Friendships, real and imaginary, are vital
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.)