The duo from the We Are (Not) books are back; this time, they’re learning how to handle having a new friend in the picture. Brown bear and Purple bear are having a great time playing together, when a Blue bear shows up and asks to play. Brown exuberantly agrees, but Purple isn’t quite so sure. Sure enough, Purple and Brown hit it off immediately, and Purple finds himself left out, and proceeds to subtly enact measures that will get Blue away from his best buddy! Blue doesn’t get the hint, and when he returns, Brown suggests they all play together. But now Brown is on the outs, and he’s not happy about it at all. Can three friends find a way to play that makes everyone happy?
The thing I love about the We Are (Not) books is their genuine voice. If you’ve been around kids, this is how things play out; when there are three, someone’s going to end up mad, crying, breaking something, or all of the above. Kids are learning how to navigate relationships; so are Brown, Purple, and Blue. Kids and adults alike will recognize this situation; use that recognition to get them talking about what the three friends could have done differently from the start. Has t his ever happened to them at school? The playground? Home, with friends or family? (Adults can talk about it, too, because let’s be honest: we still haven’t figured it all the way out.) Anna Kang’s dialogue and the escalating frustration of trying to be included when you feel like you’re being left out is so honest, so adorably real, that your readers will giggle with recognition and empathy. And this is a great way to start discussions about inclusion and empathy.
Christopher Weyant’s art is just a joy to look at. It’s bold, bright, and uncomplicated. The bears are simply drawn, performing in their white space, with a chest full of hats and props to move the story forward. Facial expressions, paw gestures, and sound effects roll across the page and speak volumes. We Are (Not) Friends is essential picture book reading.
Anna Kang’s and Christopher Weyant’s You Are (Not) Small is a Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Winner (2015). Visit Anna Kang’s author website for free downloadable activity kits, coloring pages, and curriculum guides for You Are (Not) Small, which you can use to enhance a reading of We Are (Not) Friends.