The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold is a lovely story of friendship, adventure, loss, and imagination.
is Amanda's best friend. Of course, he's imaginary, but neither Amanda
nor Rudger is bothered by this. Then, one day, Mr. Bunting comes to the
door. Unlike any other adult in the world, Mr. Bunting can see Rudger --
but this is definitely not a good thing. It's obvious from their first
meeting that there's something wrong with Mr. Bunting, something ominous
about him. When a later run-in with the man causes an accident that
separates Rudger and Amanda, Rudger must run for his life to escape Mr.
Bunting and get back to Amanda . . . but can an imaginary boy survive on
his own, without his real-world friend?
This book works so well
on so many levels. The characters are quirky and fun, the plot moves
right along, there are some scary bits and some funny bits -- kids will
love this book. There's also pathos and attention to detail (the cat's
name is Oven, and I won't tell you why that is significant, but it is)
and depth -- adults will love this book. I can see it working really
well as a classroom read-aloud for second or third graders, though it
might be a little too scary for children any younger than that. Also, it
is fabulously illustrated by the talented Emily Gravett. This may be
the best book I've read so far this year. Highly recommended.
(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)