BOOKS THAT HELP – NAVIGATING FRIENDSHIPS

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THE BUTTERFLY DANCE (Suzanne Barton)

The Butterfly Dance follows the relationship between two caterpillars, Dotty and Stripe. They have a wonderfully close relationship and despite their differences they manage to remain friends even once they have become butterflies.

(Reviewed by Catherine Freiss, Story Snug)


HOW TO MEND A FRIEND (Karl Newson, Clara Angunuzzi)

How To Mend a Friend is a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book which looks at different ways that friends may deal with difficult situations and how we can support them if they need us. A little girl joins a variety of animals including diary writing penguins and TV watching monkeys as she looks at ways that friends deal with problems and anxieties and helps readers to understand the different ways that they can help and support their friends.

(Reviewed by Catherine Freiss, Story Snug)


BIG BROWN BEAR’S CAVE (Yuval Zommer)

Big Brown Bear’s Cave is a wonderful story to show children that people and relationships are much more important than possessions.

Big Brown Bear’s friends are quite bemused when he starts filling his cave with ‘stuff’ but they are there to help him when he needs it. We love the illustration of the bear friends all curled up together in the cave!

(Reviewed by Catherine Freiss, Story Snug)

I DEFINITELY DON’T LIKE WINTER (Fiona Barker, Christine Pym)

Hank and Hoog are the stars of I Definitely Don’t Like Winter (Scholastic, 2022) two adorable squirrels that are the best friends …at least until winter draws near. Then, rather than doing everything together, they disagree on everything instead.

Hank is so annoyed! Falling leaves mean winter is coming, and Hank definitely does not like winter. BRRRRRRR!

But Hoog is overjoyed! Hoog loves winter – the snow, the snuggles, all of it! AHHHHHHH!

This wonderful wintry book is written in warm, fun prose by Fiona Barker and stunningly brought to life by Christine Pym. The story follows Hank and Hoog as they put their differences aside, agreeing on one important thing – they definitely need each other. As with all good friendships, they learn the importance of empathy – learning to see things from each other’s point of view – and compromise.

A great book that could help readers navigate relationships with friends when they disagree.


THE FRIENDSHIP BENCH (Wendy Meddour, Daniel Egneus)

The Friendship Bench (Oxford University Press, 2022) is the story of Tilly who moves to a new house and starts a new school. But Tilly doesn’t find school easy, especially when she can’t take her best friend, Shadow the Dog, or Mum into school with her. Tilly loves doing cartwheels in the sand and playing catch with Shadow… but inside is full of strangers. Tilly’s teacher suggests she try the Friendship Bench but somebody is already on it.

The story centres around a friendship bench that Tilly isn’t sure is working. A boy has been sat on it for ages. When Tilly finally approaches the bench, the pair decide it must be broken and so fix the bench with sticks and leaves and magical sand.

This picture book has gorgeous light-filled illustrations and a perfectly judged text that combine to gently introduce the idea that sometimes you can make new friends without even trying, without even realising. Friendship benches or similar are popular in school playgrounds, but this picture book would be relevant to a range of settings, reassuring readers that friendship can blossom in unexpected places.


THE SUITCASE (Chris Naylor-Ballesteros)

The Suitcase (Nosy Crow, 2020) is a simple but inspiring story to start conversations about migration with young children. With everyone, in fact. A strange-looking creature appears with a suitcase and the other animals in the story are uncertain about them. The creature has travelled for a long time and has come a long away. While the creature sleeps, the other animals break open their suitcase to find out more about them.

The economic speech and use of white space add to the poignancy of this story, and to the takeaway that we should treat displaced people with empathy and kindness.


SOMETIMES – A BOOK OF FEELINGS (Stephanie Stansbie, Elisa Paganelli)

Sometimes: A Book of Feelings (Little Tiger, 2021) is a helpful book with a rhyming text and characterful illustrations, that takes the reader through a day with two children who experience a whole myriad of emotions. From excitement to disappoint, anger, fear and sadness, we are given tips on how to manage emotion, as well as introduction to how it can feel. 

There are lots of lovely things to spot in Elisa’s detailed artwork, alongside the use of colour and weather that combine to portray atmosphere. There is much to discuss in Stephanie’s text and in the storyline too, such as when the reader might have experienced various feelings and what they did about it.

What was especially impressive about this book was the backmatter – a guide to each emotion helping readers, young and old, learn about feelings, re-iterating the takeaway that everybody has feelings and that’s ok.


HOW MESSY! (Clare Helen Welsh and Olivier Tallec)

How Messy! (Happy Yak, 2022) is a simple yet hilarious story with a touching ending and an important message about accepting differences and learning to compromise. Dot and Duck are best friends, but Dot hates mess and Duck hates tidy. Duck leaves the bed unmade, the cupboards open and breakfast everywhere. How messy!

In the morning, Duck makes Dot pancakes for breakfast, how kind! But Duck leaves a BIG mess! At the beach, Dot carefully lays out her towel and picnic… and Duck digs a big hole covering everything with sand! SO messy! Characterful watercolour illustrations bring this story to life, and big font makes the story easy for young readers.

“How Messy! is a simple yet effective text. Clare tells the story in only 116 words. The book is about Dot and Duck who go on holiday to the seaside. Dot finds Duck’s untidiness very frustrating. She likes things in their place – neat and tidy – but Duck prefers the more organic and creative approach. Read how they learn to cooperate and accept each others different personalities.

I love the way Olivier Tallec makes the action explicit through his vinaigrette illustrations. He uses a limited primary colour palette of yellow, red and green with a hint of blue, pink and orange. The expressions on Dot and Duck’s faces are superb. Other books in the Dot and Duck series are How Selfish! and How Rude!

This series of books would be ideal for KS1 and nursery children. They could be used as a starting point to stimulate discussions on manners, tolerance and accepting each others differences. Each story is very relatable and guaranteed to make the children laugh and maybe even gasp out loud at some of the character’s behaviour.!”

(Anita Loughrey – author and book reviewer)


HOW SELFISH! (Clare Helen Welsh and Olivier Tallec)

One day Dot and Duck find a stick, only Dot thinks it’s a sword and Duck thinks it’s a flag. When Dot refuses to share the new toy, she goes to any lengths to make sure Duck doesn’t try to take it. How will Duck react to such selfish behaviour?

“How Selfish! by Clare Helen Welsh trumpets the virtues of sharing within a skilfully immersive plot. Young readers will love the snappy dialogue and humorous drawings that drive home the story’s message: ‘In a world where we can be anything, isn’t being kind the greatest thing of all?'” — Emily Bearn ― The Telegraph

Bright and colourful illustrations accompany this fun and easy to read story, which will bring a smile to the faces young children time and time again. Simple, funny, and ultimately touching, How Selfish! (Happy Yak, 2022) will appeal to any child who is learning what it means to share and, more importantly, what it is to be a true friend. 


HOW RUDE! (Clare Helen Welsh and Olivier Tallec)

Join Dot and Duck in a simple, yet hilarious, story about kindness, manners and friendship that gets more and more chaotic with every turn of the page!

Dot invites Duck to a tea party, but from the moment Duck enters the house, the tea party descends into chaos; from licking sandwich fillings to spitting tea, Duck gets ruder… and ruder… and ruder. Just how will Dot react to such outrageous behaviour?

Simple, funny and ultimately touching, How Rude! (Happy Yak, 2022) is a little book about manners that will appeal to readers learning how to be considerate and polite with their friends.


THE BIG ANGRY ROAR (Jonny Lambert)

The fun word play and collaged characters in The Big Angry Roar (Little Tiger, 2022) work in perfect collaboration for a little cub’s journey through the savannah as he finds a way to let out his anger. When Cub has sibling troubles, and gets so angry he thinks he might POP, he sets off to find a solution. But stamping and stomping and bashing and crashing only make him angrier. Through Jonny’s characterful illustrations and dynamic text, Cub learns that everyone gets angry and that’s ok, but it is important to find a way to let his anger out.

Cub’s solution feels expected initially – with deep breaths in and out – but ends with funny faces and giggles. Soon Cub feels much better and apologises to his sibling for a suitably heartfelt ending. Whilst this is a story about siblings, it could easily be used to support friendships, too. A perfect combination of heart and humour with a relatable and empowering takeaway.


THE VISITOR (Antje Damm)

The Visitor (Gecko Press, 2019) is a truly glorious picture book starring Elise who is scared of everything, so never goes outside. But one day something blows in through the open window – a paper plane! When a boy comes along to collect it, he looks around and makes conversation with Elise, who ends up reading to the boy. Not content with a story, the boy also wants to play.

The 3D illustrations – cut out characters that move through hand-made paper scenes – are original and highly effective. There’s a beautiful contrast between the dark of Elise’s house and the warm yellow of the outside.

At the end of the story, thanks to the contact with Emil, the unexpected visitor, Elise has reconnected with the outside world. The illustrations intimate that she might have a plan to venture out and meet people again. A unique and subtle story about facing fears.


LUBNA AND PEBBLE (Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egneus)

‘Lubna and Pebble’ (Oxford University Press, 2019) is a beautiful and powerful story about two children and a pebble that have fled their home, who find friendship ‘in a world of tents.’

Lubna finds the pebble on the beach when they arrive in the night, and she falls asleep in Daddy’s salty arms. Pebble always listens to her stories and smiles when Lubna feels afraid. But when a lost little boy arrives, Lubna understands that he needs Pebble even more than she does.

This is a beautifully illustrated story, evoking all the emotions of this unknown and uncertain world. The writing is full of gentle but powerful emotive language. Overall, it’s a very moving story of kindness, hope and friendship despite challenging times.


WILD FOR WINNIE (Laura Marx Fitzgerald, Jenny Løvlie)

Winnie is no ordinary child. She sees, hears and views the world differently, which makes starting a new school challenging. It’s also a bit difficult for the other children in the class. But when the teacher suggests they try things from Winnie’s point of view, they realise that what Winnie needs is to feel included in their world, on her terms—not theirs.

Wild for Winnie (Dial Books, 2022) is a story filled with useful ideas and interventions that prevent Winnie from being excluded from school with her peers, including time to monkey around outside and calm spaces.

At the end of the book there are some carefully considered suggestions that can make a classroom environment more inclusive for neurodiverse children, including swinging, deep-touch pressure, thrill-seeking activities and some calm ones.

Jenny’s colour palette is cosy and perfectly chosen, as I’ve come to expect from Jenny’s work. The metaphors and similes for Winnie’s behaviours – howling like a hyena, being antsy, chomping like a piranha, monkeying around – are visual and accessible to young children. This would be a great class read, helping children and staff make their classrooms accessible for all, whilst also being a book to help neurodiverse children settle into a new setting.

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