The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

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Bibliography

Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy Day. New York: The Viking Press, 1962. ISBN 9780140501827

Plot Summary

Peter wakes up one morning to find that it has snowed during the night and the snow is covering everything. After he eats breakfast, Peter bundles up and heads out for a day of fun in the snow. He makes snow angels and snow balls, wants to participate in a snowball fight with older kids but thinks better of it, and makes a snowman. When Peter goes home at night, he tells his mother of his day and replays it in his head. He worries the snow will be gone the next day, but it is not, so he gets some friends and they go out for another day of snow adventures.

Critical Analysis

In his book, Keats creates an interesting character who has allowed many children to place themselves in the story and follow the easy progression of the snowy day as Peter lives his adventures. The reader is introduced to Peter’s neighborhood through Keats’s signature style of illustrations which are beautifully uncomplicated and feature bold, brilliant colors. The illustrations also suggest movement and contribute to the overall mood of pure and simple childlike joy.

It is easy to see why this book gained such popularity worldwide: it is simple, relatable, and enjoyable for readers of all ages.

Review Excerpts

Caldecott Medal
( WON AWARD in 1963 )

School Library Journal
( #5 on Top 100 Picture Books List)

“The book is notable not only for its lovely artwork and tone, but also for its importance as a trailblazer. According to Horn Book magazine, The Snowy Day was “the very first full-color picture book to feature a small black hero” ” — Amazon.com editorial review

“…he did what very few can: quietly and intimately engage with the way children experience the world—the small excitements, the tiny heartbreaks, the bright newness of all five senses, and the unparalleled elation of snow on a school day.” — John Hodgman, author

Connections

Read more books about Peter written by Ezra Jack Keats:

  • Peter’s Chair ISBN 9780140564419
  • A Letter to Amy ISBN 9780670880638
  • Goggles! ISBN 9780140564402

Read another book about snow day adventures:

  • Tracks in the Snow by Wong Herbert Yee, ISBN 9780312371340

Have students draw pictures about what they did on a snow day or what they would do if they have not yet experienced one.

Have students act out Peter’s adventures from the book.

(image from Amazon.com, accessed January 26, 2015, cover art by Ezra Jack Keats)

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Good-bye, Havana! Hola, New York! by Edie Colón, Ill. by Raúl Colón

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Bibliography

Colón, Edie. Good-bye, Havana! Hola, New York! Ill. by Raúl Colón. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011. ISBN 9781442406742.

Plot Summary

In this book, the author tells her own story through her main character, Gabriella. Gabriella and her parents leave Cuba for New York shortly after Fidel Castro takes over the country. Gabriella’s grandparents must stay behind in Cuba and join the rest of the family at a later date, but the young girl struggles to understand why and misses her grandparents. Gabriella enrolls in a new school and works to learn the language, do what her teacher asks of her, and make friends. Finally, Gabriella’s grandparents join the family in New York and they are all together in their new home.

Critical Analysis

Gabriella exhibits the feelings and thoughts of a typical young child who must leave everything she knows to go to a new place and be immersed in a new culture. The adults in the story are not developed much deeper than surface level, but the story does not suffer for it. The reader follows Gabriella’s journey to learn about America and to wait for her grandparents to be reunited with the family, which is finally accomplished near the end of the book. Colón uses comparisons of the two different settings and descriptions of the seasons changing to mark the passage of time as Gabriella waits to see her grandparents again.

This story about adjusting to a new culture is told in simple language and covers a large span of time in its few short pages.

Raúl Colón, the author’s husband, gives a homey feel to the story with his illustrations. His use of multiple lines in a set (which resemble a curved musical staff) give movement and life to the characters and objects on the pages. Colón’s choices in apparel and warm colors for his illustrations provide a sense of nostalgia and his use of line and shadow in the character’s faces really bring out the emotions of the story.

E. Colón’s story touches on the history of Cuba and provides a look at Cuban culture while bringing to the forefront the cross-cultural concept of adapting to new situations.

The illustrations are what made the book for me. I read one review that held several denigrating remarks about the author and her writing ability, but while I believe the writing was the weaker of the two aspects of this book, I felt the story was a nice glimpse into the history of one family who fled Cuba and the resulting impact on their child.

Review Excerpts

“In his signature, almost pointillist style, Raúl Colón’s earth-toned artwork imbues the story with a comforting texture and warmth, closely depicting the clothing, hair, and décor of the era.” —Publishers Weekly, May 16, 2011

“Raul Colón’s art, rendered in his familiar style, in watercolor, colored pencil, and lithographic pencil, has a sweetness that’s sometimes tinged with anxiety, sometimes with hope.” —Booklist, September 1, 2011

“The true charm here is in the artwork, lushly rendered by Colón’s husband. His signature soft, muted watercolor-and-pencil style befits the nostalgic theme…” — Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2011

“Lush, evocative watercolor and colored-pencil artwork captures the warmth of the child’s family as well as the contrast between the tropical beauty and unrest of her homeland and the wintry New York landscape.” School Library Journal, September 2011

Connections

Read other books about immigration such as:

  • My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood by Rosemary Wells and Secundino Fernandez, Ill. by Peter Ferguson

  • All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel by Dan Yaccarino

Read other books illustrated by Raúl Colón such as:

  • Draw!  ISBN  9781442494923
  • As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom ISBN 9780375833359

Discussion/writing activity topics:

  • Have you ever had to move to a place where you didn’t know anyone or where you didn’t know the language? How did that make you feel? What are some things you did to cope?
  • Have you ever been away from someone you loved and missed them? What did you do to feel better?

Gabriella helped her teacher pronounce Spanish words in class. Have students identify something they know how to do and have them teach the class or a small group.

Gabriella talks about the sounds and sights outside her window in both Havana and New York. Have students draw a picture of what they see outside their window or record the sounds from their window.

(image from Amazon.com, accessed January 18, 2015, cover art by Raul Colón)

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

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Bibliography

Smith, Lane. Grandpa Green. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2011. ISBN 9781596436077

Plot Summary

Grandpa Green’s great-grandson takes the reader through a garden of memories in this beautifully illustrated look at the title character’s life. When Grandpa Green can no longer tell his stories, the shrubs and trees he has so masterfully crafted tell his story for him. Major events in his life such as his birth, the time he got chicken pox and had to stay home for a week, his time as a soldier in the war, meeting and marrying his wife, and the births of children and grandchildren are portrayed through the foliage.

Critical Analysis

Lane Smith uses a small but vibrant color palette to bring to life Grandpa Green’s story. An endearing great-grandson who very much admires the title character leads the reader through the garden (and through his great-grandfather’s life) as he tends to the shrubs and trees with his tools, maintaining, in essence, the stories and memories of his great-grandfather. Throughout the majority of the book, the reader has the feeling that all the action is being carried out by the grandfather, while the great-grandson is a mildly involved bystander, but when the first image of Grandpa Green is revealed, the action is shifted to the child as he begins to show how he now takes care of his great grandfather (by giving him his hat he forgets) and how he creates the last shrub in the garden: an image of Grandpa Green with his hat on.

Smith maintains simple, straightforward text, allowing the illustrations to be the heart of his story. He uses vivid green with touches of red, orange and yellow to give life to each shrub and tree, making the reader feel as if they are experiencing the events right along with Grandpa Green as they happened as well as with his great grandson as he retells and relives them while he cares for them. Smith shares some recognizable storybook characters with the readers, providing nostalgia for adults and possible text to text relations for children. The muted, speckled coloring of the two characters in the book versus the full, intense coloring of the foliage speaks to the importance of the latter and supports the idea that this is a story about family and about remembering one’s past as you grow older.

I enjoyed this book immensely. The first time I read it, I thought it was good. The second time I read it, I thought it was very good. The third time, I thought it was great. It is one of those books where you find something new each time you read it. The familiar characters such as the tin man and the cowardly lion were very clever additions.

Review Excerpts

Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books
( WON AWARD in 2011 )
School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
( WON AWARD in 2011 )
Caldecott Medal
( NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD in 2012 )
American Library Association Notable Books for Children
( WON AWARD in 2012 )
Red Clover Award
( NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD in 2012 )
Georgia Children’s Picture StoryBook Award
( NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD in 2013 )

“Though this book has lots of adult appeal, it will also be a wonderful bridge to exploring family history with the very young.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Sketched with a finely lined fairy-tale wispiness and dominated by verdant green, the illustrations are not just creative but poignant.” —Booklist

“… With each subsequent reading, it offers new layers of meaning and visual connections.”–School Library Journal Starred Review

“An unassuming little masterpiece…the book’s power lies in its rich, allusive artistry.” —New York Times Book Review

Connections

Read another book by Lane Smith such as:

  • It’s a Book, ISBN 9781596436060
  • Abe Lincoln’s Dream, ISBN 9781596436084

Have discussions before and/or after reading the book such as:

  • Have you had to stay home sick for a long time? If so, what did you do?
  • Do you have a garden or know someone who does? What do you have to do to take care of it?
  • What do you know about your grandparents? If nothing, do you have a friend whose grandparents you know?

Have students draw pictures of what their garden would contain (big events in their life).

(image from Amazon.com, accessed January 18, 2015, cover art by Lane Smith)

Welcome!

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Hello!

For the next few months, this blog will serve as the vehicle for several book reviews.

All of these reviews will be created as assignments for LS 5603-Literature for Children and Young Adults, a graduate course in the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University, which is taught by Professor Sylvia Vardell, Ph.D.

I am hopeful that this blog will inspire just one person to pick up a book and READ!!

Note: All header images come from Google Images.