Welcome to Picture Books for All

Children of all abilities should see themselves in the books they read. That's what makes reading fun. There are many picture books that include characters with disabilities; some are excellent in terms of their portrayal of these characters, some are pretty good, and some miss the mark. This blog features these picture books and evaluates them based on standards for quality in children's books that portray characters with disabilities. For more information, see the first post entitled "Welcome to Picture Books for All." (Click here) Welcome to Picture Books For All

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book # 14 Knockin' On Wood Starring Peg Leg Bates

This is an inspiring biography of Clayton "Peg Leg" Bates, a well-known tap-dancer who overcame disability and racial discrimination to fulfill his dream. I highly recommend it for elementary and middle-school students. Dance teachers, read this book to your classes.
Related Information
Knockin’ On Wood Starring Peg Leg Bates
A true story about a tap-dancing legend.
Lynne Barasch
Lynne Barasch
Lee & Low Books Inc.
Year of Pub:
Age range
Type of Disability
One leg
Left leg lost in a factory accident.
Fiction or Nonfiction
Category:  B, D

A) books that provide factual information about a disability

B) books that provide information about a disability in a story format in which the character with a disability is integral to the plot

C) books that provide stories that have a character with a disability who may or may not be integral to the storyline and who has been added to the story to achieve diversity and reflect reality

D) books that include a main character with a disability but whose focus is not necessarily the disability

Annotation:  Clayton Bates loved to dance and always had rhythms running through his head.  He danced at home, clapping his hands and tapping his feet, and entertained the white men at the barbershop. He did not want to work in the fields like his Mama, and at the age of 12 he begged to work in the cottonseed mill. On his third day of work, there was a terrible accident--Clayton’s left leg got caught in one of the machines and had to be amputated. As soon as Clayton felt better, he began tapping out rhythms again. His uncle made him a peg leg, and Clayton was once more up on his “feet.” He continued to dance, perfecting his craft using his good leg and his peg leg. Though he experienced discrimination because he was black, he became a known dancer and entertainer throughout the U.S.  At first he performed only for black audiences but eventually was sought after by white audiences and became a world-renowned tap-dance legend
Link to publisher:
Links to professional reviews:
(Amazon.com has reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist)


Standards for Quality Portrayal of Characters with a disability
1. Promotes empathy not pity

2. Promotes acceptance, not ridicule

3. Emphasizes success rather than, or in addition to failure

4. Promotes positive images of persons with disabilities or illness
5. Assists children in gaining accurate understanding of the disability or illness
Yes and No
It is clear to children from the illustrations and descriptions that losing a leg does not necessarily mean that one cannot walk or dance. But the story does not otherwise address what it is like to live with one leg.
6. Demonstrates respect for persons with disabilities or illness

7. Promotes attitude of “one of us” not “one of them.”
8. Uses people-first language
9. Describes the disability or person with disabilities or illness as realistic (not subhuman or superhuman)
10. Depicts people with disabilities as more similar to than different from other people
11. Shows peoples’ strengths and abilities along with their disabilities
12. Represents characters as strong, independent people who others can admire or learn from
Clayton became famous due to his creativity, talent, and refusal to let his disability get in the way of his dreams.
13. Represents people with disabilities from different racial and cultural backgrounds, religions, age groups, and sexual orientations
Clayton Bates was black and the son of a sharecropper. He was not allowed to perform for white audiences for a long time, nor was he allowed to eat in white establishments.
14. Shows people with disabilities in integrated settings and activities

15. Shows people with disabilities in valued occupations and diverse roles.

16. Shows people with disabilities in reciprocal relationships
Not an emphasis of the story.

17. Main character develops and grows emotionally as a result of what happens in the story
He does not let anything stop him from dancing—not discrimination and not disability. However, with the exception of one line of text hinting that Clayton had some difficult emotional times, the reader does not have the privilege of really getting to know him.

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