It's been almost two years since Boo first met Neesie. I remember the day well. It was the first time that we went to the library for the specific reason of checking out books. Prior to that, the library was a fun time of organized baby/toddler learning activities. On this occasion, we skipped the room where all the little kids were doing their thing and headed straight to the childrens' section, filled with comfortable child-sized furniture and box full of "edible" board books.
I can't remember why I selected Me and Neesie. I have some recollection of looking online for appropriate titles for Boo (and being sorely disappointed with what I found), but I do remember having Eloise Greenfield's name in mind before heading off. I'm fairly certain that I was looking for another book by her, which had already been checked out. Me and Neesie was my second choice, and considering the bond that grew between Boo and Neesie, I can clearly see God's fingerprints on the absence of the original book.
The first thing that drew Boo to the book was the illustration of Janell sitting on the floor, having her hair done by her mama. "That's like me," she exclaimed, and from that moment forward she saw herself as Janell (or Janell as herself). Neesie became her personal friend, so much so that each time we returned the book to the library, Boo would cry as though she would never see her again. "Mama, I miss Neesie!" It was hard explaining to her that we had to share Neesie with other little girls who might also need a friend.
Boo's personal relationship with Neesie so parallels the original story that it's almost impossible to believe she didn't understand the concept upon first reading. See, Neesie is Janell's invisible friend, making her laugh, sharing her life, and even getting her into trouble. Neesie fills a need for friendship in Janell's life; that is, until Janell goes off to school, meeting new friends and leaving Neesie behind.
Neesie filled a similar void in Boo's life. My daughter has been in want of nothing more than siblings for her short little life, and Neesie was her "special friend" with whom she could share a small part of herself, albeit vicariously through Janell. Oddly, it was only when Boo started preschool this past fall that she finally let go of her incessant need to make sure Neesie was still around. Questions about whether or not we could to go the library to get Neesie were eventually replaced with stories of what happened with Boo and her new friends at school.
Ideally I would have liked to have purchased this book for Boo when first I saw the attachment growing, however it's out of print, so the library has been our only option. I suppose that's a good thing, because just like having the availability of a sibling 24/7, having Neesie always around might not have fostered the relationship, nor encouraged her imagination, nearly as well.
Originally published in 1974 with artwork by Moneta Barnet, the book was reillustrated in 1984, with illustrations by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. The intention of the reillustration was to broaden the appeal of the book to a new generation of readers. And that it did, as it was Gilchrist's watercolour artwork that initially drew Boo into the story upon first reading.
If you can get a hold of this book, I cannot recommend it enough. A timeless story that illustrates a young girl's need for friendship, especially while transitioning to school, while both encouraging imagination and fostering loving relationships, is a must-have for any young child's library. Throw in some tight curls and the need to sit still, and it makes it even more relevant to chocolate girls. Although Boo's attachment to the book grew at a very early age, the intended audience is preschool to 2nd grade. No doubt it will be a treasured story for years to come.