When I was a child, I had an imaginary friend named Bob. He was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, and he came with me wherever I went. Bob also had a wife named Pam who would come play with us on the playground of my elementary school. I’ll never forget those days with Bob and Pam by my side. Just as I loved Bob and Pam, in The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, Beekle longs for a child to love him.
This 2015 Caldecott Award Winner, written and illustrated by Dan Santat, portrays the story of an “unimaginary” friend who is looking for a companion in the real world. Beekle and other imaginary friends are born on an “island far away where imaginary friends (are) created.” As the story progresses, the creatures around him are “imagined by a real child” and they leave the island to join that child in the real world. However, as Beekle waits and waits for a child to imagine him, the days go by and nothing happens.
One day, Beekle finally decides to take matters into his own hands. He begins to journey to the real world by himself in order to find his perfect match.
When Beekle arrives at the big city, he starts to explore, searching far and wide for his friend. He finds adults bustling about, children running around playgrounds with their own imaginary friends, but no child waiting for him.
Discouraged, Beekle climbs into a tree to see if someone will find him there, and he begins to feel sad that no one wants him. However, moments later, a young girl shows up with a picture she drew of her with Beekle. She had imagined him!
“There was something about her that felt just right.”
Beekle and the girl are unsure at first of how to be friends with each other, but as time passes, they begin to do everything together. “The world began to feel a little less strange….and together they did the unimaginable.”
It is evident why The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend won the Caldecott award in 2015, as each page carefully integrates the illustrations with the text in order to portray the overall themes of the book: friendship, imagination, and adventure.Santat uses pencil, crayon, watercolor, ink, and Adobe Photoshop to create vibrant pictures of a child’s imagination. Because each illustration is spread out over two pages, the scenes seem larger than life, and are really able to capture the minds of the readers.
Even the endpages of The Adventures of Beekle contribute to the overall themes of the book, with different illustrations of children and their imaginary friends surrounding a lonesome Beekle who has not found his friend (yet).
Through the use of this one simple character that travels through elaborately detailed environments to find his friend, Santat is able to appropriately and effectively tackle the themes of friendship, imagination, and adventure. The book is especially relatable for young children who are just beginning to make friends at school; however, it is also relatable for anyone who feels like they are trying to find their place in the world. In The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, Santat illustrates how having friends can make you feel invincible. With a true friend by your side, the world can begin to feel a little less strange, and together, you can do the unimaginable.