[Nonfiction Wednesday] Tap-Dancing With One Leg In “Knockin’ On Wood”

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2017 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

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I am always grateful to our reading themes as our research for relevant reading materials leads us to the most unusual of book finds; and here is one of them.


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Knockin’ On Wood: Starring Peg Leg Bates

Written and Illustrated by: Lynne Barasch
Published by: Lee & Low Books, 2004
ISBN: 1584301708 (ISBN13: 9781584301707)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Clayton Bates has always loved dancing. Despite impoverished circumstances in the early 1900s in South Carolina, Clayton was able to get past raising cotton for a White man who didn’t pay them their rightful dues, because his mind and spirit were elsewhere, tap-tap-tapping to a rhythm that only he could hear.

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However, an unfortunate accident occurred while he was working at the cottonseed mill that forever changed Clayton’s life, but not his disposition, nor his optimistic self. He taught himself to use crutches that were fashioned from two broomsticks when he lost his leg.

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Once he learned how to walk again with the help of the homemade crutches, his uncle crafted a wooden leg for him with a half-rubber tip to prevent slippage and half leather so that he could still create sounds – allowing him to dance again.

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Despite the fact that the art was not really to my liking, I find this to be an amazing story of grit and courage, of resilience and transcending one’s difficulties. While it was mentioned in the narrative how Peg Leg Bates, the name that he was known for, experienced racism and discrimination, especially when he performed in public – I did not find it to be the highlight of the story. It was more the music in Clayton’s soul and his desire to share it with the rest of the world that stood out for me. It would have been nice if there were an Author’s Note or additional references at the end of the story, but perhaps during the time that this was published (2004), that was not the norm as yet.

I also found this youtube clip of Clayton Peg Leg Bates when he was a guest on the Ed Sullivan show. Enjoy!

  1. Wow, I’ve never heard of him, Myra. That’s what makes these picture books so exciting, to bring unknown people to life again through their stories. Thanks! FYI-I reviewed a book about Dorothea Lange & one more today, but the Lange book fits your theme. She had polio as a young child. I know about her, but didn’t know that.

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  2. This looks fascinating! My daughter has a physical disability so I’m always looking for books that spotlight how people have had a challenge and risen to it!

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  3. What an incredible story of perseverance and triumph over terrible adversity! I’d never heard of Clayton Bates before, but his optimism and strength are so inspiring, and I’m glad to have met him through your review!

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  4. Definitely an interesting story about someone very few have heard of. His optimism shines through.

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  5. I hadn’t heard about this one. I need to tread more lee & low books!

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