|Image from EricaPerl.com|
On Ida’s first day of school she brings her new lunchbox and Dotty, her (maybe imaginary) spotted friend. Ida is happy to learn that she’s not the only one in Ms. Raymond’s classroom who has brought a friend to school. Benny’s friend Spike has razor-sharp teeth. Katya’s chatty friend Keekoo swings from her braids. Max even has two friends, twins Pete and Repeat. That year everyone gets along, but when the students return in the fall Ida realizes she is the only one who still brings her friend to school. The other kids tease Ida for carrying the blue string that is Dotty’s leash and Dotty gets mad, knocking a girl to the ground. The girls have to write apology notes. Ida writes, “I am sorry abot what Dotty did but you desrvd it.” Ms. Raymond asks Ida to tell her about Dotty, but Ida has no words. So Ms. Raymond makes Ida promise to explain to Dotty how to behave at school and pulls out a piece of red string from her desk. Then she laughs and says, “Oh, I’m sorry. That one’s mine,” as she hands Ida her blue string. After that Ida knows everything is ok. So does Ms. Raymond, as she picks up the red string leash to lead her friend Gert home for the night.
The moral of the story is that it’s ok to be different or to grow at a different rate than your peers. Written in the third person, the text balances dialogue and narrative to create a smooth story. The dialogue and interactions between the children are believable. The illustrations are whimsical with loose, playful lines and bright colors. Brush ink and Photoshop were used to create the pictures, which feature detailed characters, in fun clothing, against a blurry background. The magic of the imaginary friends is in the illustrations and it is easy to see how they are manifestations of the personalities of their child. Denos also cleverly foreshadows Ms. Raymond’s friend with the black and yellow striped scarf she wears around her neck in the last few pages.
Use this book for a storytime about imaginary friends and pair it with titles such as Emma Kate, Jessica or Amanda and Her Alligator. Compare the imaginary friends in these books. Ask kids to draw a picture of their own imaginary friend, an imaginary friend they would like to have, or one of the imaginary friends from one of the books.
For more information on the creation of this book, check out the Happy Nappy Bookseller’s interview with Perl, as well as the interview done by the Mishaps and Adventure Blog.
If you like Denos’ illustrations, check out my review for the picture book biography, Just Being Audrey. Learn more about Denos in the extensive interview (with lots of photos!) conducted by Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.