The Snowy Day

Among other things out from the library at the moment, we have The Snowy Day: Ezra Jack Keats' Caldecott-winning picture book from 1962. It's a simple story. An African American child, Peter, enjoys the snow. He makes snowmen and snow angels, makes tracks and takes a stick to beat a snow-shower down from a tree. He takes a snowball home in his pocket, but it melts in his warm house, where his warm mother pulls off his cold, wet socks. He dreams of more melting snow, an end to the white world he's just discovered, but in the morning, the snow is there still. He takes a friend and sets out again into another snowy day. That's all. 

This book was groundbreaking at the time, which speaks to how desolately white the children's book landscape must then have been. But the sad thing is, it still feels groundbreaking. It still feels unusual to see a black child as the main character (not the offsider) in a story that's just about unalloyed joy. And that is what this story is about. It's about beauty, innocence, wonder, the romance of childhood freedoms and childhood feats. It's not about justice. It's not about diversity or equality.

And yet, it is about those things. It's about the world we'd have if they'd already arrived. In this world, they don't need to be named or won. They're the air a child like Peter breathes, the transfigured landscape on which he sweeps his angel arms, makes his tracks.