Jacques Papier is living happily with his twin 'sister' Fleur. Some aspects of life confuse Jacques. Why doesn't he get picked for sport teams? Why does the teacher ignore his waving hand when he clearly knows the answer to a question? Why did a boy nearly sit on him at lunch? And
"On Thursday, I waited in line for the bus, and before I could get on, the drive shut the door. Right in my face ... Fleur made the drive stop, got off, and walked home beside me."
The confusion continues when Jacques learns Fleur has an imaginary friend. He decides he needs one too. Are you following this? Jacques is an imaginary friend (he discovers this on page 32) and now he wants his own imaginary friend. An imaginary friend with an imaginary friend!
"If I am a genie, the you are the lamp. I am the barnacle to your whale, the character to your novel, the tides pulled by your moon. .... I am nothing more that a specimen in the Museum of Fleur's Imagination."
If you have read O'Diddy (please try to find this tiny, insignificant but brilliant book) and perhaps The Imaginary (not for young children) you will know Imaginary friends are assigned their humans from some central authority. For reasons I did not really understand Fleur sets Jacques free. Jacques finds himself at the Reassignment Office. He rushes through the bureaucratic form and in his haste mentions his arch enemy - Fleur's wiener dog Francois. He is assigned to a little girl called Merla yes he is now a wiener dog. What follows are a series of failed assignments. Merla gets a real dog so next he goes to Bernard, a very shy but intellectual child with no friends. Jacques sorts Bernard out and in a glorious moment Bernard and Jacques win the school talent quest.
Jacques story finally goes full circle when he finds himself back where he started.
Here is a funny description of the Office of Reassignment :
"The officer wore glasses on a chain that kept getting tangled in her arms, but she still seemed to be getting a large amount of work done. This was most likely due to the fact that she had been imagined with not two but eight tentacles arms ... The Office of Reassignment was always moving. I'd been told, and was currently located in a large cardboard box in a yard full of toys."
Kirkus says : The description of this hilariously inefficient bureaucracy would make most adults chuckle knowingly, but it seems unlikely that young readers will get the joke.
This is at the heart of my problem with this book, which others have described as a classic. I am not sure who is the intended audience. The story is too complex for young readers and perhaps too farcical for Middle Primary. Here is a review you could read. The School Library Journal also highly recommend this book. Jen Robinson has also reviewed this book.
Here is an alternate cover.