Picture Book Analysis Assignment

The Adventures of Beekle:The Unimaginary Friend by DanSantat

Literary Elements

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The plot centers on the main character's (an imaginary being names Beekle) journey to find a friend who would imagine/name him.Starting in an island where imaginary friends are imagined Beekle quickly finds himself alone ,since no child will pick and name him. Beekle decides to take matters into his own hands and travel to the real world. Here he meets Alice (the girl who finally imagines him).

"Picture books for children are increasingly likely to have less resolution, with many gaps uncertain for readers to contemplate" (Lukens et.all,pg.56) The book certainly leaves an open ending as nothing is told about Beekle and Alice's adventures -others than the phrase "doing the unimaginable". Similarly, pieces of Beekle's journey seem to be missing , what did he do as he stepped off his boat and into the real world , what did the dock smell like etc.


Readers are given a setting through illustrations. The book has two settings: the imaginary world and the real-world. The imaginary world is brought to life through the use of colorful elements.One example is found in the first two pages where all of the following elements are together: a rainbow attached to a cloud , a sun setting, a blue whale and a octopus with glasses.On a different page there are multiple games being shown such as a slide.However, there are no lines of movement being shown.

The real world is shown with different colors.Buildings are tall and gray and movement is shown in different ways - lines are added to the pants of the men passing by and to the leaves falling from trees.By having a contrast of colors ( rainbows vs shades of gray and maroon)and realities (octopus with glasses vs. man signing on the sidewalk) , children are able to differentiate between the settings.

Style is strongly defined by different components.Santat adds style by having strong character development from the start.The reader sees Beekle transform from a timid imaginary friend who decides to take hold of his fears and ultimately finds himself a friend who names him.A great example of this growth is achieved by having Beekle say his name instead of the narrator assigning it to him. Throughout the first pages he is referred to as Beekle.It is only when he meets Alice that Beekle says "my name is Beekle" , therefore taking ownership of his existence and leaving behind his timid ways.

Physical Features

FrontMatter -The books front matter is simple , having only the name of the author , the publisher and the books title.The backdrop of the text is perfect as it it creates contrast between the text in the page as well as the images in the following page.The minimum amount of text and the importance placed on the background could be indicative of the books audience (one that is easily distracted). If the art work would have been intricate on the first page it could have "overloaded" the readers visual senses. Another component of the front matter is the dedication. In this book the dedication is found after the story ends.In my opinion placing the dedication at this location is ingenious. Had it been placed after the title page (before the story) the audience could have confused by the photographs and the text. Aside from the placement the font,backdrop and added illustrations are different from those used during the story.By having these elements a clear separation between each is made.

Size-The book is quiet large (roughly 8x11). Sizing is crucial , if it were taller images would appear to be stretched and if it was narrow , the amount of space left to separate the text from the images would not be enough.

Shape - The shape of the book is of a rectangle. Since the story and the illustrations are the main focus having the shape be a "traditional book shape" helps the reader concentrate. For example , if the book had been round the readers would have to try and understand the images and read the text while questioning the books shape.

Paper - Heavy card stock and "shiny" finish add more life onto the already colorful illustrations.

Visual Elements

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This is an illustration where Beekle is arriving into the real world.Distance is portrayed in an amazing way.The two large ships are placed at the far left and lower-right of the panel, adding a frame to the picture.The two ships are gigantic and almost engulf Beekles boat. This can give us a sense that Beekle is sailing on despite having visible reasons to back away. The second way in which distance is portrayed is by the small size of the docks.

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The composition of this illustration is ingenious .It gives us Beekles point of view, a point of view that is similar to a children's view of their world- with adults towering above them.The basic shapes (square pockets , rounded shoes , dog with circular spots) add a sense of comfort due to the fact that these shapes can be seen in real-life as well.

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The image above is a great example of the interplay between color and lines.I will use different focal points to show that interplay.

The rainbow has thick lines suggesting an emphasis on the imaginary setting.The colors are the brightest in the rainbow.Notice how the only shade of magenta is paired next to a white cloud to call the attention towards that area- the same area where we see Beekle for the first time. The next point is the sunset area , the thin lines give dimension to the mountains and the yellow-green-brown color wheel add a sublet contrast to the busy rainbow area.The colors also reflect a mellow tone-notice how Beekle seems to be yawning. This mellow tone is encircled by dark green trees, furthering the feeling that we (the audience) are looking in on the scenario.

Artistic Style

"In a typical surrealist children's text, a young protagonist is thrust into a magical plane of existence, cast among an odd array of creatures and individuals that are almost anomalistic equivalents of those one would find in reality". (Gale , 2005/2009)

The book definitely falls under the surrealism category. It provides various dream like images filled with vivacious colors .While also making a bizarre incongruity , imaginary figures coming into the real world and finding a child to imagine them.The style affects the overall meaning of the book because without it , the plot wouldn't make sense and the character would have no "congruent" development.

Artistic Media

"Typically when I do a book, I’ll write everything out and then I’ll illustrate it but in this case there was a lot of push and pull. I would draw one thing and tweak the text and then I would let Connie read the text and she would tweak that and then I’d end up tweaking the drawings again" (Pink and Oink, 2014).

Santat's process of illustrating and writing a book not as easy as anyone might think.For example , he enlisted the help of his editor Connie Hsu who would edit the text. Each time a word was changed the sketches would also change.As seen in the progression above the text changes making the illustrations different. It is weird to see these penciled sketches and believe that the final piece is filled with color but being able to see his work from beginning to end adds even more respect to this book.

Santat's work is usually done though digital forms but this tie you can see the collage effect created though layered work.For example you can see watercolor and line work together in the same image. (Wheeler, 2015).The amount of detail is reminiscent of my childhood.What I can now consider simple and ordinary such as a tree I would have seen as an opportunity for adventure. Being able to see Santat's use of artistic media allows me to understand the importance of imagination and creativity.I can also see how the book is a reflection of a child imagination brought to life.

Elements of Illustration

The book starts out with the birth of Beekle and the most important piece of the initial drawing is his color.All throughout the story he is paper white - he is a blank canvas ready to be painted on. This is a paradox for his role of waiting to be imagined. The format of the book is usually double paged , and when it is not a double page it has circular panels. This alternating format gives the story its narrative sequence. Page turns are therefore easy to follow.The change in my opinion helps the reader to not be overwhelmed by the details in the double paged spreads. The format is also changed by having the text in different spots.Most of the times the text will be as close to a border.In the rare cases that it is not , the text does not come in "contact" with elements of the illustrations-it is separated by added shading. The arrangement of the images and the text help the reader focus on one of them .

 Interplay of Text and Illustrations

"Pictures are at least one half of the meaning in a picture book"

(Lukens et.all, 1976).

At first glance I though that the story was in the text but as I re-read the book and learned about Santat's creative process I realized that the pictured added layers upon layers of meaning."Pictures elaborate for a more complex dynamic" (Morris, 2016).Thus the interlay between the text and the images became enhancing.

The view I have of picture books is forever changed.I am in awe at the amount of depth I was able to find in this specific book. In my opinion this is a Caldecott winner not only because of the illustrations but also because of the different interpretations the text can take.If I were to read this again I would most likely find a new meaning and the fascination with the plot would continue. Everything about this book is an ode to imagination and creativity.


Gale. (2009) Surrealism in Children's Literature 2005 piece. Encyclpedia.com http://www.encyclopedia.com/article-1G2-3419800013/surrealism-children-literature.html

Lukens, R., Smith, J., Miller, C.(1976). Importance of Illustration and Text. In A critical handbook of children's literature (pp. 48-49). Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman.

Morris,K. (2016). Analyzing picture-books for Elements of Visual Design.Collection of Katie Morris,Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.

Robin.(2014) A Pen & Oink interview with Dan Santat:The making of Beekle. https://penandoink.com/2014/08/25/a-pen-oink-interview-with-dan-santat-the-making-of-beekle/

Wheeler, E.(2015). The 2015 Caldeott:Beekle, http://picturebookbuilders.com/2015/02/the-2015-caldecott-beekle/