copyright 1962 Ezra Jack Keats. picture book / board book. ages 4-7. 32 pgs.

Such a sweet book. Not much to it - a kid plays around outside after it's been snowing all night. Peter makes a snow angel, knocks snow from a tree, sees what different types of footprints he can make. What makes some simple books boring, and others good? The artwork is lovely - collage combined with vivid paint - the book won the 1963 Caldecott Medal for it. The pictures make clear how simply delighted this little boy is.

Today, it's a nice little book. At the time of its publication, it was a much bigger deal, and stirred up some (dumb, needless) controversy. The book's main character is black, which was not at all common in picture books in the early 60s. The trend still favored white kids in jumpers and blond ringlets. Not only are there no white kids in the book, there aren't any rolling English meadows either - Peter lives in the projects. There's nothing creepy or over-the-top about it - Ezra's point was not to depict a slum, but it's very clearly an inner-city tenement, made sparkling by snow.

In the 50s, Ezra had mostly illustrated the work of other writers.   "There were two things that troubled me at that time: one was that in many of the manuscripts I was given there was a peculiar quality of contrivance and rigid structure; the other was that I never got a story about Black people, Black children. I decided that if I ever did a book on my own it would be more of a happening - certainly not a structured thing, but an experience. My hero would be a Black child."

The best part? Ezra was white.

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