Picture Book Themes Exploring Friendships Lost, Gained, Treasured and Imagined

Many picture book themes resonate with children, especially those that portray the various aspects of friendship. Preschoolers and early elementary school-aged children are just beginning to experience what it means to be a friend, to share, to be kind, to cooperate, to disagree, to get angry, to reconcile, to feel accepted and understood. Friendships start small and grow, are tested and even lost but these relationships are an integral part of a young child’s development into a compassionate, self-aware human being.

Children lose friendships, when neighbors or classmates move or change schools, and they make new friends for the same reasons. What happens when a child has a best friend and a new one comes along, changing the dynamic of an existing friendship? How do children respond when their best friend is being teased? How do children learn to stand up for friends who are being teased? No one wants to feel isolated or unwelcome, and yet there will be times when children experience these challenges.

Books are an excellent way to explore these facets of friendship. The Butler Center has recently received several picture books that share a common theme when best friends, whether real or imaginary, are lost, gained, challenged and treasured.  We hope you can take a few minutes to peruse these titles and others in the collection!

Big Friends by Linda Sarah, illus. by Benji Davies (Henry Holt, 2016).

Two young boys, Birt and Etho have formed a comfortable, dependable friendship as they spend their days coming up with imaginative ways to pretend play with two cardboard boxes. A third boy, Shu, asks if he can join them and the three boys spend time together, until Birt finds that he misses playing alone with his best friend, Etho. He stops playing with them altogether until he is coaxed back in with a new box invention created by Etho and Shu. This is a warm, gentle story that depicts the trials young children face with the changing dynamics of expanding friendships.

Life Without Nico by Andrea Maturana, illus. by Francisco Javier Olea (Kids Can Press, 2016).

Nico and Maia are best friends who find endless ways to play together until Nico learns that his family must move away for a period of time, leaving Maia to overcome the empty feeling of lost friendship. Time without Nico is difficult for Maia, but she eventually discovers other ways to pass her time and even meets a new friend. Upon Nico’s return, Maia fears that these changes will affect her friendship with Nico, but happily learns otherwise. Author, Andrea Maturana, explores our capacity for change and our ability to reconnect with absent friends.

My Friend Maggie by Hannah E. Harrison (Dial Books, 2016).

Paula adores her best friend Maggie. They are inseparable until Veronica, another classmate, convinces Paula that Maggie is too big and clumsy to be worth hanging around. Paula drifts away from Maggie but finds herself in the same position when Veronica decides that Paula is the next target of her teasing. Young children can explore ways to stay true to meaningful friendships, even when they are challenged by others. This book will be released in August. An advanced reader’s copy is available for review in the Butler Center.

Sam and Jump by Jennifer K. Mann (Candlewick, 2016).

A child’s best friend does not always have to be human! Author, Jennifer K. Mann describes the friendship between Sam and his stuffed animal, Jump. Characteristic of best friendships, Sam and Jump are never apart, until Jump is accidentally left behind at the beach when Sam finds, Tim, a young boy with whom he spends the day playing in the sand and water. Sam experiences a restless night worrying about ever seeing his beloved stuffed animal again. The next day, a grateful Sam is not only reunited with Jump, but with his new friend Tim. Children whose most precious friendships begin with a treasured stuffed animal or toy will identify with the feelings associated with losing and, hopefully, reuniting with it, as well as finding comfort in welcoming new relationships.