It’s almost Book Fair time again at Left Bank Books, so mark your calendars for the weekend after next (November 21-22). I’m working on our holiday book list right now, and one of the books on the list for F is this gem. Imaginary Fred is the latest book in a long of line of household favorites by Oliver Jeffers. Jeffers collaborated with Eoin Colfer (of the Artemis Fowl series), contributing the illustrations to Colfer’s story. We first read the book in the bookstore, and then we read it a few more times at home because we purchased it as a birthday gift for a friend. I can’t wait to have it on our own bookshelves soon.
Fred is an imaginary friend, always at the ready when a child needs him. He fills the role in any way needed – each child is different, and he respects those different needs and takes his job seriously. Eventually each child moves on, and Fred is on call again.
But while he waits, he dreams of his “perfect” real friend – a friend with the same interests as Fred – reading, drawing, making music. And one day that very friend calls.
Fred and Sam connect immediately, and Fred is happier than he’s ever been – until that fateful day when Sam finds a new “real” friend. Sam starts spending more time with Sammi, and Fred prepares himself (and eventually Sam) for the inevitable fading away of their relationship and the disappearance of Fred’s actual body.
I love the way Jeffers renders Fred in this pixelated manner that fluctuates between transparent and solid throughout the story.
But just when you are starting to lose all hope for Fred, things turn around in a delightful and unexpected way. There’s so much more story to tell, and it gets even better.
There’s a nice length to this book – longer than most picture books I’d say, but completely engaging throughout. In Jeffers’ typical style, there are small asides from the characters scattered in the illustrations, as well as tiny, humorous details to discover in most of the drawings. It’s a very touching story about friendship – about what we are able to give to those relationships, but also stressing the importance of what we need from them as well. The best sorts of friendship can easily and naturally move into a very comfortable rhythm, but there will always be forces outside of those relationships that can either reinforce them or undermine them. I love the way the characters support one another in this story, but I really appreciate the transformation of Fred – from a standby, supporting role, to an individual worthy of respect and friendship and even love.
This is a terrific book to put on your holiday list.
Find these titles at your favorite local independent bookstore. Or better yet – come pick up a copy at the Book Fair and say “hi!” – I’ll post more details about the event next week. Happy reading!