Lottie and Walter, by Australian author, Anna Walker, is a sweet story of overcoming fear with the help of an imaginary friend. Lottie is terrified of getting into the pool for swimming lessons because she is sure that there is a shark in the water who wants to eat only her. She avoids the pool with her imaginary friend Walter (a large, lovable walrus) until she hears him calling her from the splashing waves and decides to plunge in.
As I read this book to multiple classes, I was tickled to see the different reactions to the shark and Walter. Kindergarteners – ever the literal thinkers – were convinced there really was a shark and that the change in Lottie was realizing that it wasn’t a shark at all, it was her friend Walter the walrus. Only a few brave souls ventured the idea that maybe Walrus wasn’t real.
In first grade classrooms, I started to hear more kids say the phrases “imaginary friend” and “it was just her imagination” with an “Aha!” sense of accomplishment, having figured it out. The end of the book felt like a big reveal to these six and seven year olds and they were proud of themselves for the thinking work they had done.
Then on to second grade where the “big kids” were unphased by the author’s craft. They knew right away that neither the shark nor Walter were real and easily got straight to the heart of the story – that an imaginary friend can help us overcome our fears.
What a fun way to see how childhood development intersects with reading development!
Lottie & Walter would be a great addition to a text set on overcoming fears – with favorites like Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall and Hannah and Sugar by Kate Berube. It also could pair nicely with a book on imaginary characters – like Camp Tiger by Susan Choi or Jessica by Kevin Henkes.
“She thought it was a shark, but it was her friend, Walter!” – Kindergartener
“She thought there was a shark there, but it was a shadow because she was really scared. See? It’s just a little dark! The other kids don’t see it! Sometimes when I’m scared I think I see something, but it’s not real. Just my imagination.” – First Grader
“She made up Walter like an imaginary friend. Then she’s not afraid anymore and can jump in the water.” – Second Grader