What happens to the imaginary friends we make when we are so little we can’t remember them later on?
Amanda’s friend Rudger simply appears one day in Amanda’s wardrobe and becomes her constant companion—and hers alone. He finds that sharing in Amanda’s rich and adventurous imagination has its rewards but some significant dangers and challenges. There’s the creepy Mr. Bunting, an ancient man in Hawaiian-print shirt and shorts who, it turns out, stays alive by devouring children’s imaginary friends. There’s the possibility of being forgotten, when age or injury—or death?—causes the bond to weaken. When Amanda is hit by a car, Rudger is able to take refuge in a library, the one place apart from children’s company where sufficient imagination dwells to keep imaginary companions from fading. Rudger’s attempts to connect with a boy too young to enjoy his unexpected appearance and to one of Amanda’s less versatile friends are ill-starred. A harrowing hospital scene is satisfyingly gruesome though not disastrous. Harrold offers an appealingly childcentric world with hefty doses of scare and malevolence to explore the possibilities of imaginary beings with feelings of their own. Gravett’s several double-page, full-color illustrations, along with lively margin drawings, sweetly blend the real with the imaginary, giving Amanda and Rudger appealing personality—and deliver chills in the form of Mr. Bunting and his own dreadfully spooky imaginary companion.
Wonderfully entertaining. (Fantasy. 9-13)