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

Who am I?

I’ve lived for over fifty years as a bashful introvert with social anxiety, which gives me a heightened appreciation for friendships, and for books about making friends. As an author and illustrator—and as a mom—my artistic mission is to create books that help all children feel cherished and appreciated. Everybody wants to be loved, everybody wants a friend. Even the loners and introverts out there. I love and collect books about friendship because they model friendly behaviors. These books give me the desire and the courage to reach out to others, and since I’m an extreme case, I imagine they must have a similar effect on most readers.


I wrote...

Let's Be Friends: A Lift-The-Flap Book

By Violet Lemay,

Book cover of Let's Be Friends: A Lift-The-Flap Book

What is my book about?

Friends can come from anywhere. Friends can live in any kind of house. Friends can be of different ages. Friends can look different. And friends can have different faiths. This sweet board book filled with warm and lively illustrations by Violet Lemay celebrates friendship and the importance of embracing our differences. It joyfully shows diverse children from all over the world and teaches a valuable lesson: we are all just people and we are all worthy of friendship.

Violet Lemay's many charming books for children ages 2 to 5 and their caregivers include Library Babies, The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book, TummyTime: Happy Baby, and Healthy, Healthy. Love, Love, Love.

The books I picked & why

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Ivy & Bean

By Annie Barrows, Sophie Blackall (illustrator),

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.

Ivy & Bean

By Annie Barrows, Sophie Blackall (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ivy & Bean as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The moment they saw each other, Bean and Ivy knew they wouldn't be friends. But when Bean plays a joke on her sister, Nancy, and has to quickly hide and Ivy comes to the rescue, proving that sometimes the best of friends are people never meant to like each other. Vibrant characters and lots of humor make this a charming and addictive introduction to the Ivy and Bean Book Series.

From beloved children's book author Annie Barrows, The Ivy & Bean collection has been delighting preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and kids of all ages for nearly two decades. Centered upon messages…


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.

Because of Winn-Dixie

By Kate DiCamillo,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Because of Winn-Dixie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Funny and poignant, this 2001 Newbery Honor novel captures life in a quirky Southern town as Opal and her mangy dog, Winn-Dixie, strike up friendships among the locals.

One summer's day, ten-year-old India Opal Buloni goes down to the local supermarket for some groceries - and comes home with a dog. But Winn-Dixie is no ordinary dog. It's because of Winn-Dixie that Opal begins to make friends. And it's because of Winn-Dixie that she finally dares to ask her father about her mother, who left when Opal was three. In fact, as Opal admits, just about everything that happens that…


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.

Forget Me Not

By Ellie Terry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Forget Me Not as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Calliope June has Tourette syndrome. Sometimes she can't control the noises that come out of her mouth, or even her body language. When she and her mother move yet again, she tries to hide her TS. But soon the kids in her class realise she's different. Only her neighbour, who is also the class president, sees her as she truly is - a quirky kid, and a good friend. But is he brave enough to take their friendship public?

As Callie navigates school, she must also face her mother's new relationship and the fact that she might be moving again…


Wonder

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!

Wonder

By R.J. Palacio,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Wonder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Has the power to move hearts and change minds' Guardian

'Tremendously uplifting and a novel of all-too-rare power' Sunday Express

'An amazing book . . . I absolutely loved it. I cried my eyes out' Tom Fletcher

Read the award-winning, multi-million copy bestselling phenomenon that is WONDER in this new tenth anniversary edition.

'My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.'

Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things - eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside. But ordinary kids don't make other…


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.

Because You'll Never Meet Me

By Leah Thomas,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Because You'll Never Meet Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ollie and Moritz are two teenagers who will never meet. Each of them lives with a life-affecting illness. Contact with electricity sends Ollie into debilitating seizures, while Moritz has a heart defect and is kept alive by an electronic pacemaker. If they did meet, Ollie would seize, but turning off the pacemaker would kill Moritz.

Through an exchange of letters, the two boys develop a strong bond of friendship which becomes a lifeline during dark times - until Moritz reveals that he holds the key to their shared, sinister past, and has been keeping it from Ollie all along.


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