April 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Companions Steadfast and True | Great Books about Imaginary Friends

Ranging from picture books to novels, these fanciful and fun-filled tales about pretend pals celebrate unfailing friendship, effervescent individuality, and the prodigious power of imagination.

ImagFriends1The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. by Dan Santat. illus. by author. Little, Brown. 2014. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316199988; ebk $9.99. ISBN 9780316406291.
PreS-Gr 2–Tired of lingering on the far-away island where pretend playmates wait “to be imagined by a real child,” the marshmallow-shaped protagonist does “the unimaginable,” and bravely journeys into the real world to find his one true friend. Santat’s understated narrative and soft-hued illustrations glow with whimsy, affection, and sweet surprises.

ImagFriends2Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir by Jacques Papier. by Michelle Cuevas. illus. by author. Dial. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780525427551; ebk $10.99. ISBN 9780698177833.
Gr 4-7–It takes a while for the narrator of this thoughtful offering to figure out why everyone—from parents to classmates to strangers—seems to ignore him; in fact, he is not truly the twin brother of Fleur, who loves him dearly, but her imaginary friend. Peopled by real-life kids and an assortment of delightful imaginaries, Cuevas’s lyrically written journey of self-discovery is marked by humor, heartbreak, and astounding revelations.

ImagFriends3Crenshaw. by Katherine Applegate. Feiwel and Friends. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250043238. ebk $9.99. ISBN 9781250080226.
Gr 4-6–Fact-loving, almost-fifth-grader Jackson is thrown for a loop when he spies a giant surfboarding cat during a visit to the beach. It’s been years since he last saw the sometimes smart-alecky but always comforting Crenshaw, and though the boy now struggles with questions about his imaginary friend’s existence, the timing couldn’t be better, since his family is once again facing homelessness. A poignant look at how children navigate tough situations and the unquantifiable juncture of imagination and truth.

ImagFriends4Dory Fantasmagory. by Abby Hanlon. illus. by author. Dial. 2014. $14.99. ISBN 9780803740884; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780147510679; ebk $7.99. ISBN 9780698135932.
Gr 1-3–Though vigorously ignored by her older siblings, six-year-old Dory, aptly nicknamed Rascal, manages to keep busy with her favorite playmate, a fang-toothed monster named Mary, and the many marvels and perils found in her elaborately envisioned imaginary world. Featuring an irrepressible heroine, blithe black-and-white sketches, and spot-on humor, this inviting easy chapter book is a treat. The antics continue in Dory and the Real True Friend (Dial, 2015).



ImagFriends5The Imaginary. by A. F. Harrold. illus. by Emily Gravett. Bloomsbury. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802738110.
Gr 4-7–From the moment Rudger first appears in Amanda’s wardrobe, the two are inseparable, and neither one cares that the boy is invisible to everyone else. That is until Mr. Bunting arrives on their doorstep, a sinister stranger who can not only see Rudger, but is also bent on consuming him—and all “Imaginaries”—to extend his own life. Things grow even worse when an accident causes Amanda to forget Rudger and he begins to fade away. Vivid storytelling and mood-evoking artwork mix moments both lighthearted and spine-chilling to create a riveting read.


ImagFriends6Imaginary Fred. by Eoin Colfer. illus. by Oliver Jeffers. HarperCollins. Sept. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062379559; ebk $9.99. ISBN 9780062439161.
K-Gr 4–No matter how hard Fred tries, the same thing always happens: once the lonely youngster who wished him into existence makes a “real friend in the real world,” Fred begins to fade, whisked back into the sky to await his next summons. He dreams about having a bosom buddy who not only shares his interests, but also has staying power, and inquisitive, book-loving, music-playing Sam might just fit the bill, but what happens when Sam brings home a flesh-and-blood ami? Descriptive text and droll cartoons provide a humorous take on the realities of being imaginary.


ImagFriends7Lenny & Lucy. by Philip C. Stead. illus. by Erin E. Stead. Roaring Brook/A Neal Porter Bk. Oct. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596439320.
PreS-Gr 2—Peter and his scruffy dog Harold have trouble settling into their lonely new house, surrounded by dark and unfamiliar woods, so the boy fashions two guardians out of pillows, dried leaves, blankets, and string. These stalwart companions serve him well until he meets Millie, a neighbor and soon-to-be friend. Tenderly told and handsomely illustrated, this gentle tale about navigating life changes eloquently balances imagination and emotional reality.


LeoLeo: A Ghost Story. by Mac Barnett. illus. by Christian Robinson. Chronicle. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452131566.
K-Gr 2—Displaced when a frightened-of-ghosts family moves into his long-time home, amiable but mostly ethereal Leo roams to the city, where he is invisible to everyone—except for a girl with a boundless imagination and even bigger heart. A charming story of friendship and acceptance, told with crisp poignancy, enchanting retro-style artwork, and astute childlike perception.




No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora. illus. by author. Dial. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803738522.
PreS-Gr 1—Nilson, a towering turquoise-blue gorilla, is prone to throwing temper tantrums, and Amelia tries to help her friend keep his cool by intoning the title phrase throughout a day spent running errands. However, when the youngster melts down over a sold-out ice cream flavor, it’s suddenly Nislon who must do the calming down. Colorful woodcuts and breezy humor illustrate how cherished toys (Nilson is actually a stuffed animal) can take on full-blown personas.


ImagFriends10We Forgot Brock! by Carter Goodrich. illus. by author. S & S. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442480902; ebk $10.99. ISBN 9781442480919.
PreS-Gr 2—Phillip knows that Brock—a chopper-riding bruiser wearing a skull-and-crossbones T-shirt and swords across his back—is the best buddy ever, even though no one else can see him. When Brock is accidentally left behind during a trip to the fair, both pals are devastated, but a happy ending that includes two new friends, one real and one imaginary, puts everything right. Though soft-edged watercolors depict the main action, Brock and his counterpart, Princess Sparkle Dust, are rendered in monochromatic crayon, reminding readers that these caring companions are kid-created and ready for fun.

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Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.



  1. Wonderful, wonderful list!