8 by Eight
Make a Friend
The friendship books listed here acknowledge the paradoxes of friendship. Friends can like us just the way we are and they can encourage us to change. Friends enjoy spending time together and like to be alone. We need friends to help us and sometimes we need them to do nothing. We connect with our friends because of our similarities and friendship overcomes differences. We can like our friends and be mad at our friends and love our friends. Sometimes friends happen fast and sometimes friends happens slowly. We find friends in unexpected places. Friendship is complicated and messy and wonderful and vital. There are no rules for friendship, but as we see here, one of the guiding principles of friendship is the best way to make a friend is to be a friend.
In Be a Friend, Dennis has his own way of communicating. People call him “Mime Boy.” He uses actions instead of words. Sometimes he feels disconnected, until he meets Joy. Joy and Dennis communicate without speaking a word, “because friends don’t have to.” Be a Friend is about finding that connection with someone that makes you feel seen, understood, loved.
Strictly No Elephants is a personal favorite. Its charming illustrations, humor, and underlying message will enchant readers of all ages. When a boy and his elephant arrive at Pet Club, they are shocked (SHOCKED!) to discover a sign on the door stating: Strictly No Elephants. Being excluded hurts, but the two friends stick together, because “that’s what friends do.” They meet a girl with a skunk, also excluded from pet club, and a host of other children with unwelcome animals. They decide to form their own pet club, but this club is open to everyone. Because that’s what friends do.
Chester’s Way is a classic and one of my all-time favorite Kevin Henkes books. Chester and Wilson are best friends and they do things exactly the same way. They are two peas in a pod. Then Lilly moves into the neighborhood. Lilly has her own way of doing things and she challenges Chester and Wilson to push their boundaries and try new things. Resistant at first, the pair appreciate Lilly’s willingness to stand up for them and eventually all three find common ground.
Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse is about a friend who is not a good friend. Adrian is a loner and tries to connect with people by telling stories about his horse. Chloe isn’t buying it. She knows he’s lying. Outraged, she tells her mother who takes her on a walk to Adrian’s house. Chloe is on the verge of calling Adrian out, again, but instead she swallows her words and discovers that Adrian has something even better than a horse: he has an amazing imagination. Conversations about compassion, empathy, and understanding people before judging them can’t start too early. Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse, with its subtlety and open spaces for interpretation, will help kick start some of these conversations.
The Rabbit Listened is one of my favorite picture books from 2018. A story about emotions, it is a wonderful read-aloud because of all the animal personalities. They try to help. Really they do. But their attempts are misguided. Until the rabbit comes along. The rabbit listens. Isn’t that what we all need sometimes? Someone to listen. Not to try and fix things or make us feel better or do anything for us. We just need a friend who listens.
Days with Frog and Toad contains five short stories and the last one is called “Alone.” Frog wants to be alone. He sits on a tiny island all by himself. Toad is upset. Why does Frog want to be alone? Did Toad do something wrong? Are they no longer friends? Is Frog upset? No. Frog is happy. He loves being friends with Toad. He just wanted to be alone to think about all the things that make him happy. Now he’s ready to be with Toad and sit on the island together. It can be confusing when our friends need time apart. “Alone” is a great reminder for all of us that sometimes friends need space, but they are still our friends.
Jerome by Heart is translated from French and recently received an ALA Batchelder Award honor. Raphael loves Jerome. He loves the details: Jerome’s warm smile, his strength, the way Jerome defends him. Raphael’s parents don’t approve of Raphael’s devotion. Raphael thinks. And thinks. And declares his love. Young readers will recognize the intensity of Raphael’s feelings, be they of friendship or more.
A Moon for Moe and Mo is partially a holiday book and partially a friendship book. Both Moe and Mo live in Brooklyn on opposite ends of Flatbush Avenue. A chance meeting at a market sparks a friendship. The two boys have lots in common: a love of candy, soccer, and falafel. Their paths don’t often cross, but another chance meeting at the park brings the two friends back together and this time their mothers discover that they, too, have lots in common. The boys’ friendship spreads to their families and they celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan together. Back matter includes information about both holidays, recipes, and an author’s note that Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan overlap roughly every thirty years. The author also explains that, “the Hebrew and Arabic words for compassion, rahamim (Hebrew) and rahma (Arabic), share the same root. Compassion is the foundation of any good friendship.”