Knock at the Door and Other Baby Action Rhymes, by Kay Chorao
(1999, Dutton’s Children’s Books, ISBN 0-525-45969-3)
Knock at the Door is a collection of illustrated action rhymes and finger plays for very young children. Parents, caregivers, and storytime librarians can benefit from the step-by-step picture guides to the motions that are provided next to each line, and children will love doing the actions and exploring the rich illustrations on each page.
Kay Choroa provides the illustrations for this collection of twenty traditional action rhymes and finger plays—from “Pat-a-Cake” to “The Teapot” (“I’m a Little Teapot” to most of us)—which are conveniently listed in a table of contents in order to easily locate them within the book. This book is clearly not intended to be read aloud in a single sitting; I can only assume it’s meant more as a reference for adults who can’t recall the action rhymes of their childhoods and need ideas of ways to engage with babies in play. (Since it’s been a long three years since GirlChild was this age, it’s been a somewhat helpful reminder to me as well!) Some of the rhymes, like “This Little Piggy,” seem very obvious and don’t really require the otherwise useful motion illustrations (in small boxes with each line of the rhyme), but others are much more obscure. Some of the lesser known rhymes, like “Knock at the Door” from the title, are perhaps not likely to enter into regular rotation at our house, but there were a few cute ones that were new to me that we may start using (after I memorize them; see GirlChild and BoyChild’s Reactions below for the reasons why).
Besides the basic, unobtrusive drawings to guide the actions, there are whimsical full-page illustrations for each rhyme done in what appears to be colored pencil. The style fits well with the traditional rhymes; the illustrations are very detailed with bright but soft colors that bring to mind the old Mother Goose stories and Beatrix Potter’s work, with plenty of animals and babies and flowers and toys on each page for small children to explore. You wouldn’t have to do the rhymes with a child for him or her to enjoy the drawings (in fact, I would say it would be hard to do the actions while having the child look at the pictures, too), so they add another opportunity for interaction between parent and child and the book.
GirlChild and BoyChild’s Reactions: I got this book because finger plays and action rhymes are great ways to interact with infants, and there aren’t any infant storytimes available in our area except during BoyChild’s morning nap! Although this book seems to be meant to share with a small child—one with whom you would typically do this kind of action rhyme—BoyChild would have none of it. I had him sitting in my lap on the floor with the book in front of us so that I could manage both him and the book at the same time. Ha! He did not want me moving his arms to the actions and struggled forcibly to be free, and if I let go of him to (for instance) walk my fingers up his arm or beep his nose, he would lunge forward and try to rip the pages out of the book. (I think he liked the pictures. A lot.) Always up for that sort of sport, GirlChild likely would have sat and watched me wrestle him into doing these finger plays all day long. (She also wanted me to do the “Knock at the Door” one—the one where you knock at the child’s noggin, tug at the child’s hair, poke the child’s nose, and stick the spoon into the child’s mouth—with her at lunchtime because she is clearly at that stage where she is jealous of even the strangest things she sees her little brother getting to do. BoyChild, on the other hand, got mad at me for poking his nose when he was trying to eat.) Maybe he’ll like the action rhymes better when he can do the motions himself instead of being my pudgy little puppet…
I think this book is a good resource for parents wanting to have some one-on-one interaction time with their little ones, but if the publishers really wanted parents to share the book with a baby, they should have printed it as a board book instead of with paper pages so that it wouldn’t be destroyed!