First came Biggy and Buggy, who were ants. Then came Fuzzypants the tiger. Now there is Robot Doggy and Pirate Puppy.
Pirate Puppy is an invisible dog. And he likes to eat cake and strawberries and today is his birthday.
When we were opening invisible presents Pirate Puppy jumped out of one and he had a pirate hat so I knew he was a pirate puppy.
We don’t know where he lives. His job is fighting off bad guys. His job is fighting off pirates. He’s a pirate too but he is a good guy.
With his menagerie of invisible pals, I wondered how Byron would respond this year’s Caldecott Medal winner, Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle The Unimaginary Friend (aka Beekle). The premise and execution are more visual than a description would do justice, but in a nutshell, Beekle is an imaginary friend waiting, and then searching, for his child.
Cute, I thought, but I wondered if Byron would be confused or upset by the use of the word “imaginary.” His invisible friends are real (just ask him) and he gets upset if you use that word.
He sat riveted and delighted through all of Beekle, loving the illustrations and giving it good reviews (“That was funny. Read it again.”), but he did want to discuss it. Why were these friends called imaginary? Why were they visible?
I finally solved this problem by saying Beekle and the other invisible friends were shown as visible in the picture book so it wouldn’t be a bunch of blank pages. Artists can do whatever they want, I said. They can make invisible things visible. They show how things would look if we could see them. And I told him “imaginary” was not always the opposite of “real.”
Byron’s invisible friends are more than make-believe companions. They allow him to improvise stories, to express his moral leanings, to negotiate reality with others. I don’t think they’re inspired, essentially, by being lonely. They’re more complicated than that and multifaceted, involving Byron’s sense of self and the world.
I think the whole thing is pretty fascinating and wish I had an invisible friend of my own.