But he saw to it their kids and grandkids would.
In "The Snowy Day and the Art of
The exhibition -- organized by
Additionally, Skirball put its stamp on the L.A. installation with unique features.
As families enter the exhibition, children are invited to grab a pair of yellow sunglasses in the spirit of Keats' 1969 book "Goggles!" and explore the gallery. Kid-appropriate artwork is hung low while still comfortable for adults to view. Families are invited to use iPad stations to discover his books, including his landmark "The Snowy Day."
Published in 1962 at the height of the American civil rights movement, "The Snowy Day" was the first full-color children's picture book to depict an African-American boy as its central character, with no mention of the boy's race anywhere.
It tells a simple story of a boy named Peter waking up to the first snow of the season, putting on his red snowsuit and going outside to play in it -- crunching through it, making snow angels, pretending to be a mountain climber. He then goes home to tell his mother about his adventures as she pulls off his wet socks.
"For how sweet and innocent the story was, it was surprising to know the kind of debate and controversy it stirred up, especially the image of Peter and his mother," says Skirball curator
The criticism got even more pointed.
Some suggested a white man had no business writing a story about an African-American child. Some lambasted the publisher for allowing such a book to be published.
"But overwhelmingly the response was positive," Clancey says. "The negative was pretty minor in comparison to the letters that Keats and his publisher got from parents, librarians, teachers and from children themselves saying how much they appreciated the book."
"The Snowy Day" was the first in a series of books about Peter to highlight the universal themes of childhood from a unique perspective.
Keats was born
After serving in
It was during those six years that Keats recognized the absence of minority characters in children's literature. He saw the disparity between real life and books for kids, which were often set in an idyllic countryside or imaginary kingdom.
"As children, his friends would have liked realistic reflections of their own lives," Clancey says. "Not just African-American and Latino characters, but urban landscapes."
Keats filled that void.
Yet his work transcends the personal, says
"His characters and storylines appeal to what is human in each of us, regardless of race, age, class and gender," Kirschner says, adding, "We hope that visitors, whether they are longtime fans of Keats' rich oeuvre or newly discovering 'The Snowy Day,' will feel inspired by his books' essential messages of harmony."
(c)2014 the Daily News (Los Angeles)
Visit the Daily News (Los Angeles) at www.dailynews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services