An imaginary friend is born and waits to be picked and named by a child. When no one picks him for a long time, he travels alone to the real world. He searches until he and the child find each other. She names him Beekle.
This is an imaginative, gorgeously illustrated book. Beekle manages to be an empathic, expressive character, which is an accomplishment for someone with barely existent facial features. He is essentially a walking marshmallow, and it is impossible for the reader not to hope his journey ends in success.
The other characters are equally interesting. Even the people standing in the background are fascinating. They are diverse and expressive, and they are always doing something interesting, such as playing the accordion and wearing paper hats.
Beekle’s friend is particularly engaging. She seems as eager for Beekle as he has been for her, and her art is everything that a child’s art should be, imaginative and lovely and slightly weird.
Beekle’s loneliness, a relatable conflict for a young child, fuels the plot. His search for his friend through the blandly colored world of adulthood ends in a children’s playground that is nearly as vibrant as the imaginary world from which Beekle fled.
Beekle’s friend does not fully emerge from her isolation until Beekle connects with other imaginary friends, drawing her into new friendships. The theme speaks to the power of play and imagination and friendship.
The style of the writing reveals Beekle’s innocence in his confusion over why the real world was not full of children eating cake and listening to music. The text is simple and approachable.
One of the strengths of the book is the adeptness with which Santat expresses mood through the color scheme of the book, and another is the beautifully and accurately diverse urban scenes. If there is a weakness in the book, it is the number of pages that pass without any action. Beekle observes as he travels, but the plot drags a bit between his arrival in the real world and the appearance of another imaginary friend.
Overall, THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE is an enchanting contribution to children’s literature.
“One surprisingly expressive pudgy white blob gets sick of waiting, so he hops in a boat and embarks on an adventurous voyage to the real world…. Beekle’s journey is lovely” (Hunter 2014).
“Welcome, Beekle. It’s nice to know you” (Kirkus Review 2014).
THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE is the 2015 winner of the Caldecott Medal.
CLARA AND ASHA by Eric Rohmann
I’M BORED by Michael Ian Black
IMAGINARY FRED by Eoin Colfer
OLIVER by Birgitta Sif
ORION AND THE DARK by Yarlett
Try this Beekle marshmallow craft from ThisPictureBookLife!
“Caldecott Medal and Honor Books, 1938-Present.” Association for Library Services to Children. Accessed August 29, 2015. http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecotthonors/caldecottmedal
Hunter, Sarah. “The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend.” Booklist Review. July 21, 2014. http://www.booklistonline.com/The-Adventures-of-Beekle-The-Unimaginary-Friend-Dan-Santat/pid=6675931
Kirkus Review. February 26, 2014. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/dan-santat/the-adventures-of-beekle/
Santat, Dan. 2014. THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE: THE UNIMAGINARY FRIEND. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316199988
“The Adventures of Beekle + Marshmallow Beekle Craft.” This Picture Book Life. September 2, 2014. http://thispicturebooklife.com/beekle-craft/