In recent years a stream of picturebooks about imaginary friends as coping mechanisms for loneliness have cropped up around the globe. The story is often the same: child is lonely, child has imaginary friend, child meets real friend, imaginary friend disappears. While not discounting some of these as good books, out of Ireland comes something a little more unique: Imaginary Fred, an advanced picture book written by Eoin Colfer and illustrated Oliver Jeffers.
When a lonely little child wishes for a friend and if the conditions are just right and maybe with some added electricity they find an imaginary friend! This is how Fred, the imaginary friend, meets all of his lonely friends. Sometimes, Fred puts up with a lot:
Despite this, Fred loves all of his real friends, but as soon as they’re not lonely anymore Fred is forgotten and then he is very lonely. One day Fred meets Sam, another lonely boy. Fred and Sam become best friends and do all kinds of exciting things together like playing music or trying to understand how toilets work. One day, Sam meets a new friend, Sammi and Fred gets worried – he doesn’t want to be forgotten again! But this time things are a little different.
Eoin Colfer has created a very unique picture book about friendship and magic. Oliver Jeffer’s ethereal illustrations and thin lines are perfect for a book about imaginary friends. This book does have its flaws: the plot is a little clunky, there is too much text for a picturebook, and the lack of colour is a slightly bland in such a physically large book, but all in all this is a unique and funny story about friendship and magic. Test the waters at the library before you buy!
Another recent book that does follow the typical imaginary friend formula (but is still great!) is Leon and Bob by Simon James.