Allow me to introduce you to Imaginary Fred, the latest addition** to the Babes about Town family. Fred’s thinner than paper yet larger than life. The boys have been captivated by his story ever since he found his way into our home.
As you might have guessed from the image and the title, Imaginary Fred is actually an ‘imaginary friend’, the central figure in a gorgeous picture book by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers. In essence, he’s a fiction within a fiction — a wispy boy who sits on a cloud, waiting for the right circumstances (and the right person) to magic him into life.
For a while, Fred can be anything you want him to be. He’s the perfect foil for a child’s wildest fantasies. But when the child finds a ‘real’ friend, Imaginary Fred is abandoned and fades away… back to his cloud, waiting for the next lonely kid to come along.
Winner of the Irish Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, Imaginary Fred is a charming collaboration between Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers, two of the biggest names in children’s literature today. There’s a lovely moment in the story where Fred and his playmate Sam sit side by side, each reading a popular book by Colfer (Artemis Fowl) and Jeffers (Lost and Found).
Reading Imaginary Fred with Ezra and Jed, the story resonated with us on many levels. Personally, as a writer, I’m used to playing with characters that only exist inside my head. Some take on lives of their own, on the page or the screen, while others fade into forgotten spaces -— like a deserted Fred. I was fascinated by Colfer’s slant on the creative process, as seen through the eyes of these beings we invest with various measures of ‘reality’.
The book sparked conversations with the boys about friendships and I learned something I didn’t know — that Jed has an imaginary friend!
‘His name’s John and he has slicked back hair and he’s brown like us,’ Jed told us. ‘I play with him at playtime, when I’m playing with 2 other people in a game that needs 4. When I pass to the fourth square, I’m passing to John. My other friends don’t know about him though, only me. He’s a year older than me, in Pluto class. He’s been my friend for about a year I think.’
Ezra said, ‘I’ve never had an imaginary friend. It’s good to have one because they can be your friend, when you’re feeling lonely or you just need someone to play with. I guess you could say Pooh (his favourite teddy) is my imaginary friend.’
As a girl in Nigeria, my imaginary buddy was Snowy, aka Tintin’s dog. I used to devour Tintin books and I’d always liked Snowy because he had such funny facial expressions. So I borrowed him for myself. I had this imaginary Scottie dog who used to run around with me in Enugu!
Did you have someone like an Imaginary Fred (or Freda) when you were younger? Does your little one?
Whether or not you relate to the concept, I’m sure you and your children will adore this picture book. My boys have read it again and again, it’s great for ages 4 and up, and an ideal length for Jed (7 going on 8) who is slightly struggling through The Hobbit. I’ll often find him curled up on the sofa with Imaginary Fred after school.
I love the fact that Imaginary Fred started off as an idea, strung into words and illustrations… only to become as vivid and relatable to my boys as he will to thousands of families across the globe. It’s a testament to the power of our imaginations not just to create, but to connect us, often in ways we could never have expected.
Imaginary Fred (HarperCollins) is now out in paperback at £7.99. Also available in hardback and digital formats.
*Win a HarperCollins Kids Books Collection*
To celebrate the paperback release of Imaginary Fred, I have a very special offer for you! I’ve teamed up with HarperCollins Children’s Books to offer 1 lucky Babes about Town reader an amazing collection of some of their most brilliant books for kids. The gift bundle should arrive just in time for Christmas, what a lovely present for your bookish babes!
You can win a collection of books (perfect for ages 4-9) comprising one copy of the following:
1. Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers
2. The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers
3. The Midnight Gang by David Walliams
4. Three Little Monkeys by Quentin Blake and Elizabeth Chichester Clark
5. How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss
Entry into the competition is simple, just add your details to the Rafflecopter form below. Best of luck!
**Imaginary Fred post and giveaway offer in partnership with HarperCollins Children’s Books and Mothers & Shakers