Book Review: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold

The Imaginary is a middle grade novel by A.F. Harrold, with illustrations by Emily Gravett. Rudger is Amanda Shuffleup’s imaginary friend. Nobody else can see Rudger, at least until the evil Mr. Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr. Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumor has it that he even eats them. And now he’s found Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. He needs to find Amanda before Mr. Bunting catches him, and before Amanda forgets him and he fades away to nothing. But how can an unreal boy stand alone in the real world?

The Imaginary is a story that took me a little while to get into, but I think that was because I started it just as i was coming out of a reading slump. Once I really got going in the story I was hook. Rudger is an imaginary friend, and we get to see the majority of the story through his eyes. His friend and creator Amanda is a headstrong and highly creative girl that often fails to think of the bigger picture before she acts. Together they can do just about anything, until Mr. Bunting and his imaginary friend ruin everything. Rudger is lost and along, aided by a cat and other imaginaries as he tries to find his way back to Amanda and protect other imaginary friends from Mr. bunting. the story is heartfelt, exciting, and had me caring about all the characters (even the imaginary ones). The illustrations add a special something to the story, but I am a fan for Gravett's work regardless.

The Imaginary is an enchanting and heart warming read that will speak to readers of all ages. young readers can find themselves in Amanda and the interactions of friends, both real and imaginary. Adults will remember their own childhood, and those of the children in our lives. Everyone can find something of themselves here, and enjoy the combination of dark humor, silly fun, and heartfelt moments that just might have you in tears. A great read, and one I wish I had gotten to sooner.

A.F. Harrold is an English author and poet who writes and performs for adults and children. He is the owner of many books, a handful of hats, a few good ideas, and one beard. He lives in Reading, England with a stand-up comedian and two cats.

Emily Gravett is the author and illustrator of numerous children’s books, including Wolves, winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award for Illustration; and Orange Pear Apple Bear, a Quills Award finalist and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year. Emily lives in Brighton, England, with her partner, their daughter, and the family dog.
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