As you know, good, long-lasting friendships are hard work. Kids learn early that their actions and attitudes can affect their friendships. They also learn that having a true friend is one of the most rewarding aspects of being human! This list of my favorite picture books about friendships look at what it takes to be a good friend from all viewpoints, both the good times and the tough times.
I’m happy that I was able to make a list of picture books about friendships with a wide range of diverse of characters and situations. I think you’ll find a book about friends for whatever situation your child is in, be it making a new friend, losing an old friend or figuring out how to cooperate, get along and show kindness to others.
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Children’s Picture Books about Friendship
Tiger and Badger
by Emily Jenkins
Tiger and Badger are best friends but that doesn’t stop them from getting into arguments, even over seemingly trivial things. (But remember, nothing is trivial to a child!) After every tiff, however, they are able to put things right, whether it be with working together to solve a problem, or with a silly face. This is one of the best books about friendship I have read and I urge you to pick up a copy!
In a Jar
by Deborah Marcero
I adore this book and its marvelous illustrations! Llewellyn loves to collect things in jars. At first he collects ordinary items but when he meets Evelyn, the two of them begin collecting extraordinary items. They put rainbows, seasons, sounds and feelings in jars. Llewellyn is sad when Evelyn has to move away but the two maintain their friendship by sending each other more extraordinary items.
by Jeremy Tankard
When Grumpy Bird wakes up, he is grumpy! Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. Too grumpy to do anything, even fly, so he walks along in his grumpy mood. As he passes each of his friends, he snaps at them but they join him anyway and the grumpy walk turns into a sort of follow the leader game and Grumpy Bird can’t help but let friendship and fun turn his frown upside down.
Hector and Hummingbird
by Nicholas John Frith
Hector and Hummingbird are friends but lately Hector has been annoyed with how much noise Hummingbird makes! But when he finally gets what he wants, he misses his friend and learns that being left alone isn’t exactly what he wanted.
by Allison Farrell
This lovely story is an ode to the wonders of the natural world and how friendships flourish in the great outdoors. Three children head out for their favorite activity, a hike. They eat berries, draw wildlife, and romp across the trails. After a while, they get tired, but they encourage each other to keep going. The illustrations and endnotes include facts about the flora and fauna.
Strictly No Elephants
In this very popular picture book about the rewards of standing up for one’s friends a boy brings his elephant to a Pet Club. When he arrives, he learns that his pet friend is not welcome. However, he remains loyal to his pet and instead forms a new club with other children whose unusual pet friends have been similarly rejected.
The Other Side
by Jacqueline Woodson
A fence, both metaphorical and physical, defines the boundary between Annie’s white family and Clover’s African-American one. Clover’s mom has told her not to cross the fence because it is unsafe. Instead, Clover sits on the fence, watching the other girl play. Annie eventually approaches Clover and the two sides begin talking, a friendship is formed and the fence, finally crossed. The final image of a line of girls sitting on the fence points to the possibilities of the future.
The Lion and the Bird
by Marianne Dubuc
In this wonderful picture book, a friendship that blossoms after a lion begins to care for a wounded bird. The bird is unable to migrate with his flock, but he spends the winter engaged in fun activities with his new friend. When the flock returns the bird must join them, but later he is able to reunite with his friend. The illustrations are utterly charming.
Bear Came Along
by Richard T. Morris
After emerging from his cave, Bear falls into the river and begins a journey downstream. Along the way he picks up various animal companions, including a frog and a turtle, a raccoon and more. During their watery ride, the animals discover they need each other and then–here comes the waterfall! Utterly joyous.
Melia and Jo
by Billy Aronson
Melia is very scientific. She like rules, measurements and inventing things. One day she meets Jo. Jo is artistic; she loves dancing, thinking out of the box and letting her imagination run wild. At first Melia is annoyed by Jo’s interference but then they start to work together and realize that their styles are better together! The endnotes of the book give instructions for Melia and Jo’s airplane and a discussion of turning STEM into STEAM.
The Bear and the Piano
by David Litchfield
After a bear discovers a piano in the woods he becomes quite the virtuoso. A pair of children hear his music and convince the bear to go to the city and share his talent with the world. But bear worries about his fellow bear friends. Will they want him back when he returns or will they think he has abandoned him? The ending of this book will warm your heart and soul.
Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse
by Leo Lionni
Alexander, a real mouse, is jealous of Willy, the wind-up mouse. Willy is played with, while Alexander gets chased away with a broom. But when Willy is discarded, a friendship with his real counterpart develops. A classic picture book about finding a friend by showing kindness.
Four Feet, Two Sandals
by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed
Two girls in a Pakistan refugee camp each find one shoe. Lina and Feroza meet and decide to share the sandals. A friendship develops and they share details about why they have come to the camp. The text contains descriptions about life in the camp, such as waiting in long lines for water, washing clothes in the river and waiting at home while boys go to school. This is an important book that humanizes the experiences of children in refugee camps.
Baabwaa and Wooliam
by David Elliot
Oh, how I love this book. Wooliam reads and Baabwaa knits and while they are enjoying the day a filthy sheep with terrible teeth (who is actually a wolf) appears. But sadly, he can can not read. So Wooliam sets out to teach him to read, and Baabwaa will knit him a nice fresh sweater. Absolutely hilarious!
Jerome By Heart
by Thomas Scotto
loved this book! Raphael is great friends with Jerome. His parents don’t really understand the friendship, but Raphael loves the way he and Jerome laugh together, the way his friend defends him, and the stories he tells. Raphael says it is easy to love Jerome. The book is so flexible because readers can acknowledge the importance of having caring, same-gender friendships. Others will take away a subtle message about acceptance of LGBTQ relationships. Overall, the tone of the story is one of joy. Lovely.
The Rabbit Listened
by Cori Doerrfeld
Taylor (depicted as gender neutral so any child can identify with Taylor) is building a block tower when a bird comes and knocks it over. Taylor is very upset and several animals come over to try and fix the situation. They go about it all wrong, however. They shout, vow revenge or try to dismiss Taylor’s grief. The rabbit, however, listens and allows Taylor to experience an entire range of emotions over the loss of his tower. I absolutely adored this book and parents will learn a good lesson for themselves when reading it, too!
by Thao Lam
In this mostly wordless tale, a girl moves into a new home. She spies a trio of friends in a treehouse and watches them with interest. But when they see her, she hides, unable to make the leap necessary to join them. Instead, she peels back a piece of the wallpaper and steps into an imaginary world. Her adventure inside this world helps her find the courage to make friends in the real world. Making new friends can be incredibly tough for some children, but even if it is easy for your kids, learning to develop empathy for those who struggle is an important step towards building a depth of emotional intelligence.
A Friend for Henry
by Jenn Bailey
Henry looks about his classroom, he notices all the details about the objects and his fellow classmates. He is looking for a friend and wonders how he will fit in. As he tries to find a child to be his friend, there are some misunderstandings and set-backs, and a bit of sensory overload at times. Even kids who are not on the autism spectrum will recognize the challenges and rewards that come with learning how to be a friend.
My Three Best Friends, and Me, Zulay
by Cari Best
Zulay, who is blind, enjoys going to school with her diverse group of friends, but what she doesn’t like are her special lessons to learn how to use her cane. When news of field day arrives, the possibility of participating in a race is just the motivation Zulay needs.
Mama Lion Wins the Race
by Jon J. Muth
Kids who love cars and races will enjoy this cheerful book and it is a great book about friendship for preschoolers. Friends Mama Lion and Tigey take off on a race through the countryside. Mama Lion points out how the world is lovely and friendly. When they loses a tire, others stop to help, proving Mama Lion’s mantra, “winning isn’t everything.”
by Lois Brandt
Sofia and Maddi play after school but when the girls go to Maddi’s apartment and the hungry Sofia looks for a snack she is surprised to find an almost empty fridge. Maddi makes Sofia promise not to tell anyone that her mom does not have enough money for the grocery store. Sofia worries about what to do, and ultimately makes the right decision for her friend. I like how this book emphasizes community, as well as kindness towards individuals.
I’m New Here
by Anne Sibley O’Brien
Every child knows what it is like to walk into a room and not know anyone. Compound that with not being able to speak the language, or not being familiar with the culture and it can lead to some anxiety indeed. Three children—from Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia—tell their stories of what it is like to be the new kid from a distant land. I’m so delighted that now there is a second book, Someone New , that tells the stories from the “old” students’ points of view!
by Randall de Sève
Here’s a gorgeous book about how it often takes bravery to overcome shyness and make new friends. After Zola moves to the neighborhood, the girl next door wonders if Zola would ever want to be her friend when she already has an elephant to do so much cool stuff with! But is it really an elephant, or is that just her imagination?
by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds
Can you be friends with a tree? Sylvia writes a poem and ties it to a tree. To her surprise, another poem appears in response. Sylvia wonders if the tree is answering her and decides to continue the correspondence. But it isn’t the tree. It’s Walt, a classmate who has teased her. Will they become friends? Obviously I will love any book in which friends are made through the power of poetry!
Lubna and Pebble
by Wendy Meddour
Lubna and her father are refugees. They arrive at the “World of Tents” to live temporarily. Lubna has no toys so she picks up a pebble, gives it a face and turns it into her friend. This book is surprisingly emotional, highlighting Lubna’s creativity and resiliency. In the midst of her unstable situation, Pebble provides comfort. When Lubna meets Amir, a boy refugee on his own, the two become friends and play with Pebble. When Lubna and her father then get word they will travel to a new country, Lubna finds the courage to give Pebble to Amir.
I Walk with Vanessa
A wordless book about the power of kindness and its role in creating friendships. Vanessa is the new girl and she is being bullied by a schoolmate. Another girl sees this happen and after some thought decides to walk with Vanessa to school. Soon they are joined by others and the bully retreats.
The Girl with a Parrot on Her Head
by Daisy Hirst
Isabel’s best friend, Simon, moves away and Isabel is distraught and takes no joy in anything, rejecting the company of others. Since she has a parrot on her head, she doesn’t even need others, right? But then imaginary worries crop up and it looks like the only one who can help is another child, Chester. So sweet and adorable.
Rulers of the Playground
by Joseph Kuefler
On the playground, Jonah declares himself the ruler. At first, the others play along, although with some eye-rolling. But soon, Jonah has a challenger who wants to be the ruler herself and the two engage in some spirited political battles! The wonderful illustrations depict the life of the playground with all its actions, both large and small. It is teeming with a diverse group of children who eventually give up on both the would-be tyrants and forge a peace, instead. I particularly liked the droll ending.
More books to love: