The best children's books about the value of friendship

The Books I Picked & Why

Do Not Go in There

By Ariel Horn, Izzy Burton

Book cover of Do Not Go in There

Why this book?

I was friends with the author in high school, and we co-edited the comedy section of the school paper together. Reading her book as an adult is such a joy. Her irreverent sense of humor really shines through. It's a very simple story about two (monster) friends who find a red door. One imagines all the worst things that could be behind it, while another imagines all the best. It's a great example of how different points of view make for the best teams. Also, the illustrations by Burton are both playful and breathtaking, with colors and characters that really pop!

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Ira Sleeps Over

By Bernard Waber

Book cover of Ira Sleeps Over

Why this book?

I discovered this book at a library storytime when I was five. The kids were invited to wear their pajamas, making it feel just like a sleepover! I was the perfect age for this story, as I had just made my first best friend in my kindergarten class and was starting to do sleepovers for the very first time. Revisiting this story as an adult, I'm struck by how well it captures the intensity of what should be a very simple decision: bring a teddy bear to a sleepover or not. The author understands how high the stakes are in childhood friendships, where one moment of embarrassment can feel like the end of the world! 

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Frog and Toad Together

By Arnold Lobel

Book cover of Frog and Toad Together

Why this book?

I didn’t read these stories until I was an adult; a dad actually. My wife loves them and we read them to our son at night when he was first born. The story ‘Cookies’, in which Frog and Toad try to stop themselves from eating too many cookies, has a special meaning for my wife and her friends from college. I’ve always admired my wife’s genuine and wonderful friendships, and to me, this book symbolizes what friendship is really about: having someone to eat too many cookies with. 

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Dream Friends

By You Byun

Book cover of Dream Friends

Why this book?

Eight years ago, when I was living in Brooklyn and looking for direction in my children’s book career, I was lucky to know this wonderful artist who gave me a signed copy of her book. It’s been a great inspiration to me professionally, and has a very sweet story as well. It’s about a girl who has a ‘Totoro’-esque best friend in her dreams, and then uses that friendship to make a new best friend in real life. I can really relate to the new-kid-in-town anxieties around friendship, and I love the illustrations. The dream-like images and colors in this book are cozy and sublime, making for a perfect bedtime read.  

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Will Giraffe Laugh?

By Hilary Leung

Book cover of Will Giraffe Laugh?

Why this book?

The fact that I’ve read this book to my son nearly every night for the past year and am not sick of it yet is a testament to how charming it is. This book is about a group of friends and one of them, Giraffe, is very grumpy. The friends take turns in trying, then failing, to cheer him up, until finally they all become sad and it’s up to Giraffe to cheer up his friends. The story is a great reminder that our emotions are not just ours. They’re contagious and affect those we love most. Also, if I had to pick a book to represent my son, who usually has a grumpy look on his face, this would be the one! 

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