Help kids learn the invaluable skills of how to build, nurture, and appreciate friendships with these three gorgeous books!
Franklin’s Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell, illustrated by Katie Harnett (Thames & Hudson, ages 4-8)
Franklin is a cave-dwelling dragon with a passion for reading. He reads novels and comic books. He reads cookbooks and how-to guides. He likes stories about knights and books about spiders. He likes using what he’s learned to help others in their endeavors, like setting up a trapeze for acrobatic bats. But what he likes most is reading to others.
Following a series of fear-driven rejections from local villagers, he meets Luna. Luna is a small red-headed girl and a kindred spirit. Together they realize Franklin’s dream of building a community bookshop, complete with cozy couches, on Franklin’s back. And it’s Luna’s fierce love for her friend that compels the frightened villagers to give Franklin and his bookshop a try.
This book is everything wonderful. It is thoughtfully written and beautifully illustrated, creating a book that is as much a pleasure to read aloud as it is to slowly peruse with the eye.
In the midst of this lovely reading experience, lessons of friendship manifest. We see the danger and foolishness of letting fear dictate judgment. We delight in the friendship of two beings who look nothing alike but share interests, passions, and values. We observe how generosity of spirit brings happiness to others. And we watch as shared experiences turn strangers into friends.
Role-modeling open-mindedness, kindness, generosity, and friendship, this is a book you’ll want kids to internalize. And for older kids, it’s a great platform for discussing friendship. Why do shared interests lead to friendship? How does shared experience grow friendship? How does prejudice create barriers to relationships?
And, of course, it’s a book that advocates the joys of literacy — a winner on every level!
Dear Bunny… by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Blanca Gómez (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, ages 3-6)
The premise of this instantly endearing, visually delightful book is a young girl’s letter to her toy bunny. Responding to the bunny’s question, “What’s your favorite thing in the world?”, we follow along as she recounts all the things she and her bunny do together.
With pitch-perfect first-person voice, the author captures a young child’s magical thinking and belief in the autonomy of her toy bunny beautifully. Like all small children she has numerous favorite things. And her thoughts shift quickly as emotions run high to low over the course of ordinary events. Throughout all, the beloved bunny is a steady presence. They laugh and play together. They sit together quietly in thought. They go through the daily routines together. They help each other sometimes, and at others have cause to apologize. Through it all, Bunny helps her feel happier, braver, and less alone.
The brilliance of this book is its simplicity. The dynamic between child and toy allows for the portrayal of an idealized friendship with universal appeal. In doing so, it paints a beautiful template of friendship. The overall message is one of gratitude for the sublime joys of true friendship: consistency, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, shared experience, and a safe space to be oneself.
Albie Newton by Josh Funk, illustrated by Ester Garay (Sterling, ages 5-9)
Albie Newton is a young genius entering a new school. Eager to make friends, he decides to engineer a gift for his classmates. His intellectual talents quickly set him apart from the other children. But it becomes rapidly apparent that his talents do not extend to interpersonal skills.
Although well intentioned, Albie’s singular focus on his invention leads to behavior that is selfish, rude, disruptive, and destructive. Eventually out of patience, his classmates transform into an angry mob that is stayed by the appeal of a young girl to give Albie the benefit of the doubt and pause to learn more about what Albie has been creating. Delighted with his invention, Albie is ultimately forgiven and embraced by his peers.
This book is an exceptionally fun and engaging read that my kids ask to hear time and again. With rhythmic text and energetic, colorful illustrations the classroom and all of its emotional energy quickly comes to life. The result is an excellent platform for discussing the importance of communication, consideration for others, and appropriate behavior in a communal space. My favorite aspect, though, is the message that being a friend and part of community is, in itself, a skill that needs to be developed and practiced like any other.