Keats, born Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz, grew up in a poor Jewish family with immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York. Following his service in World War II, he changed his last name from Katz to Keats to avoid anti-semitism and to find work in the book publishing industry. Keats’s experience living in tenement housing surrounded by children of different cultures and ethnicities can be seen in his books. For example, he and co-author, Pat Cherr, featured minority children in their first work, My Dog is Lost! However, none of Keats’s more than 30 illustration jobs featured black children prior to The Snowy Day. If he wrote and illustrated his own book, Keats always knew the hero would be African American.