So how’s everyone doing? My kids went back to school as fully remote students today… it’s got to get better, right? RIGHT? I will say that one thing that’s been a saving grace during this has been the ability to get together with friends. We wear our masks, we sit out in the open, and our kids are able to run around together and get some much-needed friend time in.
My older son, a high school senior (WOW), has been active throughout the quarantine by gaming and videochatting with his friends; he’s just started meeting up with them in public parks and spaces, so that’s helped him, too.
Seeing my 3rd grader brighten up when he saw all his friends online (the remote learners all have the same class for now) was amazing. He saw a bunch of these kids yesterday, but seeing him light up at the thought of having ALL of his school friends in his class was wonderful: “Mom! There’s Harry! And Rahwi! And Miles!” He went down the line, calling out every one of his friends, and it helped him engage with the teacher and ease into a fairly stressful day (for me, anyway).
Having said that, I thought I’d talk up some books about friends that are just right for readalouds this time of year, when we’re making new friends and greeting existing friends. Enjoy some buddy time with your littlest friends and read a few of these.
Lost Beast, Found Friend, by Josh Trujillo/Illustrated by Nick Kennedy and Melanie Lapovich, (June 2020, Oni Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781620107423
This rhyming story of friends helping one another is absolutely adorable. Keelee is a young girl living on an island, who discovers a big, purple beast one day! The poor beast is lost and scared, and Keelee comes to the rescue by calming and befriending the Beast, and journeys with her new, lost friend across the island to find Beast’s home. The rhyme is so comforting; it’s a joy to read and listen to, and kids will ask for this one again and again. The colors are just incredible: so vibrant and happy, with adorable characters and lush landscapes. I love spending time with this story and can’t wait to bring this to my preschoolers. It’s a sweet story of friendship that appeals to all ages.
Will You Be Friends With Me?, by Kathleen Long Bostrom/Illustrated by Jo de Ruiter, (July 2020, WorthyKids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781546033806
I love board books! Will You Be Friends With Me? is an adorable board book that’s all about celebrating the little things that make us individuals: “I like orange. / You like pink. / I use crayon. / You use ink.” Each phrase ends with the question, “Will you be friends with me?”; it’s an invitation to embrace these fun differences and celebrate the choices available to us. Featuring a soothing rhyme scheme and a gently illustrated group of diverse children, this is an adorable story for storytime and cuddle time. It’s a sweet way to introduce personal preferences and remind toddlers and preschoolers that we don’t always have to like the same things to be friends: in fact, liking different things just gives us that much more to talk about. Don’t miss the free, downloadable companion activity sheets, courtesy of publisher, Hachette.
The Same But Different Too, by Karl Newson/Illustrated by Kate Hindley, (March 2020, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212013
Another book about celebrating what makes us unique, The Same But Different Too is a rhyming look at what makes us the same – but different, all at once. Diverse children and animals join together to celebrate what we have in common, and what makes us each a special individual: children play hide and seek with a zebra, against a striped wall: “I am playful. / You are too. / I can’t hide as well as you”; a child and a tiger wait at a rainy bus stop, while another child dives underwater with jellyfish, a whale, and a squid: “I am wet. / You are too. I can splash and swim like you.” The pencil artwork and digitally colored illustrations are lively, cartoony, and fun. This one is a guaranteed win for storytime.
The Word for Friend, by Aidan Cassie, (June 2020, Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR), $18.99, ISBN: 9780374310462
Kemala is a pangolin who’s moved, with her family, to a new country! She loves to talk and can’t wait to make new friends… but she realizes that their words are different from hers. She doesn’t understand the language here in her new country, and she curls into a little ball, feeling alone. But not to worry! A friendly anteater named Ana introduces herself to Kemala as she sits by herself at recess, cutting animal shapes from leaves. The two bond over a shared love of crafting, and before Kemala knows it, she’s laughing and learning how to communicate, with and without words. A timely story of kindness, empathy, and being the new kid, The Word for Friend is touching and heart-aching at points. Aidan Cassie makes us ache for Kemala when she realizes that “all her wonderful words were missing”; and we rejoice as Kemala and Ana discover how to communicate together with the puppets they create, giving Kemala the confidence she needs to come out of her little ball. An author’s note introduces readers to Esperanto, Kemala’s “new language”, and provides phrases used throughout the book. There’s a note about pangolins, too! (If you love them and want more pangolin stories, may I steer you to Tracey Hecht’s Nocturnals series?) The artwork has earth colors and softer, less cartoony versions of animals like foxes, otters, raccoons, and, naturally, a pangolin and an anteater. The endpapers are stunning, with black, intricate cutout artwork of animal puppets that become part of the story, set against a brown/beige background.
A gorgeous story of friendship and language that you shouldn’t miss. Keep this with books like Anne Sibley O’Brien’s Someone New and I’m New Here, and Chana Stiefel’s My Name is Wakawakaloch!