What Heart-Warming Story Will Be Featured On A US Postage Stamp?


On Our Bookshelves…


BOOK: The Snowy Day

AUTHOR: Ezra Jack Keats



I loved this book when I was a kid. I didn’t realize it was (already) a classic in the 1970s, but it was colorful and vibrant. Peter’s neighborhood looked like mine, and the snowy day he experienced was big and clean and silent and wonderful. The simple illustrations and the bright color of his snowsuit appealed, and the simple story did, too. And Peter’s joy was infectious. It still is…I took another look at this old favorite recently, and I still like it an awful lot.

There’s not much of a plot…a little boy experiences a snowfall and enjoys his adventures, making footprints, snow angels, and tromping around an urban landscape. He tries, unsuccessfully, to save a snowball for the next day. Its magic lies in how it captures, quite magnificently, the visceral joy that snow brings to a child. Peter looks to be about four in this book, which is appropriate for little ones, maybe up until about age six or seven.

Now, I didn’t realize, when I was a kindergartener, just how groundbreaking this book was. It was the first full-color picture book that featured an African-American protagonist. Keats wrote and illustrated it (he’d formerly been illustrating books by other authors) in large part because he’d observed that “none of the manuscripts I’d been illustrating featured any black kids—except for token blacks in the background. My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along.”

Keats personally knew a lot about being an outsider, growing up as a child of Polish-Jewish immigrants, and having legally changed his name from Jacob Ezra Katz, due to the anti-Semitic prejudice he’d experienced. And maybe because of his outsider status, or maybe just because he had a great generosity of spirit, he created a foundation, active to this day, which has a mission of bringing Keats’ multicultural creative spirit into children’s lives and literature by supporting arts and literacy programs in public schools and libraries, and celebrating new writers and illustrators of exceptional picture books for a diverse audience of children (as well as preserving Keats’s work and extending his legacy).

The New York Public Library named The Snowy Day one of the 150 most influential books of the 20th century, along with Ulysses, The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, Invisible Man, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and in the most excellent company of Charlotte’s Web, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Not too bad for a poor kid from Brooklyn. And I was excited to learn recently that Peter is going to be featured on some US postage stamps later this year…I think I’m going to have to buy some. After all, in the dreary days of winter, it helps to have a look at a little boy in a bright red snowsuit having an excellent time.

RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 4 1/2 Whistles




Lead-In Image Courtesy of Penguin Random House

snowy day book cover embed


Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com



A Countess Below Stairs, Eva Ibbotson

A Patchwork Planet, Anne Tyler

A Room With a View, E.M. Forster

An Infamous Army, Georgette Heyer

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon

Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

Bunker Hill, Nathan Philbrick

Burmese Days, George Orwell

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Cloudstreet, Tim Winton

Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

Doctor Jazz, Hayden Carruth

Ed Emberly’s Drawing Book of Animals, Ed Emberly

Endangered Pleasures, Barbara Holland

Envious Casca, Georgette Heyer

Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

Good Poems, Garrison Keillor

Gowanus Waters, Steven Hirsch

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne

Heads in Beds, Jacob Tomsky

Here is New York, E.B. White

Hide My Eyes, Margery Allingham

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, Laurie Colwin

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

If on a winter’s night a traveler, Italo Calvino

Lexicon, Max Barry

Longbourn, Jo Baker

Madeleine’s Ghost, Robert Girardi

Malice Aforethought, Frances Iles

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer

Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

My Life in France, Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

Notorious RBG, Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

One Summer: America 1927, Bill Bryson

Out of the Blackout, Robert Bernard

Parnassus on Wheels & The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley

Plotted: A Literary Atlas, Andrew DeGraff

Possession, A.S. Byatt

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…and Other Modern Verse, Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders, and Hugh Smith

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Rose Madder, Stephen King

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Carlo Rivelli

Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

The Dancer of Izu, Kawabata Yasunari

The House Without a Key, Earl Derr Biggers

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Oliver Sacks

The Martian, Andy Weir

The Modern Kids, Jona Frank

The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah

The Mother & Child Project, Hope Through Healing Hands (ed.)

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

The Tender Bar, J.R. Moehringer

The Translator, Nina Schuyler

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories, Saki

The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

The Women in Black, Madeleine St John

They Call Me Naughty Lola, David Rose

Thing Explainer, Randall Munroe

What If?, Randall Munroe

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi

Up At the Villa, W. Somerset Maugham

84, Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff