Fred by Kaila Eunhye Seo

I wonder if anyone ever sees the world the same way as they did as a child when they grow up. That is, if they can even remember how it appeared to them then.

In Fred, the eponymous protagonist is an imaginative child who sees in his little town fantastical creatures who live and breathe among folks who are mostly blind to their existence. Not Fred, of course, who has no qualms talking to and playing with them, even if that causes other people to stare at him like he is strange. At least, that’s until he starts going to school and meets exciting new (real) friends and has less and less time for his imaginary pals.

Beautifully inked illustrations grace the pages of this impressive debut picture book by Kaila Eunhye Seo, which speaks equally to adults, who will probably feel a twinge as they mourn their own childhood, and kids, who will be able to relate keenly to Fred’s powerful imagination, and hopefully remember to hold on to at least a sliver of it when they do eventually grow up.

As most parenting guides will tell you, imaginary friends are “just a phase” — as if an active imagination is regarded as enough of a problem for parents to require reassurance, when, to be honest, most grown-ups would do well to be prescribed some. Sometimes I wonder what my kids see in their minds when they are engaged in one of their many pretend-play sessions. Often, it involves them cooking up a storm and preparing an elaborate feast in which I’m expected to partake (and, naturally, proclaim to be scrumptious, to their great satisfaction). But I suppose that’s one of the perks of being a parent — being able to relive your childhood as a privileged guest in your child’s imaginative world, at least for a little while.

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