Tag Archives: beekle

10 middle grade novel / picture book pairings

I’ve wanted to write a post like this for some time. I love picture books, we know that. I also love middle grade novels, that sweet spot of literature for the 8-12 year old set. Here’s why I’m putting them together, beyond that I read and like both. I keep thinking there might be a child who can read a picture book on her own, but wants a middle grade book read to her. Or there’s a family with kids at different ages, but what fun it would be to read related books together or separately and then talk about them. Or there’s a classroom studying one book and the other would complement it perfectly.

My hope is these intersecting pairs (and trios) of kids’ books will be useful to someone in some way. Here goes.


Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 3.59.13 PMOne Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street & Peace is an Offering by Annette Le Box, picturees by Stephanie Graegin.

Both books have a large and varied cast of characters and are really about how they and we are all connected. The trees on the covers don’t hurt either!


gianna-zThe Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner & My Leaf Book by Monica Wellington & Maia and What Matters by Tine Mortier, illustrated by Kaatje Vermeire.

Gianna Z is doing a leaf identification science project at school. At home, she’s dealing with the pain of her grandmother losing her memory. So, this book gets two companions, one for each important plot thread.


red-pencilThe Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane W. Evans & Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Doug Chayka.

These are both set in refugee camps in different parts of the world. They also explore what keeps the characters going despite such challenging circumstances, in one case creativity and in the other, friendship.


Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 5.09.18 PMLove That Dog by Sharon Creech & This is a Poem that Heals Fish & Daniel Finds a Poem.

Three books that explore poetry—what it is, where to find it, how to write it. Because everyone can. And these three boys do. Lovely, lovely, lovely.


Confessions of An Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas & Beekle: The Adventures of an Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat.

Two charming and inventive books from the perspective of an imaginary friend. Yes!


Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 4.00.00 PMRed Scarf Girl by Ji LI Jiang & The Red Piano.

Here, too, setting is what unites these stories of the cultural revolution in China.


breadcrumbs-snow-queenBreadcrumbs by Anne Ursu and The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen and adapted by Allison Grace MacDonald, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.

A masterful MG novel that I cannot recommend highly enough! It takes the classic fairy tale as its starting point and builds out from there, layer upon layer, shaping Hazel’s journey to find her best friend Jack.


Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 3.58.51 PMThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate & Little Beauty by Anthony Browne & Ivan the Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas.

The first two are both about animals in captivity who bond with each other. The last is a picture book non-fiction telling of the first. They are all heartbreakers. They are all beautiful.


100-dresses-each-kindnessThe Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin & Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

I’ve paired these two before (and I’m sure I’m not the only one!). Written over 50 years apart, they both explore bullying and, especially, regretting it.


Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 3.58.40 PM

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry & The Pilot and the Little Prince by Peter Sís.

One is the story and one is the story behind the story’s author. A well-suited set!


My hope is that you’ve got some pairs to add to this list of 10! I couldn’t come up with companions for many of my very favorite middle grade novels, so please share any ideas of your own in the comments. Anyone have one for Holes, or Bird in a Box, or A Tangle of Knots

Have you paired related books of different levels in some way? Do tell.


my six favorite picture books of 2014

I give you, my six very favorite books of 2014 and why.

(Please remember I haven’t read every book published this year—how I wish Viva Frida and The Farmer and the Clown were at my library—sigh.  So do tell me your favorites in the comments for us all to check out when we can!)

(Please also remember that I was selective. Hugely, massively, almost impossibly selective.)

I’m choosing just the books that really wowed me. Me as a particular reader. And me as a particular writer who took inspiration from these, some because they’re exactly what I’d like to create and some because they’re exactly the wonderful kind of thing I never ever could.

Here goes.


Sparky by Jenny Offill & Chris Appelhans.

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this book. I was being selfish with it, it’s true. (Though the main character did once get a fashion shootout for best homemade costume!) The girl’s narration is pitch-perfect. Hilarious. Insightful. Childlike and sophisticated, that coveted combination. It will make you laugh and then melt your heart at the end.




Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo.

What is this book honest about? It’s honest about Felipe the Cactus’s prickly family. Of course all families aren’t prickly, but to portray one that is that way, I find truthful and daring. Authentic and helpful. And yet, it’s fun!  Not mention how adorable Felipe is or the way he journeys to finally find kinship.



Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam.

This picture book really packs a punch. Incredibly beautiful cut-paper scenes and then the quiet, touching heart of the story: A little boy who is kind to a fox. And the fox’s gift in return. A story for winter and kindness and slowing down to look.


THE-RULES-OF-SUMMER-2014Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan.

It’s impossible for me not to like one of Tan’s books. This one showcases his bizarreness at its finest. Not only that, it’s a portrait of a complicated sibling relationship between two brothers. There are layers to look at and puzzles to contemplate. All in the most enjoyable, poignant way.




Beekle by Dan Santat.

Beekle is so adorable that I had to craft him out of marshmallows. I think this is a character that will stick around. He’s brave and good and you just want to give him a squeeze. Plus, he’s the charming star of a magical story of imagination and friendship. There’s a friend out there for everyone, if you just believe. This picture book reminds me a whole lot of a couple of my very favorite books ever.



Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts.

This book is beautiful and stylish and heartwarming. But what sticks out most to me is what a fabulous example of writer and artist collaboration it is. Beaty and Robertst are so clearly a team and they’ve created a collaborated quilt of loveliness and detail and surprise.



Cheers to another year of exuberantly wonderful picture books and another yet to come!

(p.s. Here are 10 that took my breath away last year.)


the adventures of beekle + marshmallow beekle craft

adventuresofbeekleThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat.




What a magical book. A heartwarming book. A brave, enduring character, that Beekle.






BEEKLE_2 click image(s) to enlarge

An imaginary friend looking for the friend who’s going to imagine him. Traveling all the way from his imaginary friend world to the real world. The real, gray world. (Except it’s colorful and bright where kids play! The use of color in this book is masterful and such a joy to behold.)





A celebration of imagination and play and the inventiveness of a child’s mind. And a celebration of friendship, even the kind nobody else can see, but is the real deal.


I’m confident you’ll see when you read it (or read it again). Yes, you will.









I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Beekle has elements of two of my favorite picture book creators, Shaun Tan and Oliver Jeffers. It’s like Lost and Found meets The Red Tree meets Santat’s particular magic. Agree? Either way, Beekle is an original and full of almost unimaginable wonder.

Thanks to Dan Santat for images!






Could this be the easiest craft ever? Okay, maybe not, but it’s pretty simple. Not only that, but you get to keep an adorable marshmallow Beekle around as an unimaginary friend. For real.

afterlight copy 2

When I see Beekle, my mind immediately goes to marshmallows! Puffy, lovable marshmallows. (Also, while totally artificial, they smell really really good!)

afterlight copy 3

Just looking at this little guy makes me smile. And remember the magic of the book. (Isn’t he sweeeeeet?)



1. Cut two toothpicks in half (remove and discard the sharp side so no one gets poked).

2. Slide a flat side of toothpick into small marshmallow; do it again with the other one.

(Again, be careful not to get poked.)

3. Insert toothpick/feet into jumbo marshmallow.

4. Draw Beekle’s face with a Sharpie.

5. Fold/cut gold paper into a crown by cutting it into a strip and cutting out triangle shapes along one edge; then fasten it together with tape.

6. Put the crown on Beekle’s head and tada!




The great thing about marshmallows is, well, they’re probably not going to rot!  I’ve got my Beekle on a bookcase in my apartment and every so often I just want to give adorable Mr. Puffy a little squeeze!

*warning: this craft is not edible despite being made from marshmallows*