cover image Imaginary


Lee Bacon, illus. by Katy Wu. Amulet, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4664-2

When Zach loses his father at age six, the boy reacts by burying some of his dad’s things deep in the backyard, saving only a knight with a green sword, the result of a memorable afternoon the two spent together. To help cope with his father’s death, Zach also maintains a relationship with fuzzy purple imaginary friend Shovel, shown cartoonishly cute in b&w art by Wu (Sylvia’s Bookshop). Five years later, middle school looms large and uncomfortable for the now-11-year-old, who must navigate his lingering heartache as well as endure bullying from former best friend Ryan, the only other person who knows about Shovel. When a fight between the assumed-white former friends lands them in detention along with Zach’s new compatriot Anni, cued as being Asian American, the three reluctant companions find themselves struggling to determine whether Zach and Ryan’s relationship is salvageable. Employing Shovel’s narration, which is directed at Zach, Bacon (The Last Human) tells a familiar story of deep loss and friendship that combines gentle humor and ardent wistfulness, making the themes of trauma suppression and the reluctance to move on feel both personal and universal. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sarah Burne, the Gernert Company. (Oct.)