I’m on my 59th book (Frog and Toad Are Friends) in my project to read 1001 children’s books in a year. The 58th book was Imaginary Fred, by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers.

The story is about an imaginary person, Fred, who is concerned about being cast off. It’s a twist of the imagination to think about figments of imagination having a personality, but it’s not so hard if you’ve ever had an imaginary friend yourself. (If not, please try to imagine.)

Fred1

Fred2

Fred3

The depiction of Imaginary Fred is brilliant—Fred is shown with a somewhat vague assemblage of dots. An effect that somehow reminds me of the distortions that jump to life when you put 3D glasses on. It implies that to those without the right perspective, Fred is invisible.

The story is more complicated than meets the eye (of course). It’s about basic human desires to feel unforgettable and wanted. But more than this, it offers a perspective of release—that if there is something you no longer need to carry in your mind, you can let it go and that you don’t have to pre-guilt yourself with the concern that letting something go means betrayal.

Instead of an imaginary friend, maybe it’s a resolution or intention that you don’t believe in anymore but feel like you promised to do something about. Maybe it’s a hope that you realize is someone else’s hope you’re merely maintaining. Maybe it’s someone you feel you’ll never be able to honor fully.

And if so, it may feel like it’s hard to let go, because in part, it means you’ll be abandoning it. But maybe, once you do, it’ll go off into its imaginary world and do great imaginary things, leaving you free to do your own great real things.

Maybe. Or maybe you’ll decide that it can stay. “Need” is not “want,” and willingly carrying something feels quite different than feeling obligated to carry it.


Plus… a shoutout of appreciation to John McWade, senior author of graphic design courses at LinkedIn Learning, who featured this blog post and my illustration for this article in his latest video course. In the course, he invites you to create something just for the sheer joy of it. If you’re up for the challenge, do share what you create.