Book Details




A. F. Harrold


Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Publication date

5th November 2015

Author's Website



Please note:

Adobe Reader is required to view extracts - click below to get the latest version,
get acrobat reader
Click here to tell your school about Lovereading 4schools Recommend this website to a friend 
School name or postcode:

Schools Loginparents Login


The Imaginary

A. F. Harrold

Lovereading - -Year 6 (age 10-11)

More books from this list

Book 42 of 50.
View the next book in this list
View the next book in this list

Download Extract  

The Lovereading 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 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?
Five books I like (the word ‘favourite’ is invidious and unrealistic, of course): Delight by J.B. Priestley (a collection of perfect tiny essays about things that made him happy); Gentleman Jim by Raymond Briggs (the only one of his books I had as a kid, and a wonderful sad-hopeful story); The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch (this could almost stand for any of her novels, odd unfashionable monsters that I adore); The Story Giant by Brian Patten (the poet’s lightness of touch makes this collection of folk (and other) tales a melt in the mouth read); Memorial by Alice Oswald (a marvellously moving piece of war poetry, a translation of the Iliad told as a list of the dead, simple and hugely effective).

2. Who are your 5 favourite authors/illustrators, 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).

3. What was your favourite book when you were a child?
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.

4. Who is your favourite hero in a book?
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.

5. Who is your favourite villain in a book?
I have a soft spot for both Mr Gum and Mr Twit. Every villain needs a good beard, surely?

6. If you could be a character from a book who would you be?
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?
I wouldn’t suggest there’s any book everyone ought to read, but one that I’d happily share out is Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse For Kids. It would take a sour puss indeed to not find something in there to raise a grin.

8. Who or what was your biggest influence in deciding to become a writer?
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.

9. What inspired you to write your latest book?
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.

10. When did you start writing?
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.

11. If someone wanted to be a writer what would be your number one tip for them?
Just keep on with it. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. And read lots.

Photo credit: Naomi Woddis

To search for more books by A. F. Harrold on Lovereading - click here