Imaginary Fred

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Imaginary Fred Book Poster Image
Imaginary pal has abandonment issues in fun, offbeat tale.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Meaning of the words "quartet" and "duo." Some French words. Modeling of writing notes and hand-printing signs.

Positive Messages

Friendship can withstand the introduction of other friends. When friends have differences or fears, they can share and discuss them. It's pleasurable to share interests with a friend. Hard work and dedication pay off: When they practice, they get to Carnegie Hall. Friendship can pass through different stages, and that's OK.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All the friends confidently pursue their creative interests, both on their own and together: They read, play music, write plays, make Japanese masks, and plan a comic book. When their friendship hits a new stage, Fred and Sam discuss their fears and feelings. All characters are open to new friends and enjoy spending time together.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that kid-lit stars Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers have teamed up to create Imaginary Fred, a picture book from the point of view of Fred, an experienced but now lonely imaginary friend. All is copacetic when he meets new friend Sam since they share so many interests, until Sam gets a "real" friend and Fred worries he'll be replaced. Friends of all stripes will relate both to the fun and the fears, and the book even points the way to the future; as time passes, both Fred and Sam drift closer to their romantic partners, though their own bond remains strong. This is a great choice for K–3 kids, who'll be able to stick with the longer text and more sophisticated point of view.

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What's the story?

IMAGINARY FRED is an imaginary friend who dreams of getting a long-term friend and is happy when he gets called into service by a boy named Sam -- especially when the two turn out to have much in common. But then Sam finds a "real" friend, and Fred fears he'll be abandoned and start to fade. No worries! Sam's new friend has her own imaginary friend, and the four become an inseparable (musical) quartet. Eventually, as they get older, the real friends pair off to become a musical duo, and the two imaginary ones bond as a couple themselves, becoming "quite famous in the imaginary community."

Is it any good?

Longer text and a fun, freewheeling narrative, told from the unusual point of view of the imaginary friend, make this a super choice for older kids in the picture-book crowd. Fred's a true-blue imaginary friend -- he's even rendered in blue! -- but he always gets dumped when a "real" friend comes along. This time, though, his new friend has an imaginary friend of her own, so the four hang out together. Friends both real and imagined are shown to have the same feelings: pleasure when sharing interests and activities, jealousy when they fear they might be replaced.

Since Eoin Colfer usually writes novels, there's some sophisticated humor that might go over a young kid's head: The friends pretend to be French and study mime. But there's plenty for the intended age group: The friends plan their own comic book, call themselves "the Dramatic Duo," and call emergency meetings. The messages are positive: Imagine a friend and he or she will come, and friendship survives bumps. Kid-lit superstars Colfer and Jeffers clearly had a blast collaborating on this book, and the fun shines through.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about friendship. What makes a good friend? Who are your good friends? What do you like about them?

  • How did the artist draw the imaginary friends? Why do you think he drew them that way?

  • Have you ever had an imaginary friend? Why do you think kids have them?

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