Gold medal in the 2020 Illumination Book Awards, Spirituality category, sponsored by the Jenkins Group.
From the US to Nepal, author J. Bradley Wigger travels five countries on three continents to hear children describe their invisible friends—one-hundred-year-old robins and blue dogs, dinosaurs and teapots, pretend families and shape-shifting aliens—companions springing from the deep well of childhood imagination. Drawing on these interviews, as well as a new wave of developmental research, he finds a fluid and flexible quality to the imaginative mind that is central to learning, co-operation, and paradoxically, to real-world rationality. Yet Wigger steps beyond psychological territory to explore the religious significance of the kind of mind that develops relationships with invisible beings. Alongside Cinderella the blue dog, Quack-Quack the duck, and Dino the dinosaur are angels, ancestors, spirits, and gods. What he uncovers is a profound capacity in the religious imagination to see through the surface of reality to more than meets the eye. Punctuated throughout by children's colorful drawings of their see-through interlocutors, the book is highly engaging and alternately endearing, moving, and humorous. Not just for parents or for those who work with children, Invisible Companions will appeal to anyone interested in our mind's creative and spiritual possibilities.
About the author
J. Bradley Wigger teaches religious education and childhood studies at Louisville Seminary. An ordained Presbyterian minister and a recent Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology, Dr. Wigger has served churches in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Mexico. His most recent publications are the picture book for children, Thank You, God (2014), and Original Knowing: How Religion, Science, and the Human Mind Point to the Irreducible Depth of Life (2012).
"Brad Wigger took the time to shed his professorial skin, entering with empathy into the world of children who trusted him enough to reveal themselves. He's now returned from their world to make the invisible visible. Read this book to open your eyes—wide!"
—Jerome Berryman, Godly Play Foundation
"Brad Wigger's artful mix of storytelling and new research captivates the imagination, drawing us into his own journey of discovery. One of the best reads I have enjoyed for some time, his delightful book shares valuable reflections on human uniqueness, early childhood development, and the origins of religion."
—Justin Barrett, Fuller Theological Seminary
"In this captivating book, Brad Wigger's intriguing research on young children's imaginary friends leads us into deep consideration of our remarkable human capacity for social imagination. Whether your primary interest is child development, the cognitive foundations of religion, or human nature itself, you will find much to think about here."
—Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn
"Theologian J. Bradley Wigger interviewed hundreds of children from diverse cultures and found evidence of imaginary friends wherever he looked. His wonderful book documents his quest to understand how these imaginary friends fit into the larger worlds of invisible beings."
—Marjorie Taylor, author of Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them
"Its riveting stories of children and adults aside, this engaging book is ultimately a work of theology that poses a profound question: Is God just another imaginary friend? And, if not, what is the difference?"
—Robert Wuthnow, author of The Left Behind
"[A] charming, insightful, generally persuasive book....The fruits of children's relationships to their invisible friends, as Wigger convincingly presents them, are uncommonly sweet. For that sweetness alone, his book is worth the reading."
—David J. Halperin, Society for Psychical Research
"J. Bradley Wigger challenges us to keep an open mind when it comes to friends that we cannot see. This eloquent book...poses that by having a clearer understanding the imagined world, we have a better grasp on reality."
—Mike Findlay, Psychreg