Book: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
Author: Dan Santat
Age Range: 3-6
The premise of Dan Santat's The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend is that there exists an island where imaginary friends of all shapes and sizes live until they are called into service by a child. One particular little guy - he looks rather like a marshmallow with limbs - gets tired of waiting and sets out on a journey to find his human friend. He is at first taken aback by the oddities of the real world. However, he finds himself drawn to a kid-filled playground, where he eventually meets Alice, and is named Beekle. I found Beekle, book and character, to be both creative and charming.
The Adventures of Beekle essentially posits that imaginary friends are real, though not everyone can see them. My six-year-old self would have loved this idea. (Though as an adult I find that the notion that my daughter's imaginary imaginary little brother might be real is a bit disturbing.) Dan Santat uses relatively minimal text, allowing the pictures to tell much of the story. Like this:
"His mind filled with thoughts of all the amazing things that were keeping his friend from imaging him.
So rather than waiting... (page turn)
... he did the unimaginable."
Here the first page spread shows a night sky filled with images of a boy reading books, holding up a soccer trophy, playing a guitar, etc. The next page shows Beekle, tiny but determined, in a little boat, crossing sea-monster-filled orange and yellow waves. Santat is able to convey Beekle's loneliness and bewilderment throughout his journey. But the best page shows a series of vignettes of Beekle and Alice's first interactions: their awkwardness and uncertainty and, in time, their joy. Only then do we see Beekle smile. I personally was quite happy for Beekle at that point. If there was a soft, squishy Beekle stuffed animal, I would probably buy it.
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend is delight from start to finish. Recommended for library or home use for kids age three to six.
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Source of Book: Library copy, checked out for Round 1 Cybils consideration in Fiction Picture Books. All opinions are my own.
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