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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Imagination never stops growing

August 19, 2011

When I was a child, I had a particularly loyal friend who accompanied me almost everywhere. I don't remember having grown apart from my friend but there came a time when he no longer went everywhere with me. When I now think of Wormy, it's always fondly.

Did my friend (who is virtually impossible to describe beyond his endless fidelity) move away? Well, he might have had he been a person. You see Wormy (a bizarre name, I know, for a non-worm but very steadfast creature) existed only for me just like Ida's Dotty, who comes alive in a book by Erica S. Perl.

And Dotty (Abrams) is a fine book to share as a new school year begins. (It's also available on the First Book Marketplace.)

Dotty accompanies Ida on the first day of school along with other children's unseen companions. (Julia Denos' illustrations, by the way, remind readers that lively imaginary friends come in all shapes and sizes.)

As the school year goes on, however, many other children's imaginary friends recede, are replaced by growing up. Not Dotty — who pushes a classmate; not acceptable behavior at all. A wise teacher, however, resolves the issue while reassuring readers and Ida.

Children often need a good friend to support them — even if that friend lives only for that child. These buddies often help children cope with new situations like starting school; it was true of my friend and me. In this book, Ida and Dotty — and teacher Ms. Raymond — remind children that it's okay to be different and even to have special friends, even if they can't be seen by everyone.

[You might want to check out our new lunch box notes and back-to-school e-card, featuring some of the beautiful illustrations in Dotty by Julia Denos.]

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"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables