The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and Emily Gravett

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When I see that Emily Gravett has illustrated a new book, my immediate reaction is a kind of involuntary and urgently clumsy plunge for the auld wallet. I would paper my walls with her illustrations if I could afford to, but even I can see that a twenty-five-year-old who still lives at home doing this is pushing the I’m-an-adult-who-prefers-to-read-kids-books-and-it’s-awesome a little too far. So I’ve held off until I have some actual children. This may be my only motivation for having actual children.

So not to beat around the bush any further, it’s awesome. The strong childlike voice of the narrator (not first person) is gentle and easy but lively. I’ve never read anything by this author before, but he knows how to nail a childlike voice without sounding remotely childish. It would suit a confident eight year old and could be read to much younger children. That said, it is CRREEEPY, in the style of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, though not quite as messed-up. This means that it will appeal to parents who don’t want to traumatise their children THAT MUCH while still enjoying a couple in involuntary shudders themselves.

The story is about imaginary friends, and is told from the point of view of one called Rudger, who is naturally devoted to the little girl who created him. Their ideal childhood is disrupted by the appearance of a man and an (think if every long-haired creepy little dead brat you’ve ever seen in a horror movie) imaginary girl who can see him and take a disquieting interest in the pair. The cutsy and whimsical world of the imaginaries is juxtaposed alongside the real world and an altogether much darker meeting of the two. The book opens with a shock and there are sad bits to boot. Sorry, no spoilers. Overall, this was a fantastic book, with illustrations working in perfect creepy and adorable harmony with the text. The simplicity of the storytelling belies the complexity of the story itself. For the brief time I spent reading it (it is very short) my brain was very happy.

Sharing a Secret

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Hi there,

Lisa D here. I am going to let you into a secret that myself, Lisa C and Mara share. There are other people who know this secret too, but we are an eccentric, odd and strange club and whether you join is up to you. Intrigued?

Well,the secret is that there is something that is even better than reading books. Gasp!, No, what?! Did I just hear you say that? No way, nothing is better than reading is it?!

Only one thing is and that is writing. The joy of creating a fictional world in your head. The joy of putting one word after another on a page or a screen and knowing that this a story that is unique to you, unique to your imagination.

Writing is the only activity where you can do almost anything: kill, travel, create, win battles and bring people together, live through generations and build entire landscapes without ever leaving your room. Yes, you can enjoy some of that power when you read books, but when you write, you are the absolute master of your characters’ destinies. When writers get together, they have the most bizarre conversations; including murder, time travel, spirit animals, plot and structure and the eternal problem of character names.

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I have always felt that writing was a kind of magic, because when you open a book, you are held captive by the spell the writer has woven. The imaginary world that the author has created comes alive in your head, so it is quite literally a meeting of minds.

All writers are readers first. If you ever hear someone claim they want to write but they say that they don’t read, they are deluded. A writer who doesn’t read is as useless as a chef who doesn’t eat. If you are a reader who would like to write, then stay in touch, as this blog will feature writing tips, interviews with writers and writing workshops in the very near future.

If it’s something you have thought about doing, then why not give it a try? It not easy and it can be mind-meltingly frustrating but it can be also incredibly satisfying and fulfilling. Come on over to the dark side and join the writers… We are all mad here, but we have cookies.