{book} imagine Beekle

on

beekle coverThe Adventures of Beekle, The Unimaginary Friend

by Dan Santat (Little, Brown & Co. 2014)

On a magical island, a creature is born and left to imagine the friend made especially for them. Nameless, the creature waits in increasing despair while the others meet their matches.

The creature in Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle is from the point-of-view of a yet-named Beekle, but the reader can easily imagine the perspective of the child awaiting Beekle’s realization. Beekle’s perspective is easily understood to be felt and experienced not only by itself, but the the human child as well.

Beekle_Int_HiRes2Santat dreams up the origins of unimaginary friends, and sends one of them on an adventure. Beekle dares to not be forgotten or left unimagined, braving the enormity of nature and adulthood to find where childhood resides. Though smaller in scale, the vibrantly imagined stands out against cold, dark hues of a contemporary urban landscape, walking among renderings of industry and isolation. The shift back to the warmth rendered in that magical island occurs when Beekle enters a playground. Even so, Beekle is alone, everyone else occupied with their unimaginary companion. Santat draws out the tension, the hopefulness that our new friend will find a pairing, and that the adventures will be less lonely. Either kind, alone or in the company of a child, Beekle’s adventures are familiar and moving.

BEEKLE_10

Prepare to be utterly charmed by the creatures Santat renders for the story. Fans of Santat will have already anticipated excellence in color and texture. And the pencilled text is hand-lettered reminding the reader yet again that the author/illustrator is invested in a story about friendship and imagination. After all, the book sitting on its shelf is waiting for a reader to join it in an adventure. I certainly hope that audiences will be inspired to illustrate their own imaginable creatures and adventures; or perhaps play them out. It would be a heartening way to portray the world with childhood portraits (think school pictures) with an equalled attempt to represent an unimaginary friend.

b/w image of the endpages
b/w image of the endpages

Santat is known for his humor and imagination, but this one is less silly than I had come to expect. It brushes close to Shaun Tan’s work. Santat renders the overlap of the rich inner & outer life beautifully. The sweet hopefulness resides just this side of the melancholic, not yet ready to surrender to the disillusionment of childhood in modern life. Fears of being left out, last-to-be-picked, loneliness are buoyed with the optimism of youth and the experienced voice of a wiser and practiced storyteller.

The Adventures of Beekle is sure to be classic, and one to stay on the shelves well beyond childhood and its unimaginary friendships.

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santatCheck out this Interview by Minh Le for Book Riot in which Santat answers the book’s dedication is Alek: “Alek is my oldest son who is eight years old. Years before he was born, the idea of an imaginary friend who couldn’t be imagined was something I was tinkering with for years. […] When Alek was born, and when he could finally speak, his first word was Beekle, which was his word for bicycle. At the time, my wife mentioned that it would be a great name for a children’s book character and I immediately realized that I had a name for my new character. Once I named the character the rest of the story flowed right out of me naturally and because of that the scene where Beekle learns his name is especially precious to me.”

Dan Santat is the author/illustrator of Sidekicks and the winner of the Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators for Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett. He is also the creator of the Disney animated hit, The Replacements. Dan lives in Southern California with his wife, two kids, and various pets.

{images belong to Dan Santat}

Beekle is my 5th Santat-illustrated book reviewed here (thus far): Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds; Crankenstein by Samantha Berger; Kel Gilligan’s Daredevil Stunt Show by Michael Buckley; & The Guild of Geniuses by Dan Santat. I can easily recommend them all.

 

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