Read Aloud Picture Books: The Snowy Day

First published in 1962, 'The Snowy Day' is a picture book written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. Like his other books, 'The Snowy Day' features Keats' unique artistic style, combining collage with a painting method known as gouache. This Caldecott Medal-winner has been cherished as a popular read aloud since its debut.

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The Snowy Day Ezra Jack Keats

About the Story

The Snowy Day begins with a little boy named Peter waking up to find that a thick snow has fallen overnight. After breakfast, he dresses warmly and heads outside to explore his snow-filled urban landscape. His ensuing adventures are captured through words and carefully detailed artwork.

Using his feet and a stick, Peter experiments with making different tracks and patterns in the snow. After unsuccessfully trying to join older boys in a snowball fight, he builds a snowman and makes snow angels. A large pile of snow he encounters becomes a mountain he attempts to scale, then he sleds down the other side.

Before returning home, Peter packs a snowball for the next day and puts it in his coat pocket. At home, he tells his mother all about his adventures, then ponders them while taking a bath. Before bed, he checks on his snowball, only to find it's melted. He dreams that a warm sun melts all the snow, but wakes up to find new snow is falling. That next morning, he invites his friend from across the hall to go on new adventures together.

Reading the Story Aloud

The Snowy Day is ideal for reading aloud for numerous reasons. First, there are several moments in the story where you can pause and ask your child questions. For example, when Peter is making tracks in the snow, it isn't immediately revealed what object he finds to help him; you can ask your child how such a track, as shown in the picture, is made. Later, when Peter places a snowball in his pocket, you can ask your child what might happen to the snowball as Peter takes a bath.

Whether or not you read The Snowy Day during snowy winter months or not, you can turn elements of the story into activities as you read it aloud. For example, just like Peter does with the snow, you can have your child practice making patterns in snow, dirt or sand. You can also ask your child to create collages that form pictures, as Keats does in the book. Finally, you can reenact the melting snowball, testing how long it takes for a snowball, or ice from the freezer, to melt at room temperature.

Cultural Significance

At the time The Snowy Day was published, it was exceptionally rare for children's picture books to feature children of color in central roles. With The Snowy Day, Keats intentionally set out to craft a story around a young African American boy. He'd noticed that children of color were traditionally included in the margins of pictures or backgrounds, if at all. Keats' goal was to make a child of color the hero of a story that didn't necessarily have anything to do with race; instead, Keats wanted an African American hero simply to reflect the reality he knew.

The inspiration for Peter was a boy Keats saw in a picture in Life magazine. Keats clipped out the picture and kept it around his studio for inspiration. After The Snowy Day, Keats used Peter in six more books. Throughout these additional stories, readers can watch as Peter grows into an adolescent.

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