Thursday, February 19, 2015

Learning from Picture Books -- KNOCK KNOCK: My Dad's Dream for Me

From the very first page, I was intrigued by the art in this book. And then I read the story and it really tugged at my heart. This is an important book – everyone should read it.

Here's the summary from Amazon:

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.
And my papa, he tells me, "I love you."

But what happens when, one day, that "knock knock" doesn't come? This powerful and inspiring book shows the love that an absent parent can leave behind, and the strength that children find in themselves as they grow up and follow their dreams.

KNOCK KNOCK: My Dad's Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier, Little Brown and Company: New York, 2013.

My thoughts as a writer:

The spare, repetitive sentences beginning with “He never comes…” made my heart begin to ache for the boy in the story after only a few pages. There is a lovely rhythm with several sentences beginning with KNOCK KNOCK which feels like a call to action.

Although as writers we are often told not to write a book with a message, this book does have one. I think it works because of the sadness the reader feels at the beginning, and then the determination that begins to build through the story. The illustrations complement the story, with somber colors at the beginning, and the blue of hope as the story continues.

This book was a finalist for a 2014 Cybils Award.

My thoughts as a teacher:

This is a story for students of all ages, from primary grades to high school. Some students will be able to relate and connect to the main character because of his experiences, others will appreciate learning another perspective and feeling empathy. This story gave me a lot of think about. Students might speculate on what happened to the boy’s father, but could also discuss what life would be like or is like without a father. This book provides an opportunity for discussion about the choices you make and how to become the person you want to be.

Some possible activities:
- have students draw or write about a dream for their future (which they may or may not wish to share)
- discuss the line in the book “KNOCK KNOCK to open new doors to your dreams.”

If you're looking for more great picture books to read to your class or to investigate as a writer, author Susanna Leonard Hill has a wonderful list of Perfect Picture Books.


  1. This sounds like a powerful book, Andrea, very thoughtfully done. I look forward to reading it at some point. I always like being able to add books to our list that deal with more difficult topics - I feel like sometimes those are the books kids need most. Thanks so much for sharing this one!

  2. I have this one on my library list. Just waiting patiently for it to arrive at my library.


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