Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Picture Book Endings Day 3: Realistic Fiction

How do authors wrap up realistic stories? Consider the classic The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

The book begins “One winter morning Peter woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night. It covered everything as far as he could see.”

The recap: he puts on his snowsuit and explores different ways of walking in the snow. He observes the snowball fight of big boys, since he’s not old enough to join them yet. He builds a snowman, slides, etc. Finally he makes a snowball, puts it in his pocket for tomorrow, and enters his warm house. He tells his mom about his adventures and thinks about them in the bath. Before going to bed he makes the rueful discovery that his snowball has disappeared. He dreams that the sun has melted all the snow.

The end: “but when he woke up his dream was gone. The snow was still everywhere. New snow was falling!

After breakfast he called to his friend from across the hall, and they went out together into the deep, deep snow.”

A sweet, reassuring, ending. All accomplished with simplicity and restraint. The “souvenir” of his happy snow day is gone forever, but new snow has arrived. Emphasis is conveyed through “everywhere,” the exclamation point, and the repetition of “deep.” The scene resembles the beginning, but it’s different. This time Peter chooses a friend to go out with. He is more experienced now- he has learned that you must enjoy snow in the moment, because it’s transitory. He has played in it on his own, and now he wants to share it (socializing was foreshadowed in the big boy scene).

This is an ending that circles back to the start, but shows the character has changed. Unlike the many children’s book protagonists who return home at story’s close, Peter is embarking on a new adventure. The reader goes out with him into the wonderland of snow.

Are there realistic endings that you find poignant?

1 comment:

  1. I'm working on editing a manuscript today and I was on the hunt for a more satisfying ending. Thanks for this post. It was very helpful to get my creativity flowing!