The Legacy of Ezra Jack Keats and a Boy Named Peter

Jessica Staff Image

In Andrea Davis Pinkney’s new book, A Poem for Peter, the author beautifully depicts in verse the life of Ezra Jack Keats and the creation of his most famous character, Peter.

Peter, a red hooded “brown-sugar boy,” makes his first appearance in The Snowy Day. Published in 1962, The Snowy Day is the story of a curious boy exploring the snowy streets of his city. Appearing at a pivotal time in our nation’s history, The Snowy Day broke the color barrier in children’s literature by featuring a young African American boy. Keats created Peter because he felt it was unfair for children to read books depicting only white characters. In 1963, The Snowy Day received the Caldecott Medal for its illustrations.

Book cover for The Snowy Day.

Keats went on to write and illustrate many children’s books that included a diverse cast of characters. These stories of adventure and friendship play out in an urban landscape, which was not a common practice at the time. However, Keats thought it was important to represent the children he saw in his own neighborhood and the neighborhood of his youth.

“If we could see each other exactly as the other is, this would be a different world.” -Ezra Jack Keats

The following list is just a small portion of the author’s total works, but include those adventures starring Peter and his friends.

The Snowy Day (1962)

Whistle for Willie (1964)

Peter’s Chair (1967)

A Letter to Amy (1968)

Goggles! (1969)

Hi, Cat! (1970)

Pet Show! (1972)

To learn more about Ezra Jack Keats, his books and ongoing legacy, check out the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

Jessica is a Children’s Specialist at CLP – Squirrel Hill. An avid reader of all things Moomin, Jessica also enjoys beekeeping, biking and digging in the dirt.

Read A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney

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