What better way to nurture creativity than read books that have imaginary friends? These delightful picture books harness the power of imaginary characters and the role they can play in your kids’ lives.
Does your child have imaginary friends? Rejoice, for they are part and parcel of a child’s healthy imagination that helps them to use their time positively and creatively. Nurture Shock, one of the most popular books on parenting, cites research that points to a correlation between role playing invisible friends and self-regulation, which means that the children do much better in school and in situations that need more maturity and understanding.
Research shows that children with imaginary friends are more emotionally aware, develop better vocabulary, use their invisible friends to self-soothe or improve their self-belief and are able to think through different scenarios and look at both sides of a conversation or an idea. Pretend play also opens up the pre-frontal cortex and medial temporal lobe of the brain. Imaginary friends are indicators of abstract thought.
What better playground for these creative exercises than wonderful children’s literature? Here are 10 books that have memorable imaginary friends.
1. Imaginary Fred by Oliver Jeffers
From the stable of young writing sensation Eoin Colfer comes Imaginary Fred, which is illustrated by award-winning children’s author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers.
This story is narrated from the point of view of Fred, who is an imaginary friend to Sam. When he becomes Sam’s imaginary friend, Sam swears they will always be friends but once Sam gets real friends, Fred imagines that he’d not be needed, only to find that a bit of magic happens!
2. Emma Kate by Patricia Polacco
Preschooler Emma Kate has a best friend who is an elephant. They share lunches, play dates and even visit school together. This book has a surprise ending that will delight your children! Packed with fun anecdotes and beautiful illustrations, this book has an ending that will thrill you to your toes.
3. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
A bonafide children’s classic, Where the Wild Things Are is about a boy named Max who is sent to bed without supper as a punishment for creating a huge mess in his house when parading around in his wolf’s costume. Max goes to his room, which transforms into a jungle and he sails to a mysterious island that is inhabited by beasts known as ‘wild things,’ whom he tames and lords over. When he leaves, the wild things are dismayed but Max is delighted to return home to find his hot supper waiting for him.
Apart from the sheer fun of reading it, this book has been praised for addressing issues like anger and imagination. Max channels his anger into role playing but he gravitates back home, which show that even the wildest imagination seeks anchorage.
4. The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat
A beautiful story about an imaginary friend who is born on an island far, far away and who waits for a child to choose him as an imaginary friend but all the children he sets his eyes on end up overlooking him. He then sets off to find his match, where a real child chooses him as an imaginary friend and names him Beekle. Written and illustrated by award-winning children’s author, Dan Santat, the book combines alluringly beautiful illustrations and magical storytelling. It talks about the courage that we need to step away from our comfort zones and embrace the unexpected.
5. Dream Friends by You Byun
A heart-warming story about Melody’s imaginary friend, with whom she travels to magical places and who gently coerces her to bust a move and make real-life friends, Dream Friends has a hauntingly beautiful colour palette and mesmerizing art work.
6. We Forgot Brock by Carter Goodrich
A delightful and endearing book about imaginary friends and the value they bring to our lives, We Forgot Brock is the story of Philip and his imaginary friend Brock, whom he absent-mindedly leaves behind in a fair! Illustrated with charm and filled with swashbuckling adventure and humor, this book is a surefire treat for the lover of imaginary friends.
7. Jessica by Kevin Henkes
Ruthie has an imaginary friend Jessica. She eats with her, plays with her, takes her everywhere and even sleeps with her in the same bed, even though Ruthie’s parents tell her that there is no Jessica. When Ruthie goes to school, she is in for a memorable surprise! A fun, engrossing story filled with interesting details, this book will have your child bask in the radiance of having a friend who knows and loves you for what you are.
8. It’s A Magical World: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection by Bill Watterson
One of the greatest comic strips of all time, Calvin and Hobbes has populated the childhood imagination of many children who grew up devouring them. Filled with humour, intelligence, ingenuity and all the pangs of trying to understand the world as a child. Calvin has a strong bond with his imaginary friend, the anthropomorphic tiger Hobbes, and Calvin takes on many alter egos, so much so that the reader marvels at the way his mind moves.