The story is narrated by Budo, Max’s imaginary friend. Max is in elementary school. He is autistic and “lives in his head.” Other children don’t attempt to play with him. Max is oblivious anyway. Budo says he just doesn’t like people.
Max is said by some to have “Aspergers” and by others to be “on the spectrum.” None of this matters to Budo. It is his job to be next to Max and protect him.
Of course Max is often taunted by bullies. Aren’t all children who are “different” in some way?
Max lives in a world where repetition is his friend. He cannot tolerate change of any kind. He will only wear seven items of clothing, so his mother sews a lining in his coat, because by the time it gets to mittens, they have reached seven items of clothing and she doesn’t want him to be cold.
His mother frets over him. His father says he’s normal, but deep down, he knows his son is not at all “normal.” His father goes out to play catch with Max. But Max lets the ball roll to his feet, then picks it up. No matter how many times his father tells him how to play, Max does the same thing every time.
Sometimes, horror of horrors, Max gets stuck. These are the worst times. He gets so agitated that he doesn’t scream or cry out, but gets stuck in his head and can’t get out. Budo is always there to comfort him until he gets unstuck.
A troubled teacher gets so caught up in her own fantasy that she does the unthinkable.
It is up to Budo to rescue Max, but Budo is limited as an imaginary friend, and he doesn’t know how he’s going to accomplish such a feat.
Max, despite all the things he cannot do, manages, finally, to do the unimaginable.
But the sad thing is, once children don’t need their imaginary friends anymore, these friends fade away until it is almost as if they were never there. They have short-lived lives.
If you read this book, you will laugh. You will cry. You will come to understand what it’s like to live in a little boy’s head who sometimes “gets stuck.”
This is a beautiful story, underscored by the author’s lack of embellishment. He successfully manages to tell this story much like a child would tell it.
And therein lies the magic that makes this book a five star winner.