As you know, my new picture book, Dotty, illustrated by the wonderful Julia Denos, begins on the first day of the school year. A girl named Ida walks to school with Dotty, her big, spotted, extremely loyal imaginary friend. At school, she meets her teacher, her classmates, and several of their imaginary friends as well! But as the year goes on, the imaginary friends start to disappear… all except Dotty, who has no intention of going anywhere. This leads to teasing and trouble on the playground, and a surprise ending. Let’s just say that Ms. Raymond may be an even more perceptive and creative teacher than Ida ever could have imagined.
I’m really excited to talk about imagination, which is a central theme in Dotty. Especially the enduring power of imagination, which I feel that kids are told they should have less of as they get older. Imagination is both a useful thing (think of all the inventions we wouldn’t have without it!) and one of life’s greatest pleasures. One of the things I love about Ms. Raymond is that she reassures Ida – and kids reading Dotty or listening to it being read aloud – while simultaneously positioning herself as a role model for adults. I think we should all be like Ms. Raymond (I, for one, would like to look like her, too… isn’t she stylish?) and show kids our own silly, imaginative and even “childish” sides. For example, I often change song lyrics when I sing along. I also like to make up words when I can’t find the perfect one for the situation. A family favorite is “floatknocker,” which is a big wind that comes up at the wrong moment and tips over your root beer float.
When I was a kid, I loved Betty MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books because they featured a grown-up whose inner child was alive and well. Ms. Raymond is different from Mrs. P-W in many ways, but I hope she will similarly encourage adults to show children that their silly, imaginative, “childish” sides are still alive and well. And I hope Dotty will show kids that they can keep their imaginations – and their imaginary friends, if they like - for a long, long time.
Thanks for stopping by Erica!
If you're interested in more of what Erica Perl has to say, she'll be over at Jean Little Library tomorrow!