Review: Knock Knock by Daniel Beaty

knock knock

Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Every morning a young boy plays a game with his father.  His father knock knocks at the door and the boy pretends to be asleep until his dad is right next to him and they give each other a huge hug.  But then one day, his father isn’t there to play the game any more.  His father isn’t there to get him ready for school either.  Morning pass with no father.  The boy thinks that maybe his father is just there when the boy is at school, so he writes him a letter about how much he misses his dad and how much he expected to learn from him.  The boy waits for months and nothing happens, then one day he gets a letter from his father.  A letter that speaks to their separation but also one that encourages him to continue to live and knock on new doors.

Beaty’s text is deep hearted and searingly honest.  As his author’s note says, he had an incarcerated father who had been his primary caregiver as a young child.  So Beaty has revealed much in this picture book about the gaping hole left from a missing parent.  Yet the genius of this book is that it will work for any child missing a parent for any reason.  And I adore a book with such a strong connection between father and child.  Beaty manages to convey that in a few pages, leaving the rest of the book to reveal the mourning and grief of loss but also a hope that shines on each page.

Collier’s illustrations shine as well. Done in a rich mix of paint and collage, they are filled with light as it plays across faces, dances against buildings, and reveals emotions.  His illustrations are poetry, filled with elephants, showing the boy growing into a man, and the man turning into a father.  They are illustrations that tell so much and are worth exploring again after finishing the book.

This book belongs in my top picks for 2013.  It is beautifully done both in writing and illustrations.  I’m hoping it is honored by the Coretta Scott King awards and I’d love to see a Caldecott as well.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Jumping Penguins by Marije Tolman and Jesse Goossens

jumping penguins

Jumping Penguins by Marije Tolman and Jesse Goossens

This nonfiction book is filled with facts about different animals.  And not just any facts!  These are facts that are funny, amazing and memorable.  For instance, did you know a giraffe has no vocal chords?  That caterpillars throw their poop?  That crocodiles are cannibals?  That a flamingo can only swallow if its head is upside down?  Fifty animals are shown here with whimsical illustrations by the award-winning Tolman. 

Goossens masterfully selects facts that mix the incredible with the bizarre with the humorous.  The book is a wonderful mix of fictional depictions of the animals and scientific facts.  Due to the pile up of animals on the cover, I was expecting a fictional book rather than this page-turner of a book that gets you so intrigued that you have to keep on reading.

Tolman’s illustrations are beautiful.  She has such a unique style and one that works particularly well with animals and their diverse habitats.  With each, she seems to capture what makes them interesting and special.  At the same time, she mixes in furniture, hats, sun glasses and more.  So the animals look hip, silly or serious depending on the page.

Delightful, whimsical and a great choice for children who love animals, this book is appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Lemniscaat.