Traveling exhibit showcasing work of groundbreaking children’s author Ezra Jack Keats
NEW YORK (JTA) -- Fifty years ago, during the height of the civil rights campaigns, the publication of a picture book changed American children's literature.
“The Snowy Day” was about the delight of a young African-American boy named Peter as he experienced the wonder of a freshly fallen snow storm in the city streets of his neighborhood. It marked one of the first times that a black character was the protagonist of a children’s book, and it won wide acclaim, including the 1963 Randolph Caldecott Medal awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book.
The book’s author and illustrator, Ezra Jack Keats -- born Ezra Jack Katz in 1916 -- was the son of Jewish immigrants who grew up in a poor, deprived section of East New York, a largely Jewish immigrant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Keats was a self-taught artist, and his book was striking for its urban setting, bold blocks of color and imaginative use of collage.
Now Keats, who went on to write and illustrate six more books featuring Peter and illustrate dozens of other books, is the subject of a new exhibition that will be traveling to museums across the United States over the next two years.
Focusing on Keats’ Jewish background and the influence of his immigrant neighborhood, the exhibit opened Sept. 9 at The Jewish Museum in New York.