Mr. Bumble may be a figment of a toddler's imagination, but he has gained a life and adventures in a new children's book.
Betty Hinckley, a retired Kennewick teacher, was inspired by the imaginary friend of her granddaughter, Kacy Cowell, 6, of Spokane.
Both star in Hinckley's book, Mr. Bumble, published last spring by Xlibris.
Mr. Bumble was Kacy's invisible sidekick when she was about 4.
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"It's a name that's been in our family for years. If you open a cupboard and something falls out we just say, 'Thank you, Mr. Bumble.' He's an imaginary person or spirit who sometimes does good things, sometimes bad, but he's always around," said Hinckley, who taught first-graders for 30 years.
"Kacy's heard me talk to Mr. Bumble for years, but once, after visiting me, she went home and found a soccer ball she'd been looking for. Her mom heard her say, 'I've been looking for that everywhere, Mr. Bumble. Thank you,' " Hinckley said.
That was the beginning of Kacy's imaginary buddy. In the past two years, Mr. Bumble has been to Disneyland and Mexico, gotten Kacy into trouble and out of it again.
"He's a mischievous guy," Hinckley said.
The book isn't autobiographical. In fact, Kacy called her grandmother on that after reading one of the first copies of Mr. Bumble to come off the press.
"She looked at me and said, "Oma, I don't remember those things happening," Hinckley said. "I told her, they didn't really happen to you. They only happened in my imagination."
"Kacy wasn't really convinced it was OK. I had to explain, because I was the writer of the stories it was all right," Hinckley said. "Isn't that funny. It bothered her that my imaginary Mr. Bumble, who's her imaginary friend, didn't really do those things."
Hinckley, who now lives part of the year in Spokane, wrote the book last winter while living in Mexico with her husband, Jim.
She since has written a second book about creative writing for children designed to be used by teachers. It has nine chapters, each with a poem and a story based on Charlie Girl, a dingo-basset hound the Hinckleys owned for years.
Their dog died, but she is living again in Hinckley's second book, meeting new animal friends and will, hopefully, inspire a new generation of creative writers.
"My hope is that parents and teachers will use these stories to promote individualistic writing. My goal is to get children to think creatively, to have ideas not bound by television and videos -- to use their imagination," Hinckley said.
Mr. Bumble, a 24-page paperback, is available online for $16 at Amazon.com.
Hinckley will be in the Tri-Cities for a book signing from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Round Table Pizza, 3300 W. Clearwater Ave., Kennewick.