On a winter day 12 years ago, I sat curled with my children on the couch, reading the Caldecott-award-winning book The Snowy Day.
We loved the simple yet impactful illustrations, the charming text, and yet – as an adult, I felt that I was holding something much more complicated.
I looked at the publication date – 1962. Ahhh.
It was a few years ago now that I first read Andrea Davis Pinkney’s A Poem for Peter with tears in my eyes. She had put Keats’ amazing story into beautiful, lyrical text.
Keats was born Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz in New York City in 1916 to Polish immigrant parents who had fled to America for a better, safer life.
As a boy, Keats witnessed poverty, (even before The Depression), racism, and discrimination. But he also witnessed the beauty of so many cultures in his East New York hometown.
An artist’s dream
Keats dreamt of becoming a real artist, even though it seemed almost impossible.
In fact, Keats, who was Jewish, changed his name in order to get a job.
When his almost impossible dream came true, and he had the opportunity to write and illustrate a children’s book on his own, he made the main character a young black boy.
The Snowy Day went on to win a Caldecott award, and Keats would write 6 more books about Peter and Peter’s world – an urban city. At a time when so many children weren’t seeing themselves or their world reflected in stories, Keats was willing to risk his work being rejected, just so young boys and girls could see themselves and their lives in the pages of a book.
I knew none of this when I first met Peter with my kids 12 years ago, but A Poem for Peter brings the story alive through poetry and collage.
For a long time, I’ve wanted to create a gentle unit study around these two books, and of course Keats’ remarkable story.
Begin with books
My A Poem for Peter/The Snowy Day Gentle Unit Study is a 12-page guide for learning about these two beautiful books together.
It includes ideas for art projects, history, geography and even a little math.
This truly is an all-ages unit study, but some parts will work best for older children and some parts will appeal to younger kids. I think our recipe for Snowy Day cookies and instructions for a hot chocolate bar will appeal to most, though!
I’ve also included lots of book recommendations.
Spread a feast
The idea of this Gentle Unit Study Guide is to spread a feast of ideas to your children, while also helping them grow in empathy and understanding.
These books will help you discuss discrimination and history and have good conversations about big issues.
If your kids aren’t quite ready for that, it’s OK. I still think these two beautiful books have so much to offer, especially when you read them together while enjoying steaming mugs of cocoa.
Get your GUS Guide
For the month of January, you can purchase my A Poem For Peter/The Snowy Day Gentle Unit Study Guide for just $3.99.
The guide will lead you through several days of learning about Ezra and Peter together. With the included book recommendations, you could find yourself heading down rabbit trails that last a month or more.
Truthfully, I just hope that you’ll read A Poem for Peter and The Snowy Day with your children.
These books carry important messages even today.
I think your kids will love them both and learn so much. So I hope you’ll grab my guide and create warm memories together this winter.