I am reading books for my Children’s book group (Chapter and Verse book club). It is always great to have someone guide your reading once in awhile because they will take you to books you might not read or make connections you might not make. Each month we read a chapter book and a picture book making connections between them if we can. This month it is about friends.
There seems to be a big of a run on books with imaginary friends. A week or so ago I read Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate. Then there was The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat that came out last year. This week we were reading The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold (Author), Emily Gravett (Illustrator).
The Imaginary is a bit of a dark story that also has a bit of light humor included. There is Amanda Shuffleup, our main character, who finds Rudger, her imaginary friend, in her closet. These two enjoy each other but unlike imaginary friends I have thought about Rudger feels upset when Amanda does not pay attention to him or understand his fear of Mr. Bunting. Indeed, Mr. Bunting is someone to be feared.
A.F. Harrold takes us into the world of the ‘imagined’ where characters wait to be called on to help a child in need of a friend. He sees these characters as having a job to help young children. Once the children are no longer in need the imagined character they go off to wait for their next job when another child needs them again. All of this is well and good until you realize that Mr. Bunting, a very old and not very nice man is out hunting for any imagined friend he can find.
Harrold does a great job taking us into this other world and sliding back and forth between the real and the imagined. His characters are not totally believable, especially Amanda’s mother but it is a work of fiction with imaginary characters, so what can I say. It is still a fun read.
This book would be great for 3rd or 4th graders. It has a bit of scariness to it but it is a long way from horror. Since there have been a few books this year about imaginary friends it would be fun to read, and compare these books. Then have students discuss and write about their own imaginary friend. Did you have an imaginary friend? I did.
The other book that we are reading this month seems to be following the trend of books about one topic as well. This time the topic is Winnie the Pooh. There have been four books that have come out about dear old Winnie in the last year. I read Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M Walker and Jonathan D. Voss.
This story is a non-fiction picture book that tells the story of the bear who lost his mother and is sold to a soldier who is sure he can take care of him. The story shows what happens when a man and a bear become great friends even during a war. This connection to a human makes this bear a bit unusual and this is what draws A.A. Milne to creating the story we love to much call Winnie the Pooh.
There are lot of photographs of the real bear that are fun to see. The story is factual and straightforward. The book feels a bit cold, since Walker does not give the bear any emotions, it’s non-fiction. I was use to reading about Winnie with so much emotion that it was odd to put the fiction along side the non-fiction text.
This would be a great writing mentor text -a wonderful way to talk about non- fiction books and fiction stories. I also think as a classroom teacher using the four books that have just been published would be a great compare and contract unit in any classroom.
The three other books about Winnie’s origin that were published in 2014 or 2015 are
- Finding Winnie: the True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall;
- The Real Winnie: a One-of-a-Kind Bear by Val Shushkewich (published in 2005),
- Winnie the Bear: the True Story Behind A.A. Milne’s Famous Bear by M.A. Appleby and P.R. Hayes (a self-published book). If you’re a teacher, it would be quite interesting for your classes to learn literary criticism by comparing these four books.
(Thanks Vicki Palmquist from Chapter and Verse Book Club for sharing these books with us.)