Study Guide

The Snowy Day Themes

By Ezra Jack Keats

  • Youth

    The Snowy Day is firmly grounded in youth. And as our protagonist, Peter, goes out to explore his world, he's in no hurry to grow up. He's too busy taking in the world around him and marveling at the snow to want to do anything but live in the moment, and that's refreshing. So often, books about being young have characters who wish they were older, but not our Peter. He knows he'll be ready for the snowball fights with the big boys one day, but not quite yet.

    Questions About Youth

    1. How old do you think Peter is? How do you know?
    2. If Peter were older, say a teenager, how might his snow day activities be different? How might that change the tone of the book?
    3. Why do you think Peter steers clear of the snowball fight?
    4. Have you ever had a day like Peter's snowy day? Explain.

    Chew on This

    Even today, more than fifty years after it was first published, The Snowy Day still perfectly portrays the way a young child might enjoy playing in the snow.

    The Snowy Day is harder to relate to today because kids don't spend whole days playing in the snow like Peter anymore.

  • Exploration

    Cue up the Also Sprach Zarathustra—it's time for some exploring! And what better place to explore than a neighborhood covered in a fresh blanket of snow? No better if you're young Peter, the protagonist of The Snowy Day. He's ready to get on his gear and wander out into the wild white yonder to see what's what. And Peter is a serious explorer (as most children are), so he won't leave any snowbank untouched.

    Questions About Exploration

    1. What's the difference between just going out for a walk in the snow and going out to explore in the snow? Which one is Peter doing? Explain.
    2. What kinds of things does Peter discover about the snow during his exploration?
    3. What, if anything, does Peter discover about himself?
    4. When was the last time you did something that could be considered an exploration? What was it, and what did you learn?

    Chew on This

    Peter's day of exploration in the snow demonstrates that children are natural scientists.

    Peter did such a good job exploring by himself that there's really nothing left for him to discover when he goes back out with his friend the next day.

  • Awe and Amazement

    Little kids notice everything. If you don't believe us, take a walk with one and check out how quickly she sees that the moon is out during the day or that there's a plane in the sky. Adults get used to things like that and over time…they stop noticing them. Which is why it's always cool—once your childhood is behind you—to spend a little time with a child and get that feeling of awe and amazement back, even if just for a little while. That's what The Snowy Day does for a lot of people. It reminds them what it was like to experience something like snow for the first (or second, or third) time.

    Questions About Awe and Amazement

    1. How does Keats communicate that Peter is experiencing awe and amazement?
    2. At what point in the story do you think Peter is most in awe or amazed by the snow? Why?
    3. Do you remember a time when you felt awe and amazement about something? When was it and what happened?

    Chew on This

    Keats's writing style is too calm and measured, which takes away from the sense of awe and amazement in the book.

    Keats's calm and measured writing style helps to emphasize Peter's sense of awe and amazement.

    The sense of awe and amazement in The Snowy Day is primarily communicated through the illustrations.