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.