Tag Archive: childhood


adventures of beekle

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Join Beekle, an imaginary friend, who is so special that no child seems to be able to even imagine him.  He waits and waits along with the other imaginary creatures, but he is never dreamed of by a child.  So Beekle does what no other imaginary friend has ever done, he heads out to find his child in the real world.  He finds himself in a big city, filled with grey people and lots of adults.  Luckily, he spots a bright familiar color and shape and follows it to a playground where he thinks he can find his special friend.  But they don’t come.  Beekle climbs a tree to see if he can spot his friend, but still no one comes.  Beekle climbs down, then a small girls gestures for him to get her paper out of the tree.  And on that page…  Well, you will just have to imagine it for yourself or get this charmer of a book to read and find out what happens next.

Santat has created a book that reads like a modern classic.  He has combined so many wonderful moments and positive feelings here that it’s like drinking a cup of cocoa for the spirit.  Beekle himself is perfection, a round and friendly little soul whose crown is made of construction paper and tape and who is unwilling to sit lonely when he could do something about his situation.  His positive reaction to a dismal situation is a great model for children. 

At the same time, this is a testament to imagination.  Both a warm embrace of imaginary friends and their positive role in children’s lives.  But also a celebration of Santat’s own imagination.  The world he creates is filled with the grey of adulthood, but childhood and imagination make that world shine in new colors. 

A delight of a picture book, this is one to share cuddled up in bed and to cheer aloud with the story.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

wild boy

Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron by Mary Losure, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

Losure’s latest is another compelling true story this time focusing on the boy found in the woods in southern France in 1789.  The boy was not a tiny child, but rather a young boy who had obviously been surviving on his own for some time, his body covered in scars.  Quickly, the boy was taken for study and observation, his life curtailed and limited because he always attempted to run away.  There was very little attempt to actually reach him until he was sent to the Institute for Deaf-Mutes where he was put into the care of Dr. Itard.  Itard decided to make the boy, who he named Victor, happy before trying to teach him to speak.  So Victor joined the family of the housekeeper and quickly became attached to them.  But civilizing a wild boy is not simple, as this book shows with historical details, engaging humor, and a narrative that shows an immense empathy for this wild child.

Losure, author of The Fairy Ring, has once again taken a complicated situation and made it understandable for young readers.  Young readers will immediately relate more closely with the intriguing Victor.  Through his eyes and Losure’s exquisite writing, readers understand his ties to nature (Page 72):

But when rain pattered on the roof and everyone else went inside, the wild boy often crept out into the garden, to the tiny, formal reflecting pond that sat among the flower beds.  He would circle the pond several times, then sit by its edge and rock himself back and forth as the rain dimpled the surface of the pond.  He’d gaze into the water, toss in a handful of dead leaves, and watch them drift.

The digital galley I read did not have the completed art available, so I cannot comment on the illustrations.  Throughout the book, Losure makes the Wild Boy come to life as a very unique and resilient boy.  The story is told during his time, through the eyes of those who knew him best, using reports written at the time.  Only in her Author’s Note does Losure speculate on whether Victor was autistic.  There she also notes the importance of Victor on educational attitudes like Montessori.

An engaging, wrenching read that brings history to life in the form on one amazing person.  Appropriate for ages 9-12. 

Reviewed from digital galley received from Netgalley and Candlewick Press.

hokey pokey

Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli

No adults live in Hokey Pokey, just kids.  They fall asleep right where they leave off playing and then jump up again to start playing the next day.  There are plenty of places to play: the Doll Farm, Thousand Puddles, Snuggle Stop, and Trucks.  Jack is one of the biggest kids at Hokey Pokey. He rides a legendary bike, Scramjet, captured from the herds of wild bicycles that roam the plains.  But when Jack wakes up one day, Scramjet has been taken and by a girl!  As Jubilee rides Scramjet around Hokey Pokey, everyone soon realizes that something is changing.  Jubilee paints the bike yellow but as she tries to get under Jack’s skin, Jack realizes that he himself is changing.  It must have something to do with hearing a train whistle no one else can hear.  But trains never come to Hokey Pokey despite the train tracks.

I was captured by this book the moment I read the first page.  I knew that I was in for a treat from Spinelli that is unlike anything he’s every written before.  This is a wonderfully wild and fanciful book that will remind readers of Peter Pan, yet it is brightly modern and not afraid to be dark too.  Spinelli uses a new language in Hokey Pokey, one that is easily understood but that also marks that we are somewhere new.  Take this description of children at play in Hokey Pokey, “…kids big and little everywhere streaking, leaping, chasing, shrieking, warring, hopscotching, footballing, hide-and-seeking, jumproping, hokeypoking, razzing, dazzing, runamucking, chuckleducking…”  The language he uses has a wonderful rhythm to it that is evident throughout the book.

The setting of Hokey Pokey is such a large part of this book.  Some places remain rather mysterious while others are completely explained in action in the story.  When readers are given a glimpse of some of the other wonders of Hokey Pokey, they can immediately relate to what it is because all of it is about childhood and play.  As Jack moves towards adolescence in the story, the book changes too.  It becomes more filled with questions, more angst pervades it.  This is a story of leaving childhood and all of its bright, candy-colored play behind and heading into the unknown.

Gloriously fun to read, this book was impossible for me not to love.  Spinelli writes with a lovely playfulness and yet beneath it all is truth.  A truly outstanding read for middle graders.  Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.

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