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BOOK REVIEW: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold, Illustrated by Emily Gravett

| 24 October 2014 | 2 Replies

BOOK REVIEW: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold, Illustrated by Emily Gravett

November 2014, $19.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell




‘What is this?’ she said, her back to the wardrobe.
‘Oh,’ said Amanda. ‘That’s my coat.’
‘And what’s it doing in there?’
‘Hanging up?’ Amanda suggested cautiously.
‘But, darling,’ her mum said in a quieter voice. ‘It’s all wet. Look, it’s dripping. Hang it up downstairs by the radiator. I’ve told you before, don’t just stick it in the cupboard. It’ll get mouldy. When are you ever going to learn?’
‘On Monday at school,’ Amanda said.

Meet Amanda Shuffleup.
She’s funny, imaginative, and has a best friend named Rudger.
Rudger’s not real, but nobody’s perfect.

He stood up. He could do this. What would Amanda have done if she’d been in his shoes? Probably complained her shoes were too big, but after she’d’ve gone through the door and faced whatever was on the other side.

They’re the best of friends, and they do everything together; travel to other planets, journey through the jungle, make their way twenty thousand leagues under the sea.

But then Mr Bunting knocks on the door of the Shuffleup house, and catches a whiff of imagination.

Once he catches that smell, he keeps turning up everywhere Rudger goes.

‘He eats imaginaries, Rudge. He eats people like us. And for each one he eats, he lives another year longer.’

Then something happens and Rudger gets separated from Amanda, and he has to find his way back to her while avoiding the horrible Mr Bunting, who can smell imaginaries starting to Fade.

This is a middle grade book, but I don’t care if you’re twelve, or 112. Read this book.

It’s about friendship, and about loving people as they are, even if the way they are is a little strange. It’s about imagination, and about being a kid. It’s about using your imagination from time to time, even if you’re “too old”, even if you forgot you had one for a while.

I absolutely adored this book and I think it’s my new favourite for the year.

It’s not my fault, it got me right in the childhood.


If you’re a parent, I’d advise you to read this before your children, or with them.

If you’re what they call a middle grade reader, and you get scared sometimes, read it with someone who makes you feel safe, or ask them to read it first and tell you if it’s too scary.

It’s nothing to feel silly about, I’m twenty-seven and parts of this book caught me off guard.

There were some scary images(which were incredibly well done, and the placing of which was very atmospheric), and some scary scenes and descriptions.

Such as this description of a bogeyman for imaginaries, Simple Simon:

‘He’s even scarier than Mr. Bunting,’ Emily said. ‘He takes the place of your real friend in the night. Puts on their skin, looks at you through their eyes, and he tells you to do things. Weird things. Dangerous things. And because he says it in their voice, using their tongue to make the words, well… you have to do it.’


The Imaginary is a fantastically imagined, beautifully illustrated story,  and I am so very very glad to have read this book.

I recommend it for anyone who has, or ever had imaginary friends, even if you don’t remember their names.



Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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