A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day

illus. by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson. 60p. bibliog. photos. websites. Viking. Nov. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780425287682.
Gr 2–4—Pinkney dives into the life and work of Ezra Jack Keats, specifically focusing on The Snowy Day and his creation of the main character, Peter. Using poetry (what the author refers to as "collage verse"), mainly addressed to Peter, Pinkney pieces together Keats's biography, tracing spots where early versions or hints of Peter can be found, and reflects on what a monumental event the publication of the picture book was and still is. Students will learn about Keats's early life, his tireless dedication to provide for his immigrant family, his love and pursuit of art, and how he changed his name from Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz to Ezra Jack Keats to avoid anti-Semitism in the United States after World War II. Pinkney's verse seamlessly weaves together story and fact to craft an intimate conversation about the artist's history and impact. ("Brown-sugar child,/when you and your hue/burst onto the scene,/all of us came out to play.") Readers familiar with Keats will notice allusions to his other works throughout. The illustrations complement the text, and Keats's own style, by using mixed-media collages of prints, fabrics, photos, and paint, all of which capture the liveliness of the urban setting and historical points. This uplifting telling ends with a discussion of the cultural importance of Peter and how Keats's vision paved the way for authors and artists to look for and include children of color in their work.
VERDICT This celebration of a visionary children's book author and illustrator is a lovely addition for most collections.

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