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Middle Grade Fiction 174
Beautiful Story About Grief, Loss, and Growing Up
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Growing up is hard, but losing someone you love is even harder. It's been five years since Zach lost his father, and now at 11, entering middle school, Zach has to let go of his imaginary friend too. IMAGINARY by Lee Bacon is a powerful story about grief and coming of age that is sure to strike a chord with young readers. It is unique in that is told from the imaginary friend's perspective. You see, all imaginary friends come with an expiration date, and this one has lived long past his as a coping mechanism for Zach. He knows it, and he somehow has to help his friend one last time in letting him go.

This book was as funny as it was heartfelt. I laughed frequently and shed quite a few tears. Zach is a sweet kid who delved deep into his imagination to deal with the grief of losing his father at such a young age. Shovel is a wonderful playmate for Zach. The story is so much fun coming from his perspective. Most imaginary friends are left behind when kids start school, so it is easy to see why Shovel doesn't understand what is going on with Zach. Why is he upset? Why doesn't he want to play? Why does he ignore me? But at the same time, Shovel also understands that it is time for Zach to grow up, like all children do.

The author handles Zach's grief with care. I love how it is shown through Shovel, adding levity to an otherwise emotionally heavy topic. This book would be a great way to start a dialogue with children who are dealing with grief, either they themselves or if they are experiencing loss through a friend. It makes for a safe jumping off point to discuss the hard topics.

Overall, I highly recommend this one. IMAGINARY is a beautiful story about growing up and all the hardships that brings.

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