Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers
|Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers|
|Category: For Sharing|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: An interesting collaboration between two children's book 'greats' gives us an engaging story that may be too much for smaller children, but great for those reading for themselves.|
|Buy? yes||Borrow? yes|
|Pages: 48||Date: October 2016|
|Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Fred is an imaginary friend. He really loves being an imaginary friend, and he throws himself into his role wholeheartedly whenever he is 'summoned' by a child. The problem is that his children always end up finding a real friend, and then they don't need him, and slowly he fades away until the wind whisks him away into the clouds where he waits until he is summoned once more. When he becomes Sam's friend he thinks that all his dreams have come true - they like the same things, they have so much fun together, but Fred has a funny feeling in his imaginary tummy that one day, Sam won't need him any more either…
This is longer than the usual picture book, with a rather more complex story to read. Although you can read it aloud with a mature four year old, I actually think it's much better suited to those around seven and older, who will appreciate the story on a different level and perhaps even want to read it by themselves. The illustrations are all black and white line drawings, except for the imaginary friends who are depicted in broken colour, to differentiate them from the 'real' people. The pictures are well done, and for an older reader there's plenty to take in and follow. The images are a little flat and repetitive for younger children who may not have the patience for the full story.
I did take issue with the first page, unfortunately, which sets a sombre tone for how dreadful it is to be alone. I agree that if you're struggling to make any friends then it can be very sad and difficult, but the books tells us that being alone is no fun and actually, as an only child, I'd argue that sometimes playing by yourself can be very nice! There's a certain relief, sometimes, in just being able to do your own thing with your own rules, so I felt that this rejection of alone time wasn't a particularly helpful viewpoint. It is a useful skill, to be able to entertain yourself when necessary, so saying the first five minutes are OK, but it's downhill from there is a little sad. Perhaps kids won't notice, but in our current age where we fill up every moment, often with some technological device, I felt sad that being alone was being depicted as a bad thing.
It's interesting to have the story from the imaginary friend's point of view though, again, if you think about it too much the whole premise doesn't really work unless you think that 'imaginary friend' is simply a title for a role, rather than an actual description. Fred is not, after all, being imagined into existence since he continues to exist even when not required by any children...goodness, that could get you into some philosophical conversations if you start to think about it too much! This isn't to say, however, that I didn't enjoy the book. I did! There were just one or two niggles that bothered me a little, but it was still a very well-written and engaging story, and you do feel very attached to Fred, hoping against hope that there will be a way for him to stay around and not disappear into the clouds when Sam makes a new real-life friend.
The depictions of the adventures Sam and Fred get up to are rather lovely. I like the picture of them looking at the toilet and wondering about how it actually works! And in earlier pictures, poor Fred appears rather a dogsbody imaginary friend as the children he's with have him carrying heavy items, taking jabs in the stomach from their swords, or even being the ball for a game of basketball! Poor Fred! But they do make for funny pictures. The imaginary characters are drawn using coloured circles of different sizes. I did like how this made them stand out from the 'real' people, but if you look closely at them your eyes do start to feel a little odd! Like one of those mystery pictures where you have to find the picture within the dots! Still, Fred does manage to be an endearing character, in spite of his blurry-eye dots!
So, I feel that this is one for older Primary school children really, and if you read it aloud with them just go with the flow and try not to think too much about the logic behind the story!
Further reading suggestion: If you're looking for more imaginary friends, you might also want to check out The Imaginary by A F Harrold and Emily Gravett and the wonderfully silly Moone Boy: the Blunder Years by Chris O'Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy.
You can read more book reviews or buy Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers at Amazon.com.
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