Dory and the Real True Friend: Dory Fantasmagory, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Dory and the Real True Friend: Dory Fantasmagory, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Six-year-old imaginations run riot in appealing sequel.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Author Abby Hanlon previously was a first-grade teacher, and her storytelling is steeped in the day-to-day reality of that world. One result: School comes across as a positive, fun place, even when things don't always go the way you've planned -- a good lesson for first-time students.

Positive Messages

Be yourself, and find friends who like you that way. Also, strong messages about supportive, loving families -- even when they include squabbling kids and a bit of one-upmanship.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dory gets into trouble sometimes when her imagination's too out of sync with the people around her, but she learns a number of things about having friends, being a friend, and being true to yourself . Her family is loving and supportive; even though they often get annoyed at Dory's antics, they play with her and do fun stuff together. New friend Rosabelle and imaginary friend Mary (a monster) keep up with Dory, treat her with affectionate kindness, and share both sad moments and gleeful adventures.

Violence & Scariness

Mrs. Gobble Gracker, the imaginary villainess from Book 1, returns for more mayhem, with an army of helpers. Another imaginary character gets turned into a chicken and seems destined for the soup pot. Dory and Rosabelle's imaginary adventures involve things catching on fire, swordplay, poison -- and lemon juice as a magical weapon.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, as in the previous volume, chapter book Dory and the Real True Friend is narrated by imaginative 6-year-old (and often annoying younger sibling) Dory, aka Rascal. Her adventures with imaginary friends, particularly BFF Mary the monster, involve low-level, real-world mayhem (such as going to school with a supply of sliced salami stashed in various places) and wacky imaginary adventures complete with swordplay, poison, a scary witch, and another imaginary character the witch has turned into a chicken and intends to turn into soup. The adventures are all the more fun because they're shared with a real-life friend -- even though Dory's family, after long experience with her fantasy characters, think Dory's making up this friend too. Kids will love the zany antics, and parents will find plenty of chances to discuss the real-vs.-made-up worlds. Mischief and fantastic adventures aside, there's little to worry about; there's one use of "butt" as Dory describes being propelled through the air as her friend gives her butt a push.

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What's the story?

Dory, the wildly imaginative 6-year-old who made her entrance in Dory Fantasmagory, is starting first grade and determined to get along. People give her lots of advice; her older sister tells her "the most important thing to remember is, DON'T BE YOURSELF," and her imaginary friend Mary, who's definitely not allowed to go to school, insists Dory needs to take extra salami. When the big day comes, she's amazed to meet Rosabelle, whose imagination may be even more active than her own. The two are soon BFFs, which leads to exciting adventures, many featuring the imaginary friends and foes from Book 1. Of course, Dory's family has heard so much about her imaginary friends that they don't believe she has a real one -- which leads to a surprise or two in DORY AND THE REAL TRUE FRIEND.

Is it any good?

Former first-grade teacher Abby Hanlon has a deep, wacky understanding of 6-year-olds dealing with school, cliques, sibling rivalry, and more, and she puts it to good use in these delightful tales. Along the way -- in addition to fun illustrations -- she delivers lots of positive messages, as well as a believable portrayal of long-suffering siblings who roll their eyes at Dory's antics but also play with her and do things she likes. Dory's imaginary friend Mary, who gets jealous of her real friend Rosabelle, necessitates a bit of a balancing act on Dory's part. Most satisfying, though, is the connection of two like-minded souls finding each other:

"That afternoon during math time I whisper to Rosabelle, 'There's one more thing I have to tell you. I have a fairy godmother named Mr. Nuggy, and he accidentally turned into a chicken.'

"'Oh! That same thing happened to my fairy godmother once,' whispers Rosabelle."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about imaginary friends. Which other stories do you know where the real characters interact with imaginary ones? Do you like those stories, or do you think they're just silly?

  • How can you tell if someone's your friend?

  • If your imaginary friends were in danger, what would you do?

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