With nine children in our home, there isn’t much we haven’t encountered in the past sixteen years. However, there is one childhood experience that has never been a part of our lives. Imaginary friends. Not one of my children (so far) has had an imaginary friend. There is no shortage of imagination. It seems that with so many siblings no one has felt the need to create a companion.
When I selected the book Confessions of an Imaginary Friend it was purely for me to read and then perhaps to pass along to my nine year old daughter. She is definitely the most challenging of my children to find books for. She can be quite the picky, um, selective reader.
“The truth is, that’s all anyone wants, to be known that way, to be seen. I don’t mean our hair or our clothes, I mean seen for who we really are. We all want to find that one person who knows the real us, all our quirks, and still understands. Have you ever had anyone see you? Really, truly, the deepest part that seems invisible to the rest of the world? I hope you have. I have. I have always had Fleur. “
But as often happens, we had finished our evening read aloud and needed a new book. The book was determined by Listeners’ Choice. Mary and I chose five or six books. A few classic read alouds and a couple of new books. The winner, as you know, was Confessions of an Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas.
I will make my own confession right now. I began this book thinking it was going to be a simple story of an imaginary friend. Maybe an adventure or two to share. I would have never selected it on my own as a read aloud. Would it appeal to that broad of an audience? I didn’t think so.
Wrong. I was most assuredly wrong. Jacques Papier is quite the character. His memoir is worth the read.
“And then, I was really, truly alone. Who are you when everything you’ve ever known about yourself is gone?
Who are you when there’s nobody around to remind you of your role, and no memories to regret or keep you warm?
What would you look like if you couldn’t remember ever looking like anything? What form would you take?
What would you dream at night if you had no memories? What notes would get stuck in your head if your remembered no songs?”
Jacques thinks that he is not a very popular guy. The teacher never calls on him during class, no one ever picks him to be on their team, and often his parents forget to tell him goodnight. Thankfully, he has his fabulous sister, Fleur. She is the best. (We will not even mention the annoying doggie, Francois.)
A chance encounter with Roller-Skating Cowgirl changes Jacques world forever. Cowgirl gives the shocking new that Jacques is an imaginary friend. At first Jacques scoffs at such a thought but finally accepts the truth. Then Jacques begins his quest for freedom. Can he really be free?
Jacques meets other imaginary friends at Imaginaries Anonymous such as Mr. Pitiful, Stinky Sock, and The Everything. Yes, a support group for imaginary friends. Just think how difficult it is to be imaginary!
Not only does Jacques find encouragement from fellow Imaginaries but he also becomes the imaginary friend of other children besides Fleur. Those experiences change Jacques. He comes to realize an important truth about himself and others.
“The truth is…you’re only as invisible as you feel, imaginary or not.”
From the beginning pages, we were all chuckling. Old and young alike found Jacques view of the world quite funny and the occasional sarcasm was perfectly timed. Ms. Cuevas did a masterful job of balancing humor and deeper strands running through the story. By the end of the book, there were a few of us in tears. Absolutely beautiful, sweet, childhood perfect ending. My nine year old even cried at the end and she has never cried over a book before.
I think you should add this to your Read Aloud Basket. The suggested age range is 8-12 years but we all enjoyed it immensely. We would finish a chapter and my older children would comment on the depth of the story. There is much to discuss and think about. Chapters are short so it works well for reading during lunch or at bedtime. If a rainy afternoon pops up, you might could read it in a day. Two thumbs up from the Tribe!