The best picture books about unlikely friendships

Jacky Davis and Giselle Potter Author Of Olive & Pekoe: In Four Short Walks
By Jacky Davis and Giselle Potter

The Books I Picked & Why

The Knight and the Dragon

By Tomie dePaola

Book cover of The Knight and the Dragon

Why this book?

More than anything I love a picture book where a princess is also a librarian. In this story, the knight and dragon learn everything from books—like tail swishing and building armor, all of which lead to a big, pointless fight that leaves them bruised, burned, and battered. The librarian shows up in a book-mobile and hands the dragon and knight BBQ cookbooks. In the last illustration spread, they are shown with a hopping K& D BAR-B-Q joint. I especially enjoy how the armor and fire-breath that were previously used for fighting each other, are now used successfully for their restaurant venture. De Paola’s simple and colorful watercolors bring the story to life, and show that we can all get along really well! 

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The Lion & the Mouse

By Jerry Pinkney

Book cover of The Lion & the Mouse

Why this book?

Jerry Pinkney beautifully tackles Aesop’s fable, The Lion & the Mouse. His version is wordless except for a few, potent calls from the animals in the savanna. Pinkney’s luminous watercolor illustrations depict alive and intricate landscapes and animals. Life is shown to be rich, beautiful, and dangerous as a mouse narrowly escapes the talons of an owl, only to stumble upon a magnificent lion. The lion kindly sets the mouse free, and later in the story when the lion is captured by hunters, the mouse hears his mighty roar and comes to his aid, nibbling away the ropes. Once released the lion and the mouse return to their families. I love how this story reflects the inter-dependency of all of us, and how we all matter for the well-being of the other, no matter the size or status of any one individual.

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Lottie's New Friend (Lottie's World)

By Petra Mathers

Book cover of Lottie's New Friend (Lottie's World)

Why this book?

Lottie is a wise, steady chicken and Herbie is a silly, insecure duck, but their strong friendship is at the core of all the stories in this five-book series. Herbie is extremely jealous of Lottie’s new friend, Dodo. While Lottie is away, Dodo gets stuck on her roof, overcome with a fear of heights, and Herbie comes to her rescue. Herbie feels much better when Dodo says, Now I know…why Lottie says you can always count on Herbie…and that you are ze apple of her eye.” Our whole family is very attached to the endearing personalities of Lottie and Herbie and the stained, worn pages of our copies show how frequently they have been read.

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Amos & Boris

By William Steig

Book cover of Amos & Boris

Why this book?

Amos, the mouse, and Boris, the whale, have little in common other than their tender feelings for each other. Amos built a boat and set out to sea, but when he falls into the ocean, Boris comes to his rescue. While tiny Amos rides on the giant whale’s back to safety, their friendship blossoms. Of course, a mouse and a whale can never live together, which makes tears roll down Boris’s cheek (and mine). But as with all great friendships, “They knew they would never forget each other.” Steig’s stories always manage to entertain and touch our kids while maintaining an adult level of sophistication and depth.

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Gaspard and Lisa Friends Forever (Misadventures of Gaspard and Lisa)

By Anne Gutman, Georg Hallensleben

Book cover of Gaspard and Lisa Friends Forever (Misadventures of Gaspard and Lisa)

Why this book?

When a new student, Lisa, comes to Gaspard’s class, he thinks she looks weird. Other than her color, she looks identical to Gaspard and they are both the only dogs in a classroom of humans, but Gaspard does not want anything to do with Lisa. After he learns she is a fast runner who helps his team win a race, he changes his mind and they become friends forever. The loose, bright paintings accentuate their childlike personalities. All their naughty “misadventures” make us laugh out loud every time we read them, which is a lot! 

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