Page Turners: The Nostalgic Images of Ezra Jack Keats

As an adult, I find myself drawn to children’s literature for different reasons than when I was younger. It’s no longer about happy endings, or how quickly one can get from the front cover to back page. Now, I look at how the book was put together, admiring its imagery with ‘awws’ of affection, as I do with these layered collage illustrations from The Snowy Day by Brooklyn-born writer Ezra Jack Keats. Published in 1962, it was one of the first children’s picture books in mainstream American culture to feature an African-American character, breaking boundaries for children’s books. The book celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

In the spirit of both the wintry season and new beginnings, I invite you to take in the following images for inspiration as you pursue your own avenues of outside-the-norm ideas in the New Year. May yours be bright, flecked with forward-thinking, and filled with merriment – much like these playfully pieced-together pictures by Keats.

What books from your childhood do you admire for their artwork?

P.S. For more tome-inspired intellect tickling, check out our Book of the Month features or the ModCloth bookstore!

About Laura

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  1. Liz 12/19/2011 at 10:29 am #

    As a children’s librarian it is hard to narrow down my favorites! Eric Carle is a genius of texture and bold colors. David Ezra Stein is one of my modern favorites (check out INTERRUPTING CHICKEN). Leo lionni’s “simple” collages are beautiful and Bryan Collier’s collage illustrations are gorgeous in a much richer sense.

    • Jill 12/20/2011 at 6:50 am #

      i love the “Leonardo the Terrible Monster” book that my children’s librarian friend Liz got for my son. 🙂

      From my own childhood: I’m a huge fan of the Madeline books, anything by Maurice Sendak (especially WtWTA and In The Night Kitchen) and the beautiful art and vivid stories of Beatrix Potter — the ones about kittens especially.

  2. 12/19/2011 at 3:07 pm #

    I remember the first time I heard about this book, it was on reading rainbow (remember that show?!) I loved the episode it was featured on because they read the book with all this jazz music in the background, and coupled with the illustrations that are in such loud colors, it was such a shock to the system. The only thing that bothered me about it was that the kid in the book seemed to be wandering all around the city way into the night hours and there weren’t any parents to be seen (where’s your mom little boy?)

    • Laura (ModCloth) 12/20/2011 at 8:27 am #

      Haha! Isn’t that funny? I thought the same thing. Although, I suppose when we’re kids we sort of indulge in our own worlds and zone out the parental figures like Charlie Brown does!

  3. Mallory 12/19/2011 at 8:28 pm #

    I had to renew my Art Teaching License a few years ago and took a couple classes at the local community college. The best one was Children’s Literature and I was so lucky to have a rad professor that let me approach the class from a different angle. While all the other students compiled lists of books they would need for their teaching career, since I was already an established teacher, he let me focus on recreating the illustrations in various books. I taught my peers how the artists worked and it was such an incredible learning experience for me.

  4. Jenbug 12/20/2011 at 9:11 am #

    While The Snowy Day is wonderful, the Keats’ book that sticks out in my mind is Whistle for Willie. He really captured the child-like frustration of trying to do something as simple as whistle, and then the elation that followed when Willie whistled for the first time. The drawings add a depth of whimsy to the story. It’s remains one of my, and my 8-yr-old son’s, favorites.

  5. Kelly 12/20/2011 at 6:49 pm #

    I adored The Snowy Day, my mom would always read to us as kids so we had quite the collection of children’s books. Some of my other favorites were Amelia Bedelia, Love You Forever (amazing) and The Jolly Postman, all of which have a special place in my heart!

    • Laura (ModCloth) 12/21/2011 at 10:53 am #

      Amelia Bedelia! I loved her, too, Kelly!

    • Jenn (ModCloth) 12/21/2011 at 11:09 am #

      I third that! Amelia Bedelia was a favorite.

      For artwork, though, I’ve gotta pick either Quentin Blake (loved his wiry wisps of characters in Matilda, The Witches, and other Roald Dahl books) or Mary GrandPré for her work with Harry Potter!

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