Thursday, November 22, 2012

Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats

As I walked through the bush the other day the birds were singing including our wonderful Australian Whip birds.  When I hear a Whip bird I just have to whistle to try to trick the bird’s mate into answering me.

Whistle for Willie is a book about learning to whistle but this cannot be your only reason for seeking out this book.  Ezra Jack Keats is a very special story teller and illustrator. Take a look at my review of Jennie’s Hat.   Once again Ezra Jack Keats uses fabulous collage papers and graffiti back grounds to show the inner city world of our hero Peter.  Peter takes a journey through his neighbourhood. He sees a large empty cardboard box.  He would like to hide in the box and whistle as a trick to surprise his dog Willie.  Peter tries and tries but no whistle comes but he is a boy with a dream and with perseverance.  So Peter tries one more time.  “He blew and blew and blew.  Suddenly – out came a real whistle!”  I especially love the way Peter’s mum joins in with his imaginative play.

You might also like to look at A Snowy Day which is the first book about Peter.  You can read about all the Ezra Jack Keats characters here.  Also here is a short video of someone reading this book.  One more thing I have discovered there is a sculpture of Peter and his dog in Prospect park in Brooklyn New York.  I visited the park this year but I did not know about this statue. Perhaps one day you will visit this.  Beside the statue you can see Peter's little chair.  This playground is sponsored by the Ezra Jack Keats foundation.

Here are some more details :

Brooklyn also has an Imagination Playground ...Conceived by Christian Zimmerman, vice president for design and construction at the Prospect Park Alliance, it celebrates storytelling.

Inside, a huge bronze dragon curls through a frame shaped like an open book. In warm weather, water cascades over the creature and spews from its mouth. “We chose a dragon because it’s in children’s literature throughout the world,” Mr. Zimmerman said.

On the other side, a bronze sculpture by Otto Neals portrays a boy seated on a rock reading, one hand stretched toward a playful dachshund; a little bronze chair sits nearby.

The figures are Peter and his dog, Willie, characters created by Ezra Jack Keats (1916-83), a Brooklyn writer and artist often credited as the first picture-book author to weave stories around a black child. In the 1990s the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation approached the Alliance about commissioning a sculpture commemorating his work. It soon became part of the planned playground. The space includes a stage and colorful steel animals with cutout faces.
When the playground opened in 1997, the sculpture of Peter was a deep blue. “The ears soon lost their patina,” Mr. Zimmerman said, “because kids would sit on the rock and whisper to Peter.”

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