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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Acclaimed author/illustrator team visits Raleigh with new picture book

Posted September 29, 2015

Illustrator behind "The Day the Crayons Quit," "The Day the Crayons Came Back," and "Imaginary Fred."
Photo by: Malcolm Brown

Imaginary friends are part of many kids' childhoods. We've had characters called "the boss," "older daughter," and "Buddy" make regular appearances at my house over the last many years.

In fact, according to Psychology Today, nearly 40 percent of the population have an invisible friend by age 7. It's a normal and wonderful part of growing up.

In a new book out this week, acclaimed children's book author Eoin Colfer and illustrator Oliver Jeffers tell the story of  "Imaginary Fred," a picture book that explores these imaginary relationships. It's a sweet story about a little boy, who finds friends - both real and invisible.

Colfer and Jeffers will be at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh at 6 p.m., Friday, for a reading and book signing. To get in the signing line, you'll need to buy a copy of the book from Quail Ridge. (But it is free to just attend the reading and program).

If you're a lover of children's and young adult books, you'll recognize Colfer and Jeffers. Colfer, currently Ireland's laureate for children's literature, is famous for his fantasy series, "Artemis Fowl." Jeffers might be best-known for illustrating "The Day the Crayons Quit" and the new "The Day the Crayons Came Home."

"Imaginary Fred" is best for ages 4 and up. (My six-year-old has read it many times in the last couple of weeks).

By email, Colfer answered a few questions about the book (Jeffers is busy with a new baby!). Here's a Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: Who came up with the idea for the book?

Eoin Colfer: Fred was an idea I’d had running around in my head for some years, but it took Oliver to put a look on the character and a shape on the story, plus a new ending.

GAM: So many kids have imaginary friends, but not many picture books seem to tackle the subject. Why do you think that is?

EC: I think imaginary friends might be on a bit of a comeback at the moment. Perhaps they were supplanted by ipads for a few years but now they are rearing their heads again. I don’t know why books have shied away from the topic historically but that is all about to change.

GAM: How did the story develop? Were Frieda and Sammi, a girl and her invisible friend, always part of the storyline?

EC: The story started with Fred on his own looking for that perfect friend, then I added Sam. Sammi and Frieda were last to the party to round out the story.

GAM: How did you two end up collaborating?

EC: Oliver and I met in New Zealand at a book festival. We got on pretty well and I suggested that he might like to collaborate some day. That night I was looking through my idea file and re-discovered Fred and something told me it would be the perfect vehicle for us both.

GAM: What do you hope kids and parents take away after reading the book?

EC: My first hope is always that children will thoroughly enjoy themselves reading the story, and want to read it over and over until their parents are tired of it. After that I suppose it would be nice if we confirmed what they already suspect: That friendship is a very valuable commodity in this life.

GAM: Any more collaborations planned?

EC: Speaking for myself, I am working with UK writer Andrew Donkin on an original graphic novel, which will be released next year. After that, I am definitely taking a holiday.

Quail Ridge Books is at 3522 Wade Ave., Raleigh.

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