My Real Friend
ABC Books, 2019
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Rupert is William’s imaginary friend, a role he is quite happy to have because they do so much together. Make music, paint pictures, play games … it’s all great fun except for two things. He never gets to choose the game and be the hero, but worst of all, that William will stop imagining him and he will fade away. And one day, William breaks the news to him…
Told from Rupert’s perspective, this is a charming book for early readers who are familiar with imaginary friends. As Rupert contrasts his life with William’s, there is a lot of humour in his observations and sometimes Rupert’s life in the imagination seems more fun. Poignant though his comments are, there is always the expectation that this story will not end well for Rupert but Masciullo’s clever mixed-media illustrations soften the blow and his appearance as the shadow on William’s new friend’s skateboard is masterful, suggesting that William might not quite have let go yet.
Friendships, real and imaginary, wax and wane over time as circumstances and situations change and this is a celebration of that. Rupert is a vital part of William’s childhood, as imaginary friends are for many children, and the letting go as social circles widen can be painful. It validates those imaginary friends of the young readers and opens the doorway for discussions about the difference between the two and the place they have in our lives. It is a way of encouraging those still rooted in their immediate concrete world to start viewing things from another perspective, particularly through Rupert’s weariness of always being the victim or the loser!
Ideas to guide the discussions are available.