Archive | May 20, 2024

Leo and Ralph

Leo and Ralph

Leo and Ralph











Leo and Ralph

Peter Carnavas

UQP., 2024

276pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


When Leo starts Kindergarten he find it hard to make friends.  Perhaps it’s because his short legs can’t keep up with the other kids so they leave him behind, or because his words and sentences take a while to come out so they either butt in or walk away before he finishes, but he soon learns that the safest place for him to be is on his own. 

One day, Leo sees a white balloon floating high above him and it sparks an interest in space, an interest that turns into an obsession particularly when the balloon returns, gets stuck in the tree overhanging the house and from it comes a shaggy creature , smaller than he is, with two short horns, long, floppy ears , arms and legs like pointy socks and fur that changes colour.  And so begins the friendship that Leo desperately wanted, and that his parents and teacher felt that he needed.  It didn’t matter to them that Ralph came from one of Jupiter’s moons and that Leo was the only one who could see him- that fact that Leo was happy inventing and playing games with Ralph, much less anxious and so settled was enough.

The friendship continues through Leo’s early school years with the two being inseparable and wisely, Leo’s teachers all accepting his reality.  But financial pressures mean that Leo’s teacher mum has to choose a promotion position in a small country town and that is going to mean leaving Ralph behind.  Indeed, the book begins with a prologue of the poignant parting scene between the two.

So is this farewell to his friend who has made life bearable all this time, does it mean that Leo will slip back into that lonely world he was once trapped in, or…?

This is a gentle, sensitive story that embraces the world of imaginary friends, a world that most adults are not usually invited into, or, if they are, then they are tolerated-just.  Few get to embrace it in the way that those in Leo’s life do, and even fewer are as wise as they are.  

In a recent interview, director and writer of the popular new movie IF, John Krasinski said that as COVID and its consequences took hold, he watched his children slipping into the world of imaginary friends as isolation from their real ones took hold, and he realised that it was a vital part of who they were at the time,  And while he had been thinking of such a theme for some time, now was the time to do it.  And so, with many of our students no doubt seeing the movie, this is the perfect read-aloud to share with them. Perhaps, as children with their own imaginary friends who fulfil a critical space in their lives, they will feel validated as well as hopeful that their story will have a similar ending to Leo’s; and perhaps, as adults, the grown-ups around them will better understand and embrace those who share their child’s life in this way.