Virtual Friend by Mary Hoffman felt familiar to me because the first illustration is one Reading Matters often uses in training sessions. It turns out the theme of book is very similar to the areas we explore using the illustration. Ben is an only child, his Mum has died recently and his Dad has buried himself in his work. They have moved to a new town, so Ben has started at a a new school late in the term and has not made any friends.
Ben and his Dad are befriended by the mad professor next door. They use his latest invention, a Virtual Reality programme. Ben creates a new best friend, Rory Polestar, who is all too real to him. When the power is lost Ben experiences a real sense of loss.
To Ben's surprise and confusion, next day, Rory turns up at school! No one is sure who is real and who's not. Rory helps Ben break the ice with the other kids. This is all he needs. When Rory 'goes home' only Ben remembers him. But all his new friends are still there.
It's a really sweet little story, I really felt for Ben. The illustrations, by Shaun McLaren, give a real window into the story and themes too. Which is why we use one of them in our training!