Beaty’s spoken-word performance about a childhood lived in the shadow of incarceration can be seen online, and its impact is powerful. This print version, meant for a younger audience, is gentler but equally affecting. Collier’s (Fifty Cents and a Dream) watercolor collages capture the sadness of a thoughtful African-American boy whose father disappears and whose mother will not say where he has gone. The “knock knock” of the title stands for the game played by the boy and his father in happier times: “He goes knock knock on my door, and I pretend to be asleep till he gets right next to the bed.” But when his father disappears, “the knock never comes.” The boy writes to his father, but lets the letter sit instead of sending it; eventually, his father writes to him, turning “knock knock” into a symbol of possibility: “Knock knock down the doors that I could not.” By sharing his experience, explained in an afterword, Beaty lends his voice to children struggling with the absence of a parent and the grief that goes with it. Ages 3–6. Illustrator’s agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt. (Dec.)
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner
ALSC Notable Children's Book
Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Picture Book Honor
Notable Children's Book in the English Language Arts
Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Books of the Year
A Huffington Post Best Picture Book of the Year-
"Bryan Collier's richly textured illustrations and the lyricism of Beaty's text-with its echoes of spoken-word poetry-make this story of bereavement also a story of possibility and beauty."The New York Times Sunday Book Review
"Challenging but ultimately uplifting, Knock Knock is a thoughtful meditation on grappling with the sometimes uneasy legacy passed down to us by our parents."The Huffington Post
*"By sharing his experience, explained in an afterword, Beaty lends his voice to children struggling with the absence of a parent and the grief that goes with it."Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"The text, powerful and spare, is well supported by Collier's watercolor and collage art...there is a lot going on in the mind of any child who has been denied a parent, for whatever reason. In this book they will find comfort and inspiration."The Horn Book
"A poignant [and] heart-wrenching tale of love, loss, and hope."School Library Journal
"The desire for guidance encountering life's experiences is told from a small child's point of view with candor, as well as hope...."Booklist
"The intimate nature of the text and the detailed visual environment are more suited for close sharing than a storytime, but the book's versatility suggests that it will see extended use."The Bulletin
"Challenging but ultimately uplifting, Knock Knock is a thoughtful meditation on grappling with the sometimes uneasy legacy passed down to us by our parents."
"The desire for guidance encountering life's experiences is told from a small child's point of view with candor, as well as hope...."
"The text, powerful and spare, is well supported by Collier's watercolor and collage art...there is a lot going on in the mind of any child who has been denied a parent, for whatever reason. In this book they will find comfort and inspiration."
K-Gr 3—Beaty tells a poignant, heart-wrenching tale of love, loss, and hope. A boy narrates how every morning he and his father play the Knock Knock game. He feigns sleep while his father raps on the door until the boy jumps into his dad's arms for a hug and an "I love you." One day, there is no knock. Left with his mother, the child deeply misses his papa and writes to him for advice, receiving a moving letter in return. Collier's watercolor and collage illustrations enhance the nuanced sentiment of the text. Following the protagonist's journey from a grief-stricken child to an accomplished strong adult, the lifelike images intermingle urban and domestic backgrounds with the symbolic innerscape of the narrator. As the boy writes the letter and tosses paper airplanes out the window, he glides out on a life-size paper plane expressing his plea, "Papa, come home, 'cause there are things I don't know, and when I get older I thought you could teach me." Author's and illustrator's notes at the end of the book elaborate on the personal meaning of this eloquent story that speaks especially to children who are growing up in single-parent homes.—Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY
A heartfelt effort to transform Beaty's celebrated monologue into a picture book undermines the source material's power, despite the contributions of Collier's stunning collage-and-watercolor artwork. A father and son play "KNOCK KNOCK" every morning, Papa knocking on the door to awaken him and the boy jumping into his arms. Both picture book and monologue open with this recollection and then reflect on the boy's profound loss when his beloved father is suddenly gone; but while the latter text explains that this is due to the father's incarceration, in picture-book form, his absence is unexplained until an author's note in the backmatter. Not only is this potentially confusing and alarming, it also robs the text of one of its most powerful elements: when the boy visits his father in prison and must "KNOCK KNOCK" on the glass between them. In the monologue, Beaty says that he had to learn to father himself and give himself the words his father didn't give to him. In this adaptation, the boy's mysteriously absent father writes a loving letter filled with fatherly advice, but it omits the monologue's lines about fighting poverty and racism and not allowing a father's choices to define the child. Absent the critical back story, this picture book feels incomplete. A valiant effort that falls short of its source's fearless honesty and passion. (Picture book. 4-8)