Reader Reviewed The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold

The Imaginary

Written by A. F. Harrold
Illustrated by Emily Gravett

9+ readers   11+ readers   UKLA 2016   
Download an extract Add to wishlist Share this book

The Lovereading4Kids comment

Winner of the UKLA 2016 Book Award in the 7 - 11 year old category.

A richly visualised story which explores imaginary friends and the very special role they play in children’s lives. Amanda and her imaginary friend Rudger have the best of times playing together. While Amanda’s mother accepts the existence of Rudger she can’t actually see him. He is only visible to Amanda until the sinister Mr Bunting and the pale girl who travels with him turn up on the doorstep. Mr Bunting is searching out imaginaries with sinister intentions. When Amanda is hit by a car Rudger goes on the run and learns the rules of being an imaginary. Emily Gravett’s illustrations capture the hazy world of the imaginaries brilliantly. ~ Julia Eccleshare

Reader Reviews

Kids love to read and so in addition to our Lovereading expert review, some of our Lovereading4kids Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Sam Harper, age 10 - 'I love the idea of a world full of imaginaries who can only be seen by people with big imaginations. A very funny, quirky and exciting story with fantastic illustrations and a brilliant climax.' Read full review >
  • Lily Benner, age 10 - 'Cool, creepy, exciting and very different. I couldn't stop reading it.' Read full review >
  • Lucas, age 9 - 'I just loved this book!' Read full review >
  • Traviss Chaytors, age 11 - 'An unusual scary story but worth the read.' Read full review >
  • William longlands, age 10 - '8/10 - a good book but not for me.' Read full review >
  • Amelie Chatham, age 11 - 'If you have a vivid imagination this book is brilliant for you!' Read full review >
  • Lucy Minton, age 10 - 'I would give this book full marks for a truly enjoyable read.' Read full review >
  • Jasmine Harris-Hart, age 12 – 'Wow,what a great book! A brilliant story unlike anything I have read before. I 'imagine' everyone(aged 9+) will enjoy this amazing adventure.'Read full review >
  • Luke Bauer, age 11 - 'Who knows who you can find in the back of a wardrobe! This book was well presented with amazing illustrations which made the book come alive.' Read full review >
  • Peace, age 9 - 'I enjoyed this book so much that I passed it on to my big sister, aged 11, who also loved it.' Read full review >


The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold

Rudger is Amanda's best friend. He doesn't exist, but nobody's perfect. Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend - until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda's door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he's sniffed out Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn't there survive without a friend to dream him up? A brilliantly funny, scary and moving read from the unique imagination of A.F. Harrold, this beautiful book is astoundingly illustrated with integrated art and colour spreads by the award-winning Emily Gravett.


'A richly visualised story which explores imaginary friends and the very special role they play in children's lives. Emily Gravett's illustrations capture the hazy world of the imaginaries brilliantly' Julia Eccleshare

'A.F. Harrold writes with a very distinctive, unusual and utterly charming voice in this warm and funny tale ... Fabulous' Jeremy Strong The Guardian

About the Author

A. F. Harrold

A.F. Harrold is an English poet (1975-present). He writes and performs for adults and children, in cabaret and in schools, in bars and in basements, in fields and indoors. He was Glastonbury Festival Website's Poet-In-Residence in 2008, and Poet-In-Residence at Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2010. He won the Cheltenham All Stars Slam Championship in 2007 and has had his work on BBC Radio 4, Radio 3 and BBC7. He is active in schools work, running workshops and slams and doing performances at ungodly hours of the morning, and has published several collections of poetry. He is the owner of many books, a handful of hats, a few good ideas and one beard. He spends his time showing off on stage, writing poems and books, and stroking his beard (it helps churn the ideas). He is the author of the Fizzlebert Stump series and the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal longlisted The Imaginary, illustrated by Emily Gravett. The Imaginary is the winner of the 7-11 category of the UKLA Awards. A.F Harrold lives in Reading with a stand-up comedian and two cats.

A Q&A with the author

1. What are your 5 favourite books, and why?

Again, no favourites, per se, but at various times in my life the following five have been important to me: Barbara Firth (the greatest illustrator of bears in children’s books full stop, no argument); J.R.R. Tolkien (for, almost accidentally, allowing us a glimpse into his lifelong private world-building exercise); Norman MacCaig (one of the great poets of nature and time and thought – never fussy and complex, but always sharp, charming and short); Iris Murdoch (for her ungainly, unlikely, unworldly novels of love and philosophy; Jill Bennett (I have a print of her drawing of the BFG (from Danny Champion of the World) on the wall by my desk, which is so many times more mysterious and fascinating than Blake’s BFG that became the standard).

Let’s plump for The Hobbit. It was a book that certainly hooked my imagination and tangled me up in its world. I went to sleep listening to the tapes of it.

How about the boy in The Witches simply for what he does and what he goes through and how he ends up. There’s pluck for you.

I have a soft spot for both Mr Gum and Mr Twit. Every villain needs a good beard, surely?

I’d like to think I could be Professor Calculus, but I’d probably discover I was Thompson or Thomson.

7. If you could recommend just one book for everyone to read what would it be?

My inability to think of anything else to do. To make poems was the only thing that felt right. Every now and then one of them isn’t terrible. And now stories seem to happen as well.

The Imaginary came about because of two thoughts that occurred around the same time. One was the image of an imaginary boy stood by the side of the road after an accident. He was on his own for the first time. He was beginning to fade. The other was a thought of a canteen, a greasy spoon sort of place, full of big blokes with ‘I love Mum’ tattoos and mugs of builder’s tea and cigarettes on the go. A foreman type walks in with a clipboard and says, ‘Little Billy Jones needs a friend …’ and one of the hairy Neanderthal-ish chaps gets up and says, ‘Okay boss,’ and goes out the door, squeezing himself into whatever shape Billy Jones wants his imaginary friend to be. So, an agency for imaginary friends. Neither of the those images/pictures/thoughts makes it unchanged into the book, but they were the initial spurs.

I began writing poetry seriously (and awfully) as a teenager, but I’d had a typewriter as a kid and banged away on it, though I’ve no idea and no memory of what I was writing.

Just keep on with it. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. And read lots.

Photo credit: Naomi Woddis

More books by this author

Loading similar books...

Other Formats

Book Info


224 pages


A. F. Harrold
More books by A. F. Harrold

Author's Website


Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Publication date

5th November 2015




A great way to introduce kids to great books, authors & genres. Parents can find age-appropriate books to share with their children.

Judi Davies – Aberdare Girls Sch

Love “Lovereading4kids” as my son gets to hear about & read new books before his mates which keeps him interested in reading=a very happy Mum

Liz Evans

This company is amazing; not only is it is a great opportunity to get books and review them but everyone is so friendly and supportive!

Jemma Rubens, age 10

I think Lovereading4kids is an amazing company because of the friendly staff and the fabulous chance to read great books before publication.

Adam Graham

I love lovereading4kids because I’ve read amazing books I would never have picked up, and its opened doors to new genre’s I now love.

Harriet Cunningham

It is THE website to use for narrowing down your search for any book. Definitely knocks the socks off any other book review website.

Nickey and Tomasz Hawryszczuk

It has introduced my children to books we hadn’t come across before. Real children’s reviews gives a great insight into what others think to

Lorraine Woods

It’s really exciting to read and review new books, thrilling to see my reviews online and I love finding the final published copies on sale.

Sam Harper – age 10

Lovereading 4 schools