The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

beekle_coverby Dan Santat

published 2014 by Little, Brown (release date is tomorrow, April 8th. I’d recommend lining up outside your local bookstore as soon as possible. You want this book.)

Sometimes, you can tell that a story is going to squeeze its way into your soul.

I got those story-goosebumps when I saw this trailer recently. Hat tip to Mr. Schu and Margie Myers-Culver probably. Or maybe Mr. Santat himself. But:

breakerMaybe sobbed is a more appropriate word choice than saw, because that’s what I did. It was all I could do. But some things you see with your eyes, and some things you see with your heart alone.

I saw Beekle.

This is Dan Santat’s first offering as an author in a decade, though he has illustrated about a trillion books in the meantime. His work is inviting and bold and gripping and nuanced and so clearly Santat. Paired with his own words now, they haunt and amaze. Sweeping and startling and so very shivery.

(Speaking of all those Santats, my students peek under every dust jacket thanks to Kel Gilligan. They are super disappointed if a) the library mylar is in the way and b) if it’s a plain old case cover. Smarties.)

Thank goodness for this:The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatAnd this.The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatWhether accidental or intentional, the title is a nod to other epic journeys. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Tintin, Pete and Pete (remember those redheads?). All of those escapades belong to memorable characters.

But Beekle. See him up there on the cover? That milky lump with the crooked, shy smile? No one has remembered him yet, because no one has ever imagined him. Not with their eyes, and not with their hearts.

The folks at the bus stop (save the tiny schnauzer) are too busy with real life and grownup things like tracksuits and newspapers. Of course they can’t see him. That’s why he’s looking at you, the reader. So in you go.The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatBeekle was born on a magical island, a home for imaginary friends to wile away the days until they were dreamed up by a real friend. He waited and waited to be picked, and watched everyone else get imagined. And Beekle was alone, so . . .

. . . he did the unimaginable.The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatThe whiff of a wild thing on those waves . . . you recognize Beekle’s sailboat and crown, right?SENDAK_1963_Where_the_Wild_Things_Are_pp31-32

(image from here.)The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatBeekle’s sailboat reaches the real world, but no one stops to hear the music. Like any good adventure and friend seeker, he finds branches to climb and a lookout to perch.The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatBut no one came.

And then.

If you slowed down and savored the pictures, you might have seen a gust of wind pick up something thin and white. That thing, thin and white, stuck right to a limb holding Beekle. That thin and white canvas, her dream.The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatSo many moments add to the magic of this, in addition to the anticipation and raw rooting we are doing for our hero. See the leaves? The stars? That’s how she drew the leaves. That’s how the leaves look on the tree, too. That shape creates instant charm and magical mood, sure. But also, remember the beginning? The waiting and the hoping? On the island, all of that happened under the stars.The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan SantatFriends are matched under the stars.

That’s when the world begins to feel a little less strange.

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If there’s a word that means flabbergasted and gobsmacked to the infinitieth power, that’s what I was when I got Beekle in the mail from Dan’s editor at Little, Brown, Connie Hsu. Not only did I get a sneak peek at this gorgeous story, but I got my very own friend. 

beekle How did he know a squatty, mechanized lightbulb bearing tools for creating and messing up and creating anyway was the perfect friend for me?

The stars must have been out that night above Dan’s studio. Thank you, Dan. So, so much.

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19 thoughts on “The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

  1. Aww…Beekle is the cutest little offspring of the Michelin Man and Stay Puff Marshmellow Man. How could no child imagine something so sweet? Just look at his little bottom, and the taped-together crown. I’ll be in line early tomorrow!

  2. Dan’s beautiful art combined with the music in the trailer made me catch my breath. Every winter I cry at the island of misfit toys in Rudolph (yes, every time) and this evoked those same feelings. Bookstore tomorrow.

  3. After your emotional and thoughtful review of this book, I do have to see/purchase it for myself. Thanks!

  4. What a beautiful book! And it was the perfect moment when I watched the trailer, with the sound of rain outside and the kidlet curled up on my lap with his blanket. The music was perfect.

  5. Well, I’m in tears. That trailer is beautiful. Thanks for this new find, Carter, and thank you, Mr. Santat, for Beekle!

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