The best picture books about finding and helping friends

The Books I Picked & Why

George and Martha

By James Marshall

Book cover of George and Martha

Why this book?

I have always loved to read comics in the newspaper. My favorite is Peanuts. Like Peanuts, the sparse text, simple pictures, and humor of all of the George and Martha books make me smile. I can still hear the giggles when I’d read them to my children. But don’t be fooled because hidden in the sparse text are nuggets of gold about friendship. Friends are honest, friends help each other, friends support each other, friends forgive and friends use humor to cheer each other up. 

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Strictly No Elephants

By Lisa Mantchev, Taeeun Yoo

Book cover of Strictly No Elephants

Why this book?

I must confess I have a fondness for elephants since my children are graduates of The University of Alabama and their mascot is an elephant. And it reminded me of Jerry Smath’s But No Elephants that was much loved in our home. A boy laments that when you have a tiny elephant for a pet you never quite fit in. But that’s ok because they are friends and they help each other. When they are not allowed in the Pet Club, they’re sad, but they find a girl with a skunk and before you know it, they’ve made new friends and a club where All Are Welcome. I love the portrayal of friendship and inclusion in the text and illustrations.

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By Aaron Becker

Book cover of Journey

Why this book?

Because I like to write stories, I love wordless picture books because the reader tells the story. In Journey, adventures begin when a lonely girl draws a magic door. I love how the journey requires her to problem solve and draw what she needs. When she comes to a river, she draws a boat, but at the waterfall she draws a hot air balloon to escape. When she sees a bird imprisoned, she sets it free, but she’s captured, losing her crayon in the process. The bird returns, crayon in beak, and draws a door. When she goes through, she is back home and meets the boy who has drawn the bird. At the end of her journey is a friend. The illustrations are rich with details, adding layers to the story.

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Mr. McGill Goes to Town

By Jim Aylesworth

Book cover of Mr. McGill Goes to Town

Why this book?

Recently my son asked if I still had this book because he wanted to read it to his children. Why do some childhood books stick in our memory? Mr. McGill was a fun book with characters like Mr. McGill repairing his mill, Mr. McRae cutting his hay, Mr. McCall building his wall. They all have tasks that are too big to do alone and they all want to get to town before the sun goes down. It is a wonderful story of working together; showing how helping someone else can help you. And why do they want to get to town before the sun goes down? “Then when they were done, they sat out of the sun, where Mr. McQuade served them cool lemonade! Ahhh…”

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The Christmas Witch

By Steven Kellogg

Book cover of The Christmas Witch

Why this book?

Steven Kellogg has written wonderfully imaginative stories with illustrations that should be pored over. Both of my adult children wanted this book from my stash. It’s an atypical Christmas book, yet shows us that love and generosity can turn enemies into friends. Gloria is training to be a witch, but she’d rather smile than scowl. She’s sent by an angel to a dark planet where the Pepperwills and Valdoons have been feuding for centuries. With some help from elves, Gloria figures out how to bring light to the planet. The clans finally end their feud when Gloria asks them, “remember how happy you were when the magic of Christmas entered your hearts?” Just imagine if we could all be Gloria spreading love and generosity.

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