Ezra Jack Keats was born on March 11, 1916, in Brooklyn, NY. He began drawing at the age of five and recalled covering his mother’s enamel-topped kitchen table with drawings and doodles. Instead of being angry, his mother protected it with a tablecloth and unveiled it for guests. Keats taught himself to paint and was awarded three scholarships to art schools upon graduating from high school. He served in the Air Force during WW2, and worked as an illustrator, his first assignment for Collier Magazine.
With his strong graphics and vibrant colors, Keats was quickly drawn to children’s books. He illustrated nearly a dozen before writing his first, The Snowy Day, which was awarded the 1963 Caldecott Medal. The book was significant because it was one of the first picture books in which a minority child is seen as Everychild. This child, Peter, was inspired by Life magazine pictures that Keats had held onto for forty years.
Keats died in 1983, but his philosophy remains poignant today, “If we all could see each other exactly as the other is, this would be a different world. But first I think we have to begin to see each other.”