Erza Jack Keats: The wonder of winter

Thinking While Typing’s got a nice post about children’s book illustrator Ezra Jack Keats and how seeing an original illo up close influenced his decision to work with rare books and ephemera. I have been a Ezra Jack Keats fan for a long time–the guy’s illustrations have this amazingly hip, textured quality, really original, and his stories have a diversity of theme and character that I admire. In some ways, he was the Samurai Jack author of his time,
The Snowy Day is one of his best-known books, but there my other great favorite is Peter’s Chair.
Keats is fascinating not only because of the creativity and depth of his work, but because he was a New York Polish-American Jew from a poor family who changed his name from Jacob to Jack, went into the military and emerged an artist. He got into illustrating chilldren’s books in the late 50’s and soon began to create his own books. Interestingly enough, however, the hero of many of Keats’ childrens books was a African-American child he named Peter.
Keats quote: “Then began an experience that turned my life around–working on a book with a black kid as hero. None of the manuscripts I’d been illustrating featured any black kids–except for token blacks in the background. My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along. Years before I had cut from a magazine a strip of photos of a little black boy. I often put them on my studio walls before I’d begun to illustrate children’s books. I just loved looking at him. This was the child who would be the hero of my book.”
More in Keats at the Drummund Library Virtual Exhibit.
Good bio and photos at his foundation.
Some pictures here.