Back to School: Dotty by Erica S. Perl
WHEN IDA STARTED SCHOOL SHE TOOK HER NEW LUNCH BOX... AND DOTTY.
AT MORNING MEETING MS. RAYMOND COUNTED NOSES, "TEN, ELEVEN, TWELVE." IDA FROWNED.
IDA PATTED DOTTY REASSURINGLY. "THIRTEEN," SHE ADDED SILENTLY.
When school starts in the fall, it seems that most of the students have brought along their invisible friends, each suited to his or her creator. Dotty, a large, polka-dotted and horned imaginary playmate, fits right in with the others--Pete and Repeat, Max, Benny, Spike, and tiny Keekoo, who clings to Katya's long braids.
But when Ida leads Dotty back by her long blue leash after the holidays, she finds that everyone else seems to have suddenly "outgrown" their imaginary friends.
"HEY, IDA!" YELLED KATYA. "LIKE MY NEW HAIRCUT?"
"WHERE'S KEEKOO?" IDA ASKED.
"IDA!" KATYA SCOLDED. "THAT'S FOR BABIES!"
Now Katya teases Ida and calls her unseen friend "Spotty." Hurt, Ida finally can't take the teasing any longer and shoves Katya down. Ms. Raymond sentences the two girls to write each other notes of apology for their squabble.
"DOTTY PUSHED YOU DOWN," IDA WRITES.
"I'M SORRY ABOUT WHAT DOTTY DID, BUT YOU DESERVED IT!"
It is time for a heart-to-heart talk with her teacher, who quietly asks Ida to tell her about Dotty. Although Ida is unable to describe what her friend Dotty means to her, Ms. Raymond silently lets her know that she is not alone in her closeness to her imaginary friend, and Ida takes heart in her teacher's empathetic understanding.
Erica S. Perl's newest, Dotty (Abrams, 2010), takes on the dilemma of the young student who is not quite ready to give up her fantasy friend. Julia Denos' spirited illustrations show Ida watching as, in her imagination, her teacher pulls her own red string leash out of her tote bag and leads Gert, her own special buddy, out of the classroom. It's the old story of "different strokes" which makes the point that all students reach milestones in their own good time, a great reminder for those first days of school when everyone is trying to fit in.