all said, with gleeful enthusiasm, Ezra Jack Keats!
Our Ezra’s middle name is Petros, the Biblical Greek for Peter. Peter was my father’s name and I will be forever touched by their honoring him so.
Peter and Petros and Ezra and snowy days; they all seemed to float together today like our recent flurry of snowflakes. I was excited learn that today was Mr. Keats’ birthday and I look forward to one day reading some of Ezra’s books to our very own Ezra.
There is a fabulous website about Ezra Jack Keats, his life, his books, his illustrations and more. If you have the time, click on in celebration of his birthday – and of children everywhere. www.ezra-jack-keats.org/introduction/a-biography/