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The Snowy Day

February 2, 2011

In grade one, the teacher showed us a filmstrip about a little boy who lived in a big city, going out to explore a snowy day. It was an adaptation of a book, aptly entitled The Snowy Day, and the filmstrip was a thing that came before proper movies in classrooms. The slide projector clicked through still illustrations, the book projected one page at a time onto the blackboard, while a separate cassette player recited the text and made a tinny little “bing” to let you know it was time to advance the frame. During library class, I was beside myself that some other kid might score the book version before me, and then I would have to wait TWO WEEKS to read it at home.

Most kids being all, “yeah, we totally just watched that in class, why read the book, we know how it ends,” my anxiety was for naught. It was mine that week, and through three renewals. I loved the book for so many reasons:

1. it was oblong, landscape-oriented to maximise the picture width, and the pages flipped slowly and reminded me of my mom thumbing through a magazine. My hands were too chubby and fumbly to flip pages like she did, but this book gave me a bit of an edge, an assist with my turning technique. Along with make-up and coffee and car keys, I felt the way you worked a magazine made you grown-up.

2. the little boy in the book was black, with an afro that looked like it had been painted with a sponge. I’d never met any black kids, at least not that I remembered, and while I never really considered race or ethnicity in a conscious way, or an “other” sort of context, all I knew were Sesame Street’s urban puppet-children, who were brownish and bluish and purplish with tufts of flocked hair. I liked how, in the book, instead of being groovy puppets or living in Africa or being in National Geographic, this little black kid was, you know, just doing snowy-day stuff. Like me. Or, that I sometimes did snowy-day stuff, like him. Until now, all the kids in all the things we’d been exposed to in school had been white, or pink, or like the Crayola crayon, “flesh” coloured, and The Snowy Day gave me the first flicker of feeling like, hang on…someone is being left out a lot of the time. I didn’t know there was a way of talking, and asking, and considering race that was more polite, intellectual, correct, or appropriate, and I didn’t know “race” was an issue any more than I appreciated “class”. This book presented both to me, as tangible but not yet something I knew to reach for, never mind how to grasp.

3. the little kid in the book lived in apartment! in the city! with a stoop and a gate! and, he looked out his bedroom window and there was traffic! and, he sometimes went walking (in the city!) alone…in! the! city! As a small town kid, this was incredible to even contemplate. Like the words “God” and “pregnant” and “coleslaw” and “organ”, walking alone in the city made my belly feel funny with questions I didn’t know how to ask, and wasn’t sure of this feeling was exciting or scary.

There are no words for how much I envied that little kid’s pointy-hooded red snowsuit.

So much from a simple snowy day.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate Brennagh permalink
    February 2, 2011 9:34 pm

    I love this book too and it has a prominent place in my library every winter. You did a nice job of capturing how exotic it was (is) to kids from small worlds.

    • welltailored permalink*
      February 2, 2011 9:46 pm

      Thanks, Kate! It was really the apartment that got me–I remember TV shows and books with apartments seeming soooooo exotic.

  2. Gus permalink
    February 2, 2011 9:51 pm

    For me it was totally the artwork. But now, looking back as a parent, I get anxiety about that little boy wandering alone… in! the! city!

    And ohmygoodness, don’t even get me started on Blueberries for Sal.

    • welltailored permalink*
      February 2, 2011 9:55 pm

      And the Keats book about Willie the dog, and the one with the kids who live in the bayou and keep a cricket in a cage…

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