Whose Knees Are These? is that wonderful thing, a children’s book that quietly, unobtrusively and effectively presents a non-majority perspective.
It is the work of Jabari Asim, this guy:
As you may have noticed, he’s … not white.
And neither is his little protagonist, or his mommy!
Asim’s is not just any non-majority perspective; it’s probably a particularly conscious one. He is an associate professor of writing, literature and publishing and editor-in-chief of The Crisis, a journal of politics, ideas and culture.
The book’s rhymes aren’t as practiced and perfect as our most treasured of books (Margaret Mahy, rest her brilliant soul, wouldn’t have been satisfied with the meter of a couple of them), but after a few read-throughs I’ve learnt how to fit them to a rhythm that works without them sounding too clunky. (You try: ‘So brown, so strong, to whom do these fine knees belong?’)
And we’ve had more than a few read-throughs: not for the sake of Miss Bee’s political education, I have to say, but simply because knees are such a great subject for a book, aren’t they?
‘Whose knees are these!?’ has become a bit of a refrain around here; the question goes so perfectly with the act of grabbing one of those pudgy little knees I love so much, as they sit in my lap, or repose upon the carpet, or follow me into the toilet.
‘Whose knees are these? They’re Miss Bee’s knees!’