Cover image for Knockin' on wood : starring Peg Leg Bates
Knockin' on wood : starring Peg Leg Bates
Barasch, Lynne.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Lee & Low Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 27 cm
Presents a picture book biography of Clayton "Peg Leg" Bates, an African American who lost his leg in a factory accident at the age of twelve and went on to become a world-famous tap dancer.
Reading Level:
AD 880 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.4 0.5 79111.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 4.7 3 Quiz: 37097 Guided reading level: P.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV1785.B3486 B37 2004 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A biography of Clayton Peg Leg Bates, an African-American man who lost a leg at the age of twelve, yet went on to become a world-renowned tap dancer.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 2-3, younger for reading aloud. The name Peg Leg Bates is no longer familiar, but his story is captivating. Born a sharecropper's son, African American Clayton Bates never wanted to do anything but dance, yet he had to bring in money, so at 12, he got a job at a cottonseed factory. Within three days, he had lost his leg in a machine accident. Despite that misfortune, he pursued a successful dancing career. Wearing a wooden leg, he was soon performing for black audiences; eventually he made his way to national venues such as the Ed Sullivan show. Sprightly ink-and-watercolor art ably depicts both the poverty of Bates' early life and the colorful world of entertainment. A remarkable two-page spread bridges the before and after, showing many small images of Bates in various tap dancing positions. Barasch subtly sets the story against American racism; to join a white vaudeville troupe, Bates had to wear blackface, and to eat he had to find a restaurant in the black community. Still, Bates prevailed. Quotes at the book's conclusion offer a taste of his philosophy: Black or white, one leg or two, it doesn't matter. Good is good. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Barasch (Radio Rescue) presents a solid picture-book biography of African-American tap dancer Clayton "Peg Leg" Bates, born in South Carolina in 1907. Hating to work in the fields alongside his sharecropper mother, the boy would dance for patrons of the local barbershop; at the age of 12, he took a job at a cottonseed mill, where an accident cost him his leg. But, as Barasch tells it, the "musical rhythms in his head that he just had to let out" inspired the young Clayton to learn to walk again, first with crutches made from broomsticks and then with a wooden leg whittled by his uncle. Clayton went on to develop his own "brand of rhythm tap," which he demonstrated first for black audiences and, later, wearing blackface to disguise his skin color, in vaudeville theaters restricted to white performers and audiences. Eventually, Peg Leg's reputation eliminated the need for disguise, as he danced on TV, in movies--and even for the king and queen of England. The author interjects details that underscore the racism that Bates encountered; for example, his leg was amputated at the kitchen table, since hospital surgery wasn't available for poor blacks in the South at that time. Barasch's ink-and-watercolor illustrations are not as limber as the text; Peg Leg often looks stiff or out of kilter when he's supposed to be dancing. On balance, however, a credible introduction to a memorable and remarkably resolute dancer. Ages 6-up. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-4-This inspiring biography of Clayton "Peg Leg" Bates, who lost his left leg in a cottonseed mill accident in 1919 at the age of 12, chronicles the man's amazing life from his days as the son of a sharecropper in South Carolina to his rise to fame as a tap dancer. His special step, the American Jet Plane, in which he "tapped across the stage, leaped five feet into the air, and landed on his peg leg with the other leg straight out" won over black and white audiences alike. Still, he was never allowed to eat or sleep in the same restaurants and hotels enjoyed by white vaudeville performers. Eventually he became so famous that he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and in movies, performed for the king and queen of England, and opened his own resort in the Catskills. Barasch's watercolor-and-ink cartoon paintings capture the poverty of the dancer's early life, the adulation of his fans, and his joyous love of dancing. Vignettes across a spread depict him performing typical tap steps in his own unique way. A final photograph of Bates in action is complemented by his words: "Don't look at me in sympathy,/I'm glad that I'm this way./I feel good, knockin' on wood." Pair this with Kathleen Krull's Wilma Unlimited (Harcourt, 1996) for a look at some real-life heroes.-Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.