25 Children’s Books About Friendship

The recent onslaught of anti-bullying books has been rubbing me the wrong way. Many anti-bullying books focus on what kids should not do rather than what they should do. Many intentionally or unintentionally encourage kids to label each other as “bullies” and “victims,” which, in my opinion, does neither those bullying nor those being bullied any good.

Furthermore, the pat solution to bullying seems to be: “Tell a trusted adult when you see someone being bullied.” This advice was sound when “bullying” was defined narrowly as “habitually affecting by means of force or coercion.” However, this advice seems shaky with the definition of “bullying” rapidly expanding to include taking a friend’s toy, not including someone in a game, talking about someone behind their back etc. By encouraging kids to “tell a trusted adult” in these instances, anti-bullying books discourage kids from attempting to resolve conflicts themselves.

friends

In lieu of an anti-bullying booklist, I share this list of books about friendship and kindness. The books below encourage kids to develop positive social skills. They encourage kids to share, communicate, be kind, include kids in their play and develop empathy. This booklist includes many of my favorite stories about friends and many of my favorite stories period. Enjoy!

Friendship-Themed Stories

Toot and Puddle: You Are my Sunshine by Holly Hobbie. This book is one in a series of books about two adorable pigs, Toot (the adventurer) and Puddle (the homebody), who are best friends. In all Toot and Puddle books, the two friends are affectionate, picking out thoughtful gifts, writing postcards to eachother, and looking out for each other. In Toot and Puddle: You are my Sunshine, Puddle goes to great lengths to try to cheer up his friend Toot. Ages 3+

Days With Frog and ToadDays With Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. Days With Frog and Toad includes five short stories — or fables — about two best friends: Frog and Toad. Arnold Lobel is a wonderful storyteller. Lobel’s stories have quirky plots, authentic characters and humor. They are held together by the affection depicted between the two main characters. In Days With Frog and Toad, Frog gently encourages Toad to clean, the two work together to fly a kite, Frog gives Toad a birthday present that does not fit and Toad feels rejected when Frog decides to spend some time alone. Ages 3+

A Sick Day for Amos McGeeA Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin Stead. A Sick Day for Amos McGee is a very sweet book about a friendship between a zookeeper named Amos and the animals he cares for. When Amos gets sick, his friends elephant, tortoise, penguin, rhinocerous and owl come to his house to comfort and care for him. Ages 3+ 

George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends by James Marshall. First and foremost, this is a collection of truly entertaining little stories about two best friends, George and Martha. As with real best friends, George and Martha’s interactions are not always perfect (e.g. Martha paints over one of George’s paintings). I like how these stories depict the two friends looking out for each other, learning to balance telling the truth with being considerate of others’ feelings, and arguing and making up. Ages 3+

Friends - Rob LewisFriends by Rob Lewis. Oscar moves to a new town with his mother and tries to make friends. At first, Oscar is critical of each new kid he meets and refuses their invitations to play. Oscar eventually realizes that in order to make friends he will have to be more flexible and try playing new things. Ages 3+

FriendsFriends by Helme Heine. In Friends, three best friends go on an outing together. They play hide-and-seek, pick cherries, discover an old boat and pretend to be pirates. One line lessons about friendship are interspersed throughout the story. E.g. “Good friends always decide things together.” and “Friends are always fair.” While these lessons would make an older kid cringe, my young kids have all enjoyed this story and not been the least bit deterred by the explicit messages it contains. Ages 3+

Crazy Hair DayCrazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg. Readers will feel for the main character in this story, who mistakenly dresses up for crazy hair day when it is picture day, and appreciate his classmates’ super, compassionate response. A wonderful story. Ages 3+

Best Friends for FrancesBest Friends for Frances by Russell Hoban. Russell Hoban is among my favorite storytellers for children. He does a fantastic job of depicting childhood emotions. In Best Friends for Frances, Frances is left out by her good friend Albert. In retribution, she decides to befriend her sister and go on a no boys outing. In the end, the friends decide that they will not leave each other out in the future. Ages 4+

Hunter’s Best Friend at School by Laura Elliott. This story describes a scenario commonly encountered by preschoolers and kindergarteners: the best friend getting in trouble at school. In this story, Hunter’s best friend Stripe is acting too silly at school. Hunter follows along, until Hunter’s mom suggests a better solution. Ages 4+

Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes. A super entertaining story, with brilliant illustrations and humorous characters. When Lilly moves into the neighborhood, Chester and Wilson are initially suspicious of Lilly’s eccentric ways. After Chester and Wilson get past their initial distrust, they discover that they have things in common with Lilly, have fun introducing eachother to new things, and ultimately end up being great friends. Ages 4+

Horace and Morris but Mostly Dolores by James Howe. An entertaining story about three spunky mouse friends who mistakenly succumb to the lure of the Mega-Mice (No girls aloud!) clubhouse and The Cheese Puffs (No boys allowed!) clubhouse. In the end, Dolores speaks up and starts an inclusive club devoted to activites that Horace, Morris, and Dolores all enjoy. Ages 4+

Vera's New SchoolVera’s New School by Vera Rosenberry. Critics of this and other Vera books have noted that Vera Rosenberry’s stories are not particularly reassuring. True. And, I would not recommend this book to a child moving to a new school. I love Vera Rosenberry’s books not because they reassure but because they accurately reflect feelings that many kids face. In this way, Vera Rosenberry’s books remind me of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books. In Vera’s New School, Vera attends her first day of classes at her new school. While many kids at Vera’s new school miss opportunities to reach out to her, one girl befriends her. This engaging story provides opportunities to discuss what the kids at Vera’s new school could have done to make Vera feel welcome. Ages 4+

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson. A funny story, with instructions for turning a best enemy into a best friend. A very entertaining and satisfying read. Ages 4+

 

 

Should I Share My Ice CreamShould I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems. Mo Willems series of early readers are not to be missed, whether you are looking for books for emerging readers to read themselves, humorous books to entertain or stories about friendship. Those looking for stories about friendship should check out Should I Share My Ice Cream?, Can I Play Too? and My Friend is Sad. Any messages about friendship flow naturally from the stories Willems tells about best friends Elephant and Piggie. Ages 5+

Those ShoesThose Shoes by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Z. Jones. In Those Shoes, the main character’s family cannot afford a pair of the shoes — black high tops with two white stripes — that all of his classmates are wearing. Despite feeling left out, the main character is able to reach out to the one other kid in the class whose family can’t afford “the shoes” with a neat act of kindness and generosity. Ages 5+

The Name JarThe Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. The Name Jar is a story about Korean immigrant Unhei’s first few days at school. Unhei decides to embrace her Korean name, and a boy Joey reaches out to and befriends Unhei. A wonderful story about difference and about reaching out to the new kid at school. Ages 5+

 

Feelings by Aliki. There are several good books about feelings. This book stands out because it is useful for helping kids understand feelings associated with common kid-to-kid interactions (e.g. how sharing or not sharing makes both the sharer and recipient feel). This book has lots of little vignettes depicted in cartoon format. Ages 5+

 Each KindnessEach Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson and E. B. Lewis. In Each Kindness, a new girl Maya moves to town. It is clear from Maya’s old and ragged clothes that Maya’s family does not have as much money as do her classmates’ families. Maya’s classmates refuse to talk to or play with her. Each Kindness is told from the perspective of one of Maya’s classmates. When Maya leaves school, the narrator regrets not being kind to Maya. Ages 6+

Instructional Books About Being a Good Friend

Sharing TimeSharing Time by Elizabeth Verdick and Marieka Heinlen. Sharing Time provides simple, explicit instructions for how to share toys. This book is very useful for toddlers and preschoolers. Readers can practice asking for (rather than grabbing) toys and learn a short list of options for sharing toys. Ages 2+

You are FriendlyYou Are Friendly by Todd Snow and Melodee Strong. You Are Friendly gives young children concrete examples of things they can do to be kind to others (e.g. ask someone to play, give someone a hug when they are sad, hold the door for someone whose hands are full). An empowering book for young people. Ages 3+

The Best Friends Book by Todd Parr. In this upbeat and humorous book, Todd Parr describes best friends as friends who accept you as you are, forgive you, share, visit you when you are sick, make you laugh etc. Ages 3+

How to be a Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them by Laurene Brown. How to be a Friend has explicit instructions about how to be a good friend that would likely sound too preachy to an older kid. However, for the four to seven-year-old kid in the throws of learning how to treat friends, this book has valuable suggestions for joining others who are playing, handling bosses and bullies, and settling arguments. Ages 4+

Do Unto OttersDo Unto Otters: A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller. This book — Do Unto Otters — and the following book — How Full Is Your Bucket? — are both excellent books to read at the start of the school year. Do Unto Otters offers readers a humorous introduction to the golden rule. In this story, three otters move into Mr. Rabbit’s neighborhood. Mr. Rabbit is worried that he and the three otters will not get along. Mr. Rabbit recalls an old saying: “Do unto otters how you would have otters do unto you.” He then brainstorms all of the ways he hopes the otters will treat him. Ages 5+

How Full is You Bucket for KidsHow Full Is Your Bucket? for Kids by Tom Rath, Maurie J. Manning and Mary Reckmeyer. How Full Is Your Bucket? introduces kids to the concept of an invisible bucket. Readers learn that everyone has an invisible bucket that holds good thoughts and feelings. When a person’s bucket is full, they feel good. When a person’s bucket is empty, they feel bad. How Full Is Your Bucket? encourages kids to be bucket fillers. Ages 5+

Growing Up With a Bucket Full of HappinessGrowing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life by Carol McCloud and Penny Weber. Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness elaborates on the concept of an invisible bucket. Aimed at older kids, this book discusses ways to fill people’s buckets, how to avoid dipping into other people’s buckets and how to “use your lid” to guard and protect the good thoughts and feelings inside your own bucket. Ages 8+

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8 Responses to 25 Children’s Books About Friendship

  1. Vickie Kolb says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more about “bullies.” If someone does something you don’t like, they are a bully, however, if you do something to someone that they don’t like, you do not consider yourself a bully. I believe we are encouraging “victimhood” and creating a generation of people who do not know how to solve problems on their own. It starts very young. With that being said, parents need to be “peaceful” so they are not role modeling violence as a way to solve problems. Adults holding children to a higher standard than adults are willing to live by. It’s backwards. We need books to teach adults not to be bullies. If we end adult bullying we will not have children bullying.

  2. Two of my 3yo’s current favorites are “Making Friends” by Fred Rogers (instructional) and “I’m Here” by Peter Reynolds, which validates the introverts among us!

  3. Lisa says:

    Fantastic selection for the younger set!! Would love to see more for the older reader who is learning to navigate playground politics. My daughter has learned too well to give “I messages”, which I fear exacerbates the problem, at the expense of learning flexibility and compromise.

    • Amy says:

      For kids in grades 3 – 7, I like the last book on the list — Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness. It is a nonfiction book with concrete suggestions for interacting positively with other kids. I have been considering expanding this blog to include book recommendations for kids up to grade 5. This may happen post-grad school (>December).

  4. this is such a heartwarming collection you are sharing here… I love them all if only by title for now… as adults we could benefit from reading a child’s how to book on friendship :) thank you, alexandra

  5. Jennifer says:

    Hear hear! I had a parent ask for anti-bullying books because there were “a lot of bullies” in her daughter’s preschool class. Um…no, those aren’t bullies. Those are three-year-olds!

  6. Thanks for your great list. The books — classics one and all — brought back many memories! I’ll be using the list as a “don’t forget any of these” reference when I place my next book order.

  7. Sandy Brooks says:

    Amy,
    You’re right. Kids that are often the hardest to love are those that need it the most!

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