The best children’s books about friendship and the courage to reach out to others

The Books I Picked & Why

Ivy & Bean

By Annie Barrows, Sophie Blackall

Book cover of Ivy & Bean

Why this book?

This beautifully written, beautifully illustrated, hilarious tale of an unlikely friendship is so fantastic that it spawned a beloved series! Both the words and the art will keep you and your young one engaged and giggling. The original Ivy and Bean remains my favorite, but the entire series is wonderful. Perfect early chapter books for mischievous readers.

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Because of Winn-Dixie

By Kate DiCamillo

Book cover of Because of Winn-Dixie

Why this book?

A lonely girl adopts a dog who becomes a sort of friendship gateway for her. Because of her new dog—Winn Dixie—India Opal forms many friendships with the people in her new town, and generally brings the community together. This book was a favorite for my son and I to read together when he was small. I return to it every few years and am never disappointed. A perennial favorite.

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Forget Me Not

By Ellie Terry

Book cover of Forget Me Not

Why this book?

Calliope June has Tourrette syndrome to thank for her friendlessness. She doesn't fit in, at all. Lucky for her, she moves in next door to Jinsong, a popular boy who sees Calli as a puzzle that he'd very much like to figure out. Befriending her could have social consequences for him, though, so of course, it's a bumpy ride. Calli's chapters are written in verse. A lovely middle-grade novel.

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By R.J. Palacio

Book cover of Wonder

Why this book?

After having been homeschooled all his life because of the medical complications of a severe facial deformity, Augie is enrolled in an actual middle school. Despite his unusual circumstances and many ups and downs, he makes lots of friends—even a best friend—and brings the entire school community together. This middle-grade novel features chapter headers designed by the author, who is also an illustrator and designer. A gorgeous book!

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Because You'll Never Meet Me

By Leah Thomas

Book cover of Because You'll Never Meet Me

Why this book?

Ollie and Moritz are in short supply of friends, due to extraordinary circumstances—Ollie is allergic to the world and can't leave his house, and Moritz was born without eyes and is therefore socially "repellent". Encouraged by their mutual doctor to become pen pals, the boys become friends, and their friendship gives them each the courage to reach out and make other friends as well. This entire YA book is told through their correspondence. Rich language, compelling story, lovable characters.

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