The Land of Imaginary and Not-so-Imaginary Friends
I first discovered Beekle and Dan Santat through a recommendation from a friend in my local writing group. I had been working on a picture book about a little girl, Althea, who finds her perfect automaton friend. We ensued a discussion about who chose whom, just as I'm on the fence about whether Beekle chooses Alice or Alice chooses Beekle in Dan Santat's The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (published 2014).
Beekle is an imaginary friend waiting to be imagined by someone in the real world. He waits patiently, dreaming of his friend, until the day he decides to do the UNIMAGINABLE. He travels to the REAL world to find his friend himself! What I love about this book is that besides emphasizing imaginary friends as a norm (because it IS a norm and a milestone for some kids), it also lauds the imagination, overcoming obstacles, thinking outside the box and making friends with someone you didn't think you would make friends with. Beekle's real child isn't anything like what he imagined his child would be, but they are perfect together anyway.
And, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend is that perfect combination of winning storyline AND amazing illustration. Santat won the Caldecott Medal for his illustration work, but I think the text is quite stellar as well. I love Beekle's pioneering spirit. Santat also includes many 'child-like' drawings done by Alice and Beekle together.
Rating: On the floor, on the coffee table, lowest shelf. Wherever you or your little can pick up this book easily to admire the beautiful pictures and read about Beekle over and over again. You can even spot the various unimaginary friends throughout the books as you read repeatedly. My favorite is Beekle because he looks so huggable. Though I'm partial to the octopus with its cool pattern on its skin, and the origami-like Panda reminds me of Stillwater from Zen Shorts, which is coincidentally a Caldecott Honor book.
Ages: Imaginative toddlers on up. Though I could see someone reading this one to a baby as well.
Though we have borrowed Beekle from the library many times, we just finally purchased him a few weeks ago as we wanted to have a signed copy from Santat himself. BTW, I have decided that Beekle mirrors some of Santat's funny expressions. If you have a chance to go to one of his readings as he is touring Rodzilla right now, go check him out. You won't be disappointed. And then you can tell me if you agree about Beekle's expressions. :D
Did you have an imaginary friend growing up?