cover image Real to Me

Real to Me

Minh Lê, illus. by Raissa Figueroa. Knopf, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-37749-9

“When you have a great friend,” Lê (The Blur) begins, “the rest of the world can seem to disappear.” In digitally created spreads, Figueroa (We Wait for the Sun) imagines a Black child in a purple dress perched atop the head of a green, furry creature whose wide-eyed expression signals pleased anticipation. The two seem to launch a small, light airship that whizzes off into the air. “Others tried to tell me that she wasn’t real, that she was just imaginary,” musing lines continue, as the duo dash across a bridge in the moonlight, firework-like blooms glowing beneath them. “But what did they know?... My friend was always there for me, and I can’t image anything more real than that.” Following pages of adventures, the friend disappears one morning. The book’s narrator grieves—whether or not the friendship was present for others, the bond and loss are real—until healing begins and new friends appear. To Lê’s simply told, heartfelt reflection on childhood bonds, Figueroa adds two rich, unexpected dimensions: a dramatic, luminous visual universe, and a narrative twist likely to tweak readers’ initial assumptions about the imaginary. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Stephen Barbara, InkWell Management. Illustrator’s agent: Natascha Morris and Tracy Marchini, BookEnds Literary. (May)