Saturday, May 23, 2009

Who's That? Knock, Knock! Who's There? by Tad Hills

If you've read my earlier reviews of riddle and knock-knock books, you know that I have extolled the use of the much maligned pun to develop an early appreciation of the English language, with its enormous vocabulary and myriad of nuanced, layered meanings.

Just when to introduce joke books using such wordplay is the problem. Appreciation of this most simple form of humor develops some time after age three and peaks at ages eight through ten. Introduce the pun-ny knock-knock or riddle too early, however, and the joke flies right over the listener's head and falls flat!

Tad Hills, in his Knock Knock Who's There: My First Book Of Knock Knock Jokes seems to have hit upon the perfect device to make these jokes accessible to younger readers: all of the knock-knock puns are based upon fairly common male and female names.

Knock, Knock!

Who's there?


Anita who?


Hills backs up this verbal format with clever design: Each double page spread features the "call" on the left-hand page and the "response" on a gatefold right-hand page, so that in the above joke we see a pristine little porker in her crisp yellow sunfrock and hairbow on the left, while the lifted flap shows the piggy in the puddle plaintively asking for a scrub in the tub.

To stay with the hygiene theme, the next page shows a little skunk with his rubber ducky all ready for a bath, while the flap reveals another skunk already immersed in a tub full of bubbles:

Knock, Knock!

Who's there?


Duane who?


Stout board covers and stiff card stock pages with sturdy flaps make this book safe even for tots too young to appreciate the verbal humor but not too young to enjoy the mildly slapstick action hidden under the gatefolds. Illustrations are engaging, with little animals with expressive faces playing the leading roles. Vocabulary is simple enough for the early emergent reader to navigate the book alone--with the exception of the proper names, all of which are phonetic enough to be decoded fairly easily with a minimum of adult assistance:

Knock, knock!

Who's there?


Sid who?


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