Ezra Jack Keats was a Caldecott Medal-winning picture book author and illustrator. His books include Peter's Chair, Whistle for Willy, and the timeless classic The Snowy Day. Use these activities and lessons to introduce students to Keats's work.
About the Book
Peter's new baby sister, Suzie, seems to be taking over the whole house. Peter's mother tells him to play quietly because Suzie is napping. Father is painting Peter's old crib and highchair pink because they belong to Suzie now. When Peter spots his old chair, he decides to take the chair and run away so they won't give that to the baby, too! How Peter finally comes to volunteer to paint the little chair pink himself makes for a delightfully universal story about growing up.
Find out how many of the children have younger brothers or sisters at home. Do they remember when their younger siblings were babies? Have the children take turns describing in as much detail as possible what it feels like to be jealous of the baby. What did they do when they felt jealous? Tell the group that they are going to learn a story about a boy who is jealous of his little sister.
Have the children imagine all the reasons why Peter was jealous of Suzie (e.g., she got to use his crib and high chair, Mother and Father were paying lots of attention to Suzie, etc.). What made Peter change his mind about giving his chair to Suzie?
Bring 'n Brag Baby Pictures
When Peter leaves home, he takes his baby picture with him. Have the children examine Peter's baby picture and the illustration of Peter as he appears now. How are the two the same? How are they different?
Provide each student with an envelope (discarded “junk mail” envelopes will do), and have the children use the envelopes to transport their own baby pictures, plus a recent snapshot, to school. Use a paper border or yarn to divide a bulletin board in half vertically. Post the baby pictures in a vertical line on one side of a bulletin board. Then, post the children's recent photos on the other side of the board. Have children take turns trying to use lengths of yarn to match the babies with the older children. As long as they guess correctly, allow each child to continue to try making matches. When a student guesses incorrectly, allow another student to have a turn.
When all photo pairs have been correctly identified (and joined by lengths of yarn tacked to the board), ask children to notice physical features that are the same (e.g., hair color, skin color, etc.) and features that have changed (e.g., height, weight, etc.). What features do all the baby pictures and all the older children's pictures have in common, despite ethnicity? Can the children predict how they will appear in the future?
Collage a Room Design
The author-illustrator uses collage materials to create the illustrations for Peter's Chair. Have the class examine the book page by page to see if they can identify the common materials Keats incorporated into the illustrations (e.g., wallpapers, lace doilies and newspaper).
Provide the children with similar materials along with catalogs featuring housewares and furniture. Also, provide each student with a piece of lightweight cardboard or oaktag (approximately 9 inches by 12 inches). Have students cover the cardboard with glued-on pieces of wallpaper scraps (gluing a strip of contrasting paper along the bottom of the cardboard to create a ground line). Encourage the children to add a construction paper window or a door to the collage. Then, have children cut items from the catalog and glue these onto the wallpaper to design a room of their dreams.
Have children share their results. How many of them incorporated similar elements into their rooms? Do any of the rooms look exactly alike? Why or why not?