Book Review: Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats

Having studied Children’s Literature, I knew the impact The Snow Day had on representation in the history of picture books. Keats’ protagonist, Peter, became the first non-caricatured black child to appear in children’s books. Peter enjoys exploring the soft crunch sound his feet make in the snow, and spends the day outside. Peter features in several books that followed the huge success of The Snow Day.

In Peter’s Chair, we see the little tot of the first book has grown into a young boy. Peter is playing quietly on his own, when his dog, Willie, knocks over his tower. His mom calls, “You’ll have to play more quietly. Remember, we have a new baby in the house.”

In the pages that follow, Peter looks into his baby sister’s room, and sees something he recognizes. “That’s my cradle,” he thought, “and they painted it pink!” In the next room, his dad is painting his hold high chair pink. Instead of helping his dad, he whispers, “It’s my high chair.”

Copyrighted image. Picture taken from my copy of the book.

Finally, he spies his old chair that has not been painted yet. Peter decides to run away with his chair and a picture of himself as a baby. Willie happily follows.

The scene that follows is endearing. In true child-like spirit, Peter runs away to just outside his house. Far enough away to feel like he’s gone, but close enough to run inside if he needs. His mom comes to the window to tell him they have something special for him if he comes in for lunch, but he acts like he doesn’t hear.

Eventually, he sneaks back inside to find his very own big-boy chair at the table. He decides he wants to help his daddy paint the chair pink for Susie.

The collage-style illustrations are beautiful and keep the eye roaming around to gather every detail. This style truly captures the “bits and pieces” of life we glimpse with Peter and his family.

Copyrighted image. Picture taken from my copy of the book.

On a deeper level, this book is great for helping children who are about to have (or have just recently had) a younger sibling. It is not preachy, it is not on-the-nose. It doesn’t take the reader through every thought-process. It so simple, yet so very profound. Not to disclaim other books who are more in depth with their “how to deal” methods. Peter simply realizes he’s bigger now and no longer needs his small things. On top of that, being able to sit at the table next to his dad in his big-boy chair gives him enough joy to want to help his dad paint the chair pink.

I highly recommend this book for those who are about to become big brothers. I also highly recommend the series in general to have in your family library.

What are your thoughts?