Knockin' On Wood
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.