Saturday, March 10, 2012

Happy Birthday Ezra Jack Keats - March 11

Happy Birthday Ezra Jack Keats - March 11

Children's books have the power to influence. They can help a child learn to read. They can bring a parent and child closer together.  They can teach a child a concept. They can make a child laugh or cry.  I believe that every children's book can influence.  The influence may be big or the influence may be small.  Trying to wrap your thoughts around all the small influences made by children's books can be overwhelming.  It is actually easier to recognize the big influences of a few particular children's books because of the profound change that occurred after their publication.

Ezra Jack Keats is an author and illustrator of many influential children's books.  My family was influenced in a small way this week when I was able to use his books as the basis for activities with my children.  Additionally, his book The Snowy Day influenced the world in a big way by breaking down a barrier with a character that in Keats' mind "should have been there all along." (Ezra Jack Keats Foundation).

Fifty years ago, Ezra Jack Keats published The Snowy Day.  Claudia Nahson, curator of The Jewish Museum, described the book as "a landmark in children's literature."  She clarified, "It was the first time a full-color picture book featuring a protagonist who is an African-American that is not there thanks to a white character. He is not there as a secondary character. He is the story.  It is a universal story."   (CBS New York).  To further discuss the importance of this book, Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation stated, "The effect of this book was ground shaking.  It opened the door to the publication of many more books about children of many races, but perhaps most importantly; it allowed children of many races to see themselves in the books they read." (Cynsations).

I took advantage of a snowy day this week in Ohio.  My oldest two children were off at school. I sat down by the porch doors with my youngest son, observed a few leftover snowflakes falling to the ground, and read a book about one of my favorite characters in children's literature, Peter.  The Snowy Day, the first of seven books that feature Peter, tells the simple story of a young boy exploring newly fallen snow. I love how the book captures all the things children love about snow -- making footprints, snowball fights, snowmen, snow angels, and much more.

After reading the book together, I got my son all dressed in red, just like Peter. He wore his hat and boots, his brother's coat, and his sister's pants -- but it worked! (actually he now claims the whole outfit as his own!)
Our snow wasn't piled high, but he was able to make footprints, just like Peter.
In the YouTube video below, I learned that The Snowy Day was illustrated using collage.  To make the snow, Ezra Jack Keats, painted pink paper white.  
After making footprints, my son found a stick to make tracks in the snow, just like Peter.
He smacked snow with his stick, just like Peter. Luckily, snow didn't fall on his head. 
I picked up a handful of snow and packed it into a snowball, just like Peter.
We put the snowball in his pocket, just like Peter.
He got a wet pocket, just like Peter.
Jennie's Hat is another book by Ezra Jack Keats that I love.  The story is about a girl, Jennie, that is expecting a new hat from her favorite aunt.  Her expectations are high.  However, when Jennie opens the box she finds a very plain hat.  The only thing that gets her mind off her disappointment is to feed the birds like she does every Saturday.  However, she quickly remembers how she dislikes the hat and to make matters worse the next day is a church day.  She attends church in her plain hat while looking at all the ladies wearing their fancy hats with flowers.  To her surprise, upon leaving church, the birds have a plan for Jennie's hat to repay her for all times she spent feeding them each and every Saturday.

I have wanted to make Jennie's Hats since the moment I first read the book last year.  The finished product exceeded my expectations! Happy Birthday, Ezra Jack Keats!

I bought foam visors at Michael's Craft Store for $1 each and about $5 of artificial flowers. I also found colorful feathers and stickers of birds in our craft boxes.  My children decided on the arrangement of the flowers on their hat and I used a hot glue gun to make sure everything stayed in place.
Her hat is not a "plain hat" anymore.
He was such a good sport and he made quite fancy hat.
These hats will be "saved and looked at and remembered for a long, long time."
I was so excited to learn that the traveling exhibit, The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats, will be in Ohio from March 16 - June 30, 2013 at the Akron Art Museum. This will make for an extra special birthday celebration next year! Check out the video below for more information about the exhibit!

Links:


1. Ezra Jack Keats Foundation + Like it on Facebook + watch on YouTube Channel
2. Ezra Jack Keats Author Study - Scholastic, Brain Pop Jr., Calico Cookie 
3. A Teaching Guide to the World of Ezra Jack Keats - TeacherVision
4. Ezra Jack Keats Art Exhibit - The Jewish Museum
5. Bio - Penguin Group
6. Interview with Deborah Pope, Director of Ezra Jack Keats Foundation - Cynsations
7. Ezra Jack Keats Award for New Writers and Illustrators
8. The Snowy Day told in American Sign Language - YouTube
9. Pope: Snowy Day Broke the Color Barrier - Newsday
10. Lots of The Snowy Day Activities - Penguin Group
11. The Snowy Day Celebrates 50 years - NYTIMES
12. Animated Books from Ezra Jack Keats Foundation
13. Happy Birthday Author  - Birthday Celebration from 2010
14. Eye on New York: Ezra Jack Keats - Video
15. Read The Snowy Day - We Give Books


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