Monday, August 06, 2007

The Snowy Day (in the hot summer)

It's surprising to me when people have never heard of/read a certain book that I consider a classic. Then again, I work in children's book publishing and am a life-long lover of kid's books. On Saturday, I spent the afternoon at the Bohemian Beer Garden for a good-bye party of a couple with a one-year-old daughter. The husband (who is not in the children's book industry) was reminiscing about a conversation we had towards the beginning of our friendship when I asked him what children's books he remembered loving as a kid, and he couldn't really remember any of note. But now that he has a child, he's discovering the books for the first time. One in particular he mentioned was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, which many of you will remember is my all-time favorite picture book. I was delighted that he, too, loved this book (which was given to them as a gift), marveling at how beautiful the illustrations were, and how lyrical the text was in it's simple, quiet way. It was nice to hear him "get" picture books. (He also said that In the Night Kitchen seemed like a book that was created while on drugs! I can see where he's coming from there.)

A group of us eventually went back to the couples' apartment where I pulled out The Snowy Day and read it again. Man, what a perfect book that is! The footprints in the snow page (first one way, then the other), the sky on the spread where Peter climbs up the snowbank and then slides down, the beauty and color of the snow in the last spread. A couple of people mentioned that they hadn't ever read it (shocking!), so I eagerly gave it to them to read. It was so fun seeing them experience the book for the first time.

Oh, if I could one day edit a book that becomes as beloved as The Snowy Day, I think I could die happy. What are some of the books that you wish you edited/wrote/illustrated? There are so many for me.


Anonymous said...

Years ago at The Children's Book Shop, we asked the deGrummond Collection if we could borrow and display some of Keats' artwork, and they said yes! They sent us several actual pieces from The Snowy Day, Whistle For Willie, and Peter's Chair (an amazing picture-book 'trilogy' if you ask me). Seeing the collage work up close was amazing.

As for books that I wished I had written and/or illustrated... how about 'The Lion and the Little Red Bird' by Elisa Kleven, 'Mordant's Wish' by Valerie Coursen, or anything by Olaf and Lena Landstrom - especially the 'Will' books!

Libby Koponen said...

Great post and great question! Mine are all poems, stories, and novels: even when I was very young, I responded more intensely to words than to pictures. There were picture books that I LIKED, but what I remember delighting in were the stories and words--even the sounds/energy (in some nursery rhymes) or trying to puzzle out the meaning of expressions that just SOUNDED like they meant something fun ("Get a kick out of it").

Anonymous said...

Goodnight Moon, I love the way Brown uses the "read to" genre to convert the bunny child's silent thoughts into spoken words, the way parents unwittingly encourage their children to join the bunny in his defiance of the old lady's command to "hush" when they encourage their children read along. No one analyzing Goodnight Moon ever mentions the fact that there are no quotation marks around all the goodnights. It's a work of subversive genius.

Matt Phelan said...

I agree that Snowy Day is perfect. I also love in Whistle for Willie when Willie gets dizzy and Keats shows this by tilting his position from one picture to the next and by having the red, green, and yellow circles of a traffic light float off the light. Genius.

More recently, I think The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small is a perfect picture book.

And I completely agree with Leo...the Will books are fantastic!

tumbletell said...

having a two year old to read to i've learn a great about what is successful in a book. reading the same book 4 times in a row, makes you grateful for books that are so well written that they are easy to read aloud. one of my favorites is Cowboy Bunnies by Christine Loomis, ill. by Ora Eitan. I love the art too because it is about shapes and colors and mood not overly cute rabbits in clothing.
Fredick by Leo Leonni is so good too. it reminds us why we need artists.

Unknown said...

I have so many books from my childhood that I hold and treasure. My mother taught us a great love of the written word and began buying us books early in life and teaching us how to treasure and care for them. Now, not only am I a published author but I have thousands of books in a library in our home. A library that my husband and his cousin built and created for me to have a place to write in where I would constantly be inspired by the books around me. The Pancake Story and Lentil now reside next to The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys who are across from Chris Stewart, James Rollins, Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, Oliver North, and more.

Thanks for writing about this today, it took me back.

Anonymous said...

Yes! THE SNOWY DAY! It's the book I most vividly remembered from my childhood and couldn't wait to find once I had kids. The image of Peter dragging his stick. "Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk..."

Sadly, a lot of my other favorites are out of print, but I think shouldn't be, like WHAT JIM KNEW by Mary Ann Hoberman.

Chris Barton said...

The Big Orange Splot.

Mary Lee said...

Sarah, Plain and Tall

Anonymous said...

From my teen years: Go Ask Alice. Catcher in the Rye.

Early childhood: Madeline, Clifford, and Frog and Toad books.

You're right, there are so many!

Annie Bailey said...

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson. I love the language, the rhythm, the illustrations, the rhyme . . . such a fun book!