Friend­ships, real and imag­i­nary, are vi­tal

Lodi News-Sentinel - - NATION - By Lee Lit­tle­wood

Imag­i­nary friends are real to many preschool­ers. They’re also a creative, com­fort­ing part of early child­hood de­vel­op­ment. Th­ese books tell re­as­sur­ing tales about the im­por­tance of friend­ships, both in­vis­i­ble and real.

“Dewey Bob” by Judy Schachner; Dial/Pen­guin; 32 pages; $17.99.

Judy Schachner, cre­ator of the beloved “Skip­pyjon Jones” se­ries, in­tro­duces a new and just-as-en­dear­ing char­ac­ter known as Dewey Bob Crock­ett, a “durn cute rac­coon.” Dewey Bob lives by him­self in a whim­si­cal home filled to the brim with his col­lec­tions of but­tons, wheels and bric-abrac. He’s busy and happy with his finds, but then re­al­izes he’s lonely, and tries col­lect­ing critters (which he brings home in his shop­ping cart). Then Dewey finds what he thinks is a “barely breath­ing, half­s­tarved mud ball,” and brings him home. It turns out his friend is a kit­ten. Af­ter hear­ing the kitty growl, Dewey hi­lar­i­ously thinks, “I hope that’s just yer tummy growlin’.”

Heart­warm­ing and ut­terly adorable, Schachner’s new tale ends with Dewey fixin’ up crip­pled Mud­ball’s hind legs with but­ton wheels so he can roll around and then sighs, “You is the bestest thing I ever col­lected, Mud­ball!”

“We For­got Brock!” by Carter Goodrich; Si­mon & Schus­ter; 40 pages; $17.99.

Su­per­hero-dressed Phillip loves his big pi­rate friend Brock (sketched in child­like black-and-white), and he some­times ex­as­per­ates his par­ents. When the fam­ily vis­its the fair, Brock, who wan­ders off to ride the Brain Shaker ride, is left be­hind when Phillip falls asleep. Pan­icky, Phillip searches every­where and fi­nally finds Brock rid­ing bikes with a new real friend named Anne, and her imag­i­nary pal, Princess Sparkle Dust. The four then be­come best friends.

Carter Goodrich’s vi­brant art­work re­minds me of Wil­liam Joyce’s, and his rudi­men­tary de­pic­tions of Brock and pur­ple Princess Sparkle Dust are smartly unique. “We For­got Brock!” is happy and ad­ven­tur­ous.

“Imag­i­nary Fred” by Eoin Colfer; il­lus­trated by Oliver Jef­fers; HarperCollins; 46 pages; $18.99.

Wow! What a per­fect pic­ture book, es­pe­cially for lonely kids and those with iffy friend­ships. With float­ing, dreamy il­lus­tra­tions by Oliver Jef­fers, Eoin Colfer in­tro­duces Fred, a sea­soned imag­i­nary friend who’s used to real friends mov­ing on and leav­ing him in the dust.

Jef­fers cre­ated Fred with aqua dots that fade and darken de­pend­ing on his friend sta­tus, mak­ing the imag­i­nary more con­crete and re­al­ized. When Fred meets a real boy named Sam he’s very ex­cited — un­til Sam brings his pal Sammi around and the pair steal Fred’s comic-book idea.

But then comes Sammi’s imag­i­nary pal Frieda (made of yel­low dots) and the four form a sing­ing troupe, The Quar­rel­ing Quar­tet. Even­tu­ally, the real friends get closer, leav­ing Fred and Frieda to be­come best pals, and an imag­i­nary phe­nom­e­non is born. (There are even sci­en­tists to ver­ify it, and a statue is erected to honor the pair’s “real” imag­i­nary sta­tus.)

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