Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me

Daniel Beaty, illus. by Bryan Collier. Little, Brown, $18 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-20917-5
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.)
Reviewed on: 10/14/2013
Release date: 12/17/2013
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