DottyDotty is Ida’s imaginary friend. She has horns and red spots (kind of like a friendly giant monster cow). On her first day of school, Ida brings Dotty along, with a blue string connecting around Dotty’s neck like a leash. At the beginning of the school year, Ida learns that other kids have imaginary friends, as well. But as the year goes on, all the kids grow up and think that imaginary friends are ‘baby stuff’. All except Ida. This causes some tension between Ida and her classmates, but is eventually worked out in the end.

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Dotty, by Erica S. Perl, ends with a very sweet chuckle, and on the second reading, you might notice some subtle hints to the twisty ending if you pay close attention. You’ll probably want to read it at least twice for that alone. Julia Denos’s illustrations are very sweet and childlike, perfectly matching the kindergarten setting. Her ‘drawing out of the lines’ style is reminiscent of David Shannon (although, she’s a little cleaner than his David books).

You might think this book’s lesson is how to give up imaginary friends, but the real lesson is that you don’t have to. It’s great to have an imagination! The lesson is subtle, but that’s how I choose to interpret it and discuss with the little childs after reading with them. The more blunt lesson is that you still have to learn how to behave nicely with or without imaginary friends, but I choose to emphasize the imagination part.

Update: See author’s & illustrator’s responses below.