‘Fred floated like a feather in the wind until a lonely little boy wished for him and found a friendship like no other’
Have you ever had an imaginary friend? One that you could entrust with your innermost feelings and someone that would always be there until…they weren’t needed anymore. I can quite vividly remember having various imaginary friends over the years, I was an avid storyteller (we won’t call it lying) and would invent elaborate tales about what we – me and my imaginary friend- had got up to. I also remember rewriting the same story over and over which involved a secret garden with an imaginary sweet shop, where everything was, and you get where I am going with this: Imaginary. I think I called it ‘The curious case of the disappearing sweet shot’ among other working titles.
I think as a child I was a little bit obsessed with this secret world that I could create and it certainly helped me through some tough times growing up, just knowing that I could imagine whatever I wanted and allow myself to be drawn into a magical protective bubble was comforting for me.
Even as an adult now if I’m feeling a little under confident about a situation I will borrow traits from other people (sometimes people that don’t even exist!) and use it to my advantage. Being able to adapt myself to suit the situation has got me out of that overwhelming feeling on many occasions.
It’s certainly not uncommon for children (or even adults) to need an extra bit of friendship in the form of someone they’ve conjured up, someone who has all the personality traits one might wish from a friend. Someone that is perfect and just for them.
A new book from Irish Children’s laureate, Eoin Colfer ‘Imaginary Fred’ tells the story of Fred, a professional imaginary friend. He’s easygoing and always happy to be summoned by whoever needs him. He’s adaptable, super friendly and willing and waiting to please. The perfect imaginary friend, really.
With a little electricity, or luck, or even magic, an imaginary friend might appear when you need one. Fred sticks around until he is no longer needed, gently fading away to return to his imaginary cloud until the next time. Although he knows it comes with the territory and is inevitable, sitting on a cloud all on your own, just waiting, hurts Fred’s feeling a bit.
Imaginary Fred is a lyrical story that examines friendship on another level. The friends both real and imagined are shown to have the same feelings; excitement when sharing interests and even jealousy when they fear they are replaceable. You can’t help but feel a little sorry for Fred as Colfer takes you through the narrative but without giving too much away I promise it works out for Imaginary Fred in the end!
Imaginary Fred is illustrated beautifully by Oliver Jeffers and the collaboration between him and Colfer is a lovely one. Jeffers does an amazing job of using line drawings that are both captivating and relatable for children. He’s chosen to leave them in black and white, only highlighting the imaginary friends and their world in a half pixelated wash of colour. They really are quite something. Rose is a bit little for this book but she surprised me by sitting intently, listening to the story of Imaginary Fred whilst quietly studying the illustrations.
The chemistry between Eoin Colfer’s narrative and Oliver Jeffers’s bubbly artwork makes for a brilliantly original picture book. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it for slightly older children, perhaps from age 7 onwards.
Available to buy online at Amazon.co.uk
*This is a commissioned post