- ISBN-13: 9780425287682
- ISBN-10: 0425287688
- Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
- Publish Date: November 2016
- Page Count: 60
- Reading Level: Ages 7-10
- Dimensions: 10.8 x 9.7 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-10-10
- Reviewer: Staff
This formidable biographical poem pays homage to Ezra Jack Keats while speaking to Peter, the fictional African-American hero of The Snowy Day, the story of a black boy playing in the snow, remarkable among 1960s childrens stories in which the delight/ was all white. Pinkney (Rhythm Ride) goes deeply into Keatss motivations, describing how Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz, a child of struggling Polish immigrants, progressed from grocery store sign painter in Brooklyn to WPA muralist to comic book artist. After his service as a draftsman in the WWII Air Force, Ezra did something many Jews did/ when the want ads said:/ No Jews Need Apply and changed his name to one that had a nicer ring to itfor some. Pinkney emphasizes that Discrimination had formed Ezras/ understanding of what it meant to be/ different./ This also led to you, brown-sugar boy. The character of Peter, warmly addressed as a cocoa sprite who is filled with brown-sugar whimsy, developed from a series of photos of a child that Keats clipped from a 1930s Life magazine. Pinkney describes the snow of Peters day as natures we-all blanket, an inclusive force (When Snow spreads her sheet, we all glisten), while Fancher and Johnson (Shh! Bears Sleeping) mime Keatss collages, creating a gentle ambience for Pinkneys wordplay and confident voice. Though an established classic, The Snowy Day has received renewed attention from the We Need Diverse Books movement, and Pinkneys poem sheds fascinating light on Keatss long-lived achievement. Ages 710. Authors agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Nov.)
The greatest snowy day of all
BookPage Children's Top Pick, November 2016
As is the case for many of my generation, Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day is one of the first books I recall enjoying in my small West Virginia town, a glorious tale that will remain seared in my brain. At the time I simply loved the book and its red snow-suited hero, Peter, having no clue that this 1963 Caldecott Medal winner was groundbreaking, the first mainstream picture book to feature an African-American child.
A Poem for Peter highlights the fascinating story of the book and its creator, who was born 100 years ago in Brooklyn to Polish-Jewish immigrant parents, began painting store signs in third grade and had to forfeit art school scholarships when his father died the day before his high school graduation.
Not only is Keats’ story compelling, but creative use of text and illustrations bring his world marvelously to life (with the added bonus of two short essays at the end). Andrea Davis Pinkney writes in “collage verse” or “bio-poem,” seamlessly weaving the biographical details of Keats’ life with commentary often addressed to Peter himself, noting how he and Ezra “made a great team” and how: “He dared to open a door. / He awakened a wonderland. / He brought a world of white / suddenly alive with color.”
In similar fashion, illustrators Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson use collage and their own lively artwork to incorporate images from five of Keats’ books, including The Snowy Day. Peter appears on the very first page and makes what Pinkney calls “peek-a-boo” appearances throughout, including a touching scene of Peter and Keats holding hands under a tree on a snowy day. This unique approach serves not only to thoroughly engage young readers but to effortlessly demonstrate how real-life experiences morph into literary influences.
An exceedingly well-done homage, A Poem for Peter is a visual and verbal treat for longtime Keats fans, as well as an exciting introduction for a legion of today’s young readers.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Take a peek inside A Poem for Peter.