Not the solidest piece in the looking-for-a-friend genre.

IMAGINARY FRED

An imaginary person has needs of his own.

Fred, whose humanlike shape is made of digital blue patterning with no outline, floats “like a feather in the wind until a lonely little child wish[es] for him.” If the conditions are “just right”—a lightning strike, or maybe fish falling from the sky—he pops down to Earth and becomes that child’s imaginary friend. It’s always short-lived: as soon as the child finds “a real friend in the real world,” Fred fades, whisked back to the sky until someone new needs him. Despite shabby treatment—the real-world kids poke him with swords, make him vacuum, toss him hoopward as if he’s a basketball, and undress him to laugh at his (not graphically depicted) nakedness—Fred longs for a friendship to be permanent. Humor arrives in Jeffers’ quirky line drawings (the art is largely black and white). Fred and a friend struggle “to understand how the toilet work[s]”; a musical quartet—two real musicians, two imaginary—baffles the audience: “Why are there only two of them?” Common to many imaginary-friend stories, the ontology may confuse: Fred may be invisible, but he has thoughts and desires, so is he really imaginary? Readers who sometimes or even often enjoy playing by themselves may not appreciate the text’s heavy-handed insistence that “being alone is no fun.”

Not the solidest piece in the looking-for-a-friend genre. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-237955-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

OLIVER AND HIS EGG

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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