Dotty by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Julia Denos
Wherever Ida goes, Dotty goes too. Even on her first day of school, Dotty comes along: huge, horned and covered in red spots. Once Ida is at school, she realizes that many of the others in her class have brought their own imaginary friends too. But as the year goes on, the other children start to leave their imaginary friends behind. Ida though is still connected to Dotty, still carrying the blue string that ties them together. Eventually, the other children tease Ida about Dotty, even the children who had imaginary friends of their own just a few months ago. When Ida reacts angrily and Dotty bashes into a girl who was once Ida’s friend, they have to write apologies to each other. Ida’s teacher finds out about Dotty and turns out to be a kindred spirit, just what Ida needed.
This is a book that really embraces imaginary friends, tying it winningly with the first day of school and growing older. Best of all is the ending of the book which took a turn that I had not been expecting. It is a book that honors imagination and creativity, embracing being different and maturing at your own pace or just not maturing entirely at all. Perl’s writing is charming and warm, really creating a world filled with imaginary creatures that dwindle away slowly. Denos’ art is equally successful with a modern edge and children who are modern and yet not slick. They look like the children I see every day. She also has a great mix of ethnicities that is done effortlessly.
While this is a book about imaginary friends, I would also include it in any return-to-school unit because it addresses the larger issues of people being different in ways that are not immediately apparent. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
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