It is my unwavering belief that picture books help children to make sense of the world around them. If they are finding something difficult there is almost certainly a book that will help them out with it. Friendships can be one of the most difficult things for our little ones to navigate through. One day someone is your best friend, the next they don’t want to know you, the day after that they want to be your friend and it’s your turn to play it cool. Its all so tricky. There are gazillions of books about friendships and it’s a theme I plan to revisit many, many times but for today I thought I would champion some of the most interesting books I have recently discovered that show the reality of friendships and could help children to view friendship in a new way.
The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright and Jim Field
I have seen from my instagram account that the illustrations in the this book really appeal to people- whenever I post a picture from this book it gets a lot of love! Jim Field is an amazing illustrator (we love his books Oi Frog! and Too Many Legs with Kes Gray) and the way he uses the layout of the page really enhances the story. (If you are interested in his process, which I am, check out http://jimfield.co.uk/The-Lion-Inside to see how it all developed. It’s fascinating!)
In a nutshell a little mouse is fed up of being overlooked and decides to do something about it. He thinks if he can get Lion to teach him a roar then others might notice him and he’ll have friends and a happier life. He plucks up the courage to meet Lion only to discover that he is terrified of mice and Mouse ends up being the one to calm and reassure him instead and they become firm friends. What I really love about this book is the way the author, Rachel Bright, puts some really deep sentiments into her writing and champions courage and bravery and positivity. And the last page really sums friendship and relationships perfectly. Every bookshelf should have a copy of this.
Pig and Small by Alex Latimer
Another unlikely pairing are the characters in this story. I have to admit that my daughter was attracted to this at the library ‘because it has a pig in it’ but I’m so delighted she chose it. It is not one that I have seen gets a lot of publicity and I think it really captures the sometimes awkward feeling of wanting to be someone’s friend but not knowing where to start.
Pig can hear squeaking and it takes him a while to realise there’s a bug on the end of his nose who is trying to make friends. The animals try really hard to find things to do together but their size always seems to get in the way (this part is hilarious with loads of size related gaggs that will make your little ones really chuckle!) Eventually they decide they can’t be friends and sadly part ways until the wind blows a newspaper in Pig’s face and gives him a great idea. They soon find that there are lots of theings they have in common (whilst still having some things they don’t enjoy together) and end up being the best of friends.
This book really cleverly looks at the effort that it takes to form friendships and shows that just because you don’t instantly have things in common it doesn’t mean that you won’t be friends- it just takes a bit of work and trial and errror. The last page is also really clever as an elephant arrives and asks to be friends, making the pig the small friend rather than the big one and turning everything on its head. I would put a copy of this book into every Primary School if I could as it would make an invaluable tool for discussing how to build relationships which is so crucial in those early years.
A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton
This inventive book is actually two stories in one! The first tells the story of a little girl who finds a strange creature in the woods, rescues it and takes it home. The second tells the tale of a little animal who is taken from the woods by a strange creature who takes it home and turns it into a pet. (Yes, it’s the same story two different ways). In the end, the characters realise that they both actually quite like each other and go skipping off into the woods in the middle of the night to have allsorts of fun.
This book is really clever on lots of levels. I especially like the way it is split into two so that both sides of the same story are shown. It is a fun way to explore how different characters have different points of view. The girl’s story shows that we should not always take for granted that others are enjoying the same games as us while the creature’s story shows that sometimes you will find that if you try new things you might end up with some new friends too. All good messages for our little readers to hear and explore.
Marshall Armstrong is new to our School by David Mackintosh
This book might be best for slightly older children. The (un-named) main character is not happy when his teacher makes him sit next to Marshall Armstrong, the new boy at school. He doesn’t like anything about Marshall because he is so different- he can’t join in with sports, has pale spotty skin, eats unusual food and doesn’t have a TV at home. It gets even worse when his mum insists that he goes to Marshall’s party. However, when the children arrive it is nothing like what they expect and they all see Marshall in a different light, having a marvellous time. Needless to say Marshall makes plenty of friends and next time there is a new child at school the boy volunteers to help her settle in.
This book is a painfully honest look at how children sometimes judge one another harshly and is a good way of discussing all the positives that can come from opening up and getting to know people who are not like us. The illustrations are really stylish and quirky and it’s one of those books where you spot something new every time you read it. Well worth giving it a look.
Of course, friendship is probably one of the most prevalent themes in picture books with an element of friedship or having friends being part of the vast majority of them. However, these ones have all struck me as having something new or interesting to say or have made me think about things in a new way. If you have read one of them I’d love to know what you think. Please let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!