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)