In the last six months, the books with imaginary friends as a main character have been piling up – Imaginary Fred, We Forgot Brock! (both picture books) and Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, to name a few. Confessions of an Imaginary Friend – a memoir by Jacques Papier (Michelle Cuevas) actually never got read the first time I brought it home. Then, one of the fifth graders I volunteer with told me about it, and I had to check it out again. I couldn’t be happier that I did. (There’s really nothing like being badgered by an eleven year old to get me moving.)
At first, it seems like the story of Jacques is going to be kind of light and fluffy. Sure, he thinks everyone hates and ignores him, but his family is so wonderful! Here’s a cute little girl. Here’s her (imaginary) brother. There’s the annoying dog. Oh, look at how indulgent her parents are! Her parents actually set a place at the table for him and even buy tickets for him to go to the movies.
Slowly, though, Jacques starts to realize, with some anger and desperation, that he is not real. He encounters others at Imaginaries Anonymous, a self-help group, tries to escape, and then has to go through the Office of Reassignment to take on a new “job”. It’s only after he realizes he’s imaginary that Jacques’ story moves to a whole different level. Who is he? What’s his purpose? Can he really be an agent of change for someone real?
As I seem to be saying constantly lately, this book wasn’t what I expected, but that’s a good thing. It’s both joyful and sad, has moments of whimsy and harsh reality, and in the end manages to bring it all back around to something touching and beautiful. You laugh a lot along the way, and you might shed a tear or two, too.