An imaginary friend who yearns to be real learns about life along with the children who conjure him up in a variety of guises.
Cuevas’ episodic story features childlike black-and-white drawings that contrast oddly with the decidedly adult tone of her main character’s musings. Jacques Papier is ostensibly 8 years old when he discovers that he is merely a figment of his “twin sister” Fleur’s imagination. When her parents take her to a psychiatrist, Jacques is stuck in the waiting room, where he meets Mr. Pitiful, Stinky Sock, and a variety of other oddball characters who invite him to the next meeting of Imaginaries Anonymous. With information gleaned there, he sets out on a series of new incarnations, from prisoner/co-conspirator/damsel in distress through perfect pet to best friend and magician’s assistant. New placements are made by the “reassignment office.” The description of this hilariously inefficient bureaucracy would make most adults chuckle knowingly, but it seems unlikely that young readers will get the joke. Between assignments, Jacques exists in a dark limbo, remembering bits and pieces of his previous lives and wondering about the nature of reality.
Though the writing is clever and there are plenty of amusing incidents included, life lessons and existential truths overwhelm everything, suggesting that the audience for this uneasy amalgam of whimsy and wisdom will be small. (Fiction. 8-10)