I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold
Illustrator: Emily Gravett
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on October 23rd, 2014
Genres: Childrens', Middle Grade, Paranormal Fantasy
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Rudger is Amanda’s best friend. He doesn't exist, but nobody's perfect.
Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend – until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda's door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he's sniffed out Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn’t there survive without a friend to dream him up?
The Imaginary is a celebration of friendship that defies all odds, time and even phases of existence to exist. The novel celebrates the imagination that makes childhood such a magical time. As the synopsis reveals, Rudger is an imaginary friend who gets separated from the human who dreamed him up. Without her to keep him anchored to his reality (such as it is), he faces the very real danger of fading away. He is led by a mysterious cat through a door in the alley to a library where he finds other imaginary friends, a society of imaginary friends without human counterparts). Rudger is determined to get back to his human friend, Amanda, and risks his life to do so as he and his imaginary brethren are hunted by the odious Mr. Bunting.
The novel has all the elements of a successful story. The prose is warm and light, easy enough for kids to read but complex enough that it will challenge them. The pacing is quick and the plot multilayered. It contains that wonderful characteristic of good novels that will allow the parents to enjoy the novel in a different (though no less profound) way than their children do. It has substance and depth to it with themes of loss and death, and also, interestingly enough, the acceptance of death. Because children growing up is inevitable and imaginary friends being forgotten is inevitable, the story becomes poignant but not overwhelming and sad.I like and applaud the attention the novel pays to the importance of imagination; a child doesn’t need the newest gadgetry and technology to have fun playing.
Also of note is one particular episode where Rudger, though originally a boy, appears as a female to temporary human friend. I feel like this story, or this episode in particular, can be used to explain what it means to be transgender to children in a way that is both accessible and easy for them to understand.
The illustrations are amazing and I have become a new fan of Emily Gravett’s work. The illustrations add a new dimension to the story and elevate the novel into something that all book collectors will want to get their hands on.
I recommend this book (obviously) either as a gift to a child or something for your own self.