One of Santat’s strongest qualities as a storyteller
is his ability to leave a story in the perfect place,
with hope and possibility.
In BEEKLE as with AFTER THE FALL he does this, perfectly.
I am excited to finally get to reviewing a couple books. Both by the amazingly talented Dan Santat. Let’s set aside the fact that the first book reviewed, BEEKLE won a Caldecott in 2015 and that in my opinion his second, AFTER THE FALL should win as well. With that out of the way let’s focus on why I LOVE these books.
First, BEEKLE- The most heartwarming, fresh voice and perspective of the Imaginary friends concept I have ever read. With its warm color palate this book pulls the reader in, supplying the exact perfect amount of visual detail to inspire familiarity while gifting the reader many open spaces and curves of line to percolate the brain into imagining. The main character Beekle, has a wonderful energy of hope and determination. His trust for the future and overall sweetness make the idea of imaginary friends so appealing that with each page turn the reader wishes they could reach out and offer friendship. “Stop looking Beekle, I’m right here,” one wants to say as Beekle searches and searches for his perfect companion.
I am in love with the way Dan Santat sees imaginary friends. The texture he brings to each personality really inspires the reader to wonder and want to be part of Beekle’s world. Turning each page, the rich colors visually feed the soul of the reader taking him/her into each scene and challenge with great care.
Santat captures the despair of loneliness so well especially, on the full-page spread “But no one came.” This page so succinctly captures emotion and presents it to the reader (my daughter and I) so well that we always linger on that page to feel, together. But that sadness doesn’t last. A couple of spreads later the reader is warmed back up by color and joy in the soft half smile of a shy Alice. Her face so beautifully inspires an ember of possibility.
BEEKLE is a beautiful book and a wonderful story, one that should have a permanent place on any bookshelf for the whole of childhood.
Now, AFTER THE FALL- My desire to love this book started early. Ready for more after BEEKLE, I couldn’t wait to hold this book once I heard about it. The concept of retelling the Humpty Dumpty story, from a fresh psychologically in tune perspective-truly an inspired idea for Santat- was just too good to pass up. The personal component, I learned later in an article only increased my anticipation. Learning that Santat wrote this story for his wife, who suffers from anxiety-only makes the magic of this book stronger.
Santat again creates a visually lush world for his main character, down to the details of some really poignant and interesting cereal boxes. Each page spread has its own feel, expertly done to increase the feeling of anxiety in the reader and for Humpty. Perspective is key and Santat works his magic like a three-medal wizard on each and every page. Case in point the page spread of Humpty’s plane disappearing on top of the wall.
When Humpty is able to gather his courage, the reader is right there with him, one step, one reach on the ladder at time. It is a joy cheering Humpty on and celebrating with him when he reaches his goal, conquering his fear/anxiety. I won’t tell you the end, that is gift you must discover on your own. But, I will say it inspires greatness and once again ends on a note that brings hope and strength to its reader.