Pants can be such a hindrance when it comes to imaginative play.
Pete is a young elephant with a great imagination and a love of knock-knock jokes. Pete, whose discarded pants are hanging in the branches of a tree on the copyright page, first imagines he is a boulder: he’s big, he’s gray, and he’s not wearing pants. Cleverly, Watkins depicts Pete’s fellow (real) boulders with tiny lines that evoke closed eyes and mouths, but regardless, they fail to respond when Pete initiates a knock-knock joke. Perhaps Pete is a squirrel? He’s gray, he likes acorns, and he’s not wearing pants. At this point, Watkins introduces several actual squirrels who form a peanut gallery making humorous asides, their job taken over by a group of owls later on, confusing Pete for other animals and things and repeatedly referring to his pants (or lack thereof). Mom is unimpressed with Pete’s pantslessness, but the next day, after Pete experiences more disappointments on the knock-knock front, she steps in to play with her child, his forgotten pants in her hand as she joyously picks him up with her trunk. Watkins’ artwork recalls a combination of Maurice Sendak, Laurent de Brunhoff, and Mélanie Watt. Pete is rather blocky, and the squirrels are manic.
Knock, knock. Who’s there? An awesome mom of a kid with no pants. (Picture book. 5-8)