Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Poem For Peter

A Poem For Peter

Picture book
"Even though the world was living
in an age of color judgement,
your color didn't matter to Ezra.
All he saw was you,
beguiling little guy,
with the smarty-pants smirk,
playing pretty-boy peek-a-boo."
An artist found himself captivated by a series of Life Magazine
photographs of a very little boy reacting to a blood test. He put
those pictures up on his wall. It was a couple of decades before he
could do something with them. First of all Uncle Sam's pointing
finger sought him out for the fight to defeat Hitler.
"World War II needed posters
and booklets.
Needed charts.
Needed art.
Needed maps and pictures
drawn by the hand of a man whose
lines and arrows sprang from the page
to help soldiers leap to duty."
After the job the man was confronted with want ads telling Jews
to not bother applying for jobs. In fact he had to change his name
some. As he built his career he did not forget the child who had
enchanted him. Finally he had a chance when, after creating the art
for other author's children's books, he could write a book of his own.
The man was Ezra Jack Keats. The book he created was The Snowy
Day, one of the most endearing and enduring volumes in the history of
children's lit. Despite the simplicity of the plot, Everychild
absorbed in the affordances and joys of a snowy day, it was quite
radical. Right then residential neighborhoods were segregated. Many
libraries were whites only. Jack, Jane, Sally, and their picture book
pals were in a literary world that reflected those realities.
Peter, protagonist of A Snowy Day, was black. He was also
occuppying an urban setting when the vast majority of picture book
protagonists called suburbia home.
Most of us read the book to ourselves or our children without
wondering about the author behind it. I know I'd have to plead
guilty. So when I had a chance to read Andrea Davis Pinkney's A Poem
For Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of A Snowy
Day I jumped at the opportunity.
I was rewarded by an amazing real life story. Jacob Ezra Katz
was born to Jewish immigrants from Poland in 1916. His father waited
on busy people who didn't always tip. Times were very tough in the
"Papa Benjamin worried
about his son's dream.
Feared for what he couldn't see.
An artist was a strange, impractical
thing to be.
You couldn't earn a decent wage
giving imagination wings."
But even as his father worried he pinched pennies from his pay to buy
his beloved son paints...
A Poem For Peter is a truly heart warming narrative. It is also
a beautiful tribute to determination and to using one's talents to
help make the world a better place. This is a message we need to hear
in 2017 probably more than ever.
On a personal note, I can very much relate to Keats. As a woman who
took out a sizeable chunk of time to be home for my children (think
ageism) and flunked the eye exam for a driver's license in two states
(think rural state) I might at some point have to give up and work
retail which would destroy me. But I have a dream I will not abandon
unless driven to do so by destitution. It involves getting a masters
in higher education: student development so I can spend the rest of
my life doing what I love best--helping college students achieve their
beautiful potentials.
A great big shout goes out to all who are encouraging me to do all it
takes to achieve my potential and make my dream reality.
jules hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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