Written and illustrated by Kaila Eunhye Seo
(Peter Pauper Press; $15.99, Ages 4-8)
The back cover of FRED, a new picture book, teases readers by posing an interesting question: “What would you do if you had the ability to see and believe in things that others could not?” It is a compelling invitation to dive into the magical and mystical world of the protagonist, Fred, a small town boy whose imaginary friends fill his world with fun.
Seo builds a fantasy story in which our ordinary day-to-day activities like walking, reading, and shopping are enhanced by kindly gentle creatures who help us by moving branches and providing shade. We can’t see these delightful furry, multi-eyed, prong-horned critters who have the best of intentions, but lucky Fred can! Together he and the creatures jump, swing, and slide and become the best of friends.
When Fred gets a bit older, he starts school and his days are filled with new, human friends. But his faithful companions remain nearby, looking in the classroom windows, stretching beside him in gym class, and chomping in the cafeteria. After school, Fred wants to play with his new friends. Day after day, the critters wait patiently for Fred, until their hope slowly fades away. Then one day, Fred forgets about them entirely and doesn’t even see them anymore.
Seo’s talents lie squarely in the illustration arena, and her black and white scenes are filled with delightful details and crisp composition. Fred’s imaginary friends are cuddly and fierce some at once, with wide set round eyes, horns striped like party hats, and wonderfully shaggy fur. They have sweetly fanged smiles and enthusiastic expressions. On the fateful day that Fred ages away, their sad, droopy faces will wring your heartstrings.
Seo restores color, light and joy to the last pages through Fred’s chance encounter with a special, generous girl. This gentle tale is a sweet balm for little readers who like cuddly monsters, imaginary friends, and happy endings. FRED can’t guarantee that you will begin to see benevolent beasts, but you may find a small flicker of hidden magic in your heart.
– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Where Obtained: I reviewed a promotional copy of FRED from the publisher and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Click here for a Common Core Teaching Guide