- Craig Graziano
The Adventures of Beekle begins on an island of unclaimed imaginary friends, where each one eagerly waits to be paired up with the right child. When they are finally imagined by lonely boys or girls, they receive not only their best friends but also their names.
One lonely character has been waiting for a long time, but it appears that nobody wants to imagine him. So rather than doing nothing about it, he leaves his island so he will no longer be an unimaginary friend.
Compared to his island, the real world is a drab, intimidating place. In the big city, people hustle about without making eye contact or enjoying simple pleasures such as a street musician. It is when our hero discovers a playground that he not only finds some familiar faces from the island but also smiling, happy children.
Unfortunately, all of them already have imaginary friends of their own. Feeling lonelier than ever, our protagonist climbs to the top of a tree where everything changes.
Author and illustrator Dan Santat has outdone himself. His vibrant creativity turns an already sweet story into an emotionally powerful visual achievement. Santat uses both color and lack thereof to highlight the highs and lows of Beekle's journey.
The imaginary friends Santat conjures also help to make this book incredibly special. There is a polygon panda, an octopus covered in tribal markings, and Chinese sea dragons. The sheer number and variations of creatures will have readers exploring every wondrous detail.
The text is sparse in the same way that Maurice Sendak's masterpiece Where the Wild Things chooses to speak less with words, opting instead for a sheer flood of imaginative possibility. It is no surprise to me that Beekle wears a small crown, just like protagonist Max does in that magnificent book.
If you have even a modest appreciation for picture books, The Adventures of Beekle is a must-read. It is a beautiful quest for friendship, a glorious collection of art, and a fantastic bedtime story all rolled into one!