Friday, July 25, 2014

Knock, Knock - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

     In a post last month I hinted at this treat!
     I met Bryan Collier at the PA SCBWI Fall Fest. I sat next to him in the audience and got a delightful shock when he introduced himself. If you aren't familiar with Mr. Collier's work, go find it NOW. He has illustrated more than twenty-five picture books, including the award-winning Dave the Potter and Fifty Cents and a Dream, won three Caldecott Honors and four Coretta Scott King Awards

     Lucky for those of us at the conference, Mr. Collier had copies of his newest project available for sale, before the official release date (December 17, 2013). The project was the illustration of actor, singer, writer, composer Daniel Beaty's first picture book, Knock Knock. If you are familiar with Mr. Beaty, you may have seen his Youtube recitation of a poem by the same name. The profoundly personal poem addresses Mr. Beaty's feelings of growing up with his father in prison. The picture book addresses the broader issue of growing up with an absentee parent, not necessarily one in prison. When I sat next to Mr. Collier and read this book for the first time, it brought tears to my eyes.

Title: Knock Knock
(I don't usually include a link to the title, but in this case
Mr. Beaty's other works using the same name come up pages before
the book if you search the title)
Author: Daniel Beaty

Illustrator: Bryan Collier

Publisher: Little Brown and Company, 2013
FICTION

Themes: Absentee parents, loss, self-esteem

Audience: 3+ (note: serious subject matter)

Opening:
Every morning, I play a game with my father.
He goes knock knock on my door
and I pretend to be asleep
till he gets right next to the bed.

Synopsis: A young boy goes through feelings of loss and grief when his father is no longer in his life. A letter from his father helps the boy find strength in himself.

Why I like this book: I grew up from the age of five without a father and this book captures those emotions vividly. While this book's serious subject may not be everyone's choice for a holiday book, it is a work of poetry and art that transcends the subject matter. Mr. Beaty doesn't flinch from addressing hard emotions and Mr. Collier captures those emotions in his watercolors and collages where a boy's wish in a letter becomes a paper airplane flying over rooftops of faces and the image of a boy old enough to shave bubbles up from the child's outline beneath. I found myself discovering new layers of imagery each time I flipped the pages. The walls of a child's bedroom don't just hold up the ceiling, the structure of the room itself is an emotional mirror with catch-your-breath beauty. Although this topic could be depressing, the final message is an uplifting one about personal empowerment. Try to keep eyes dry when you read: "...for as long as you become your best, the best of me still lives in you."

Activities/Resources: Although this book isn't officially released until next week. Elizabeth Bird did an advance review in the School Library Journal during her Caldecott/Newbery predictions (yes, it's that good!). The Horn Book also reviewed the title on November 13, 2013. Teaching books.net has several author/illustrator resources, although nothing specific to this book. Little Brown and Company Books for young readers has the book posted on their site, but I didn't find any curriculum guides for it yet.
I believe this book is a perfect way to explore the topic of emotions--any emotions--through collage. Using a sheet of plain paper, glue and cut-out pictures from magazines, or just shapes torn from colored paper, a child can explore one way to express emotion non-verbally. Talk about other ways to express emotion (good ways and not so great ways like throwing things or yelling). And in the spirit of the holidays, perhaps go pick out a present for a local toy drive.

This review is part of Perfect Picture Book Friday where writers share their reviews of recommended picture books. Perfect Picture Book Friday was the brainchild of talented author/writing mentor Susanna Hill. Her blog keeps a list of the recommended titles.

Thanks for visiting. I'd love to know what you think in the comments. What other books have you seen on this topic?

18 comments:

  1. Looks gorgeous, lucky you! I just read about this book on Huffpost:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/minhle/best-picture-books-of-201_b_4378532.html

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    1. Wow! It was selected as the "most powerful" book of the year, and it hasn't even been released yet! That is powerful.

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    1. I'd say it's honest, but not necessarily sweet.

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  3. Wendy, lucky you to meet Bryan Collier. I love his work. And this book is on my list to purchase, because of the theme and message. After reading your review, I can't wait to read it and see the illustrations! Sounds like a powerful story for children with an absent parent.

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    1. The author/illustrator pairing created magic this time.

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  4. I don't know Mr Collier, but I do know plenty of kids without dads. This looks like a terrific book that I need to add to my book bag. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I wish we could all have infinitely large book bags this holiday season!

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  5. I'm sure there are not enough books on this subject. The illustrations looks fascinating. Thanks for sharing this one, Wendy!

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    1. Thanks, Jarm. There is amazing depth to the illustrations.

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  6. How very sad that both he and you grew up without a dad, but what a beautiful gift he brought to the world by writing this book about the experience. Thank you for sharing it with us, Wendy.

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    1. Kids' lives aren't all rainbows and unicorns. It's nice to see the variety of books that reflect that.

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  7. Wow! That is some message! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I'm betting this is an award-winner.

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  8. Thanks for giving us the heads-up on this emotionally powerful book. I'm sure it's going to be on everyone's lips.

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    1. I hope it gets visibility! Spread the word!

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  9. Hmm. Hope this isn't a duplicate comment. This looks like a wonderful book. Would it resonate with children with deployed parents?

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    1. I think so, Stacy. Any child with an absentee parent, missing the day to day contact and having to find strength in themselves.

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