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The Picture Book Buzz

My 10 Favorite Picture Books With Unusual Friends

Ten of my favorite children's picture books have unusual friends or friendships. While a common enough theme - friendship - these particular books push the notion just a little further out to encompass mimes, monsters, and every type of imaginable friend.

1. BE A FRIEND by Salina Yoon

Sometimes the best friends just know what we need. Joy's quiet understanding and imagination make her the perfect friend for Dennis. Their friendship fun encourages others to join them as well. A glorious tale about differences.

[Salina Yoon also has a board book about an unusual friendship - Penguin and Pinecone]


Friends come in all sizes and shapes. When a child's best friend is unlike the norm, they brave scary things and learn what makes a real friend. Full of heart and imagination, this story is also a wonderful celebration of diversity in all species. I also fell in love with the amazing illustrations.

3. LIONHEART by Richard Collingridge

Friends help us be brave, even if they are stuffed. In a magnificently illustrated tale, a young boys stuffed friend comes to life and helps him find the strength to defeat the monster (darkness). I really liked the heart of this story.

4. MOTHER BRUCE by Ryan T. Higgins

Friends can come when least expected. Though originally just after a gourmet meal, Bruce slowly discovers he has friends. Full of humor for the parents and amazing illustrations, it is truly a treasure.

5. THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Sometimes you have to be brave and adventurous to find your friend. Finding a friend can take a long time, but it is rewarding when you find that special connection. I love the "unimagined" context of the story.

6. THE ZOO IS CLOSED TODAY! Until Further Notice by Evelyn Beilenson

When you care and show empathy for others, you might be surprised at the friends you make. Sue and John's concern over the welfare of the animals at the zoo is returned tenfold. With illustrations reminiscent of the older Golden books, it is a beautiful treasure full of unusual friends.

7. BEAR HAS A STORY TO TELL by Philip Stead

The best of friends help each other, even when their needs might seem conflicting. Bear's patience and caring is rewarded with good friends. In a beautiful circular story about sharing and friendship.

8. GOOD NIGHT BADDIES by Deborah Underwood

Everyone needs a friend, even fairy tale villains. But who would be a friend with them? Exploring what happens to the "baddies" after the "happily ever after," this is a touching tale of unusual friends.

9. A SICK DAY FOR AMOS McGEE by Philip Stead

Fostering understanding and taking time to help others brings the reward of a special friendship. When Amos falls ill, his friends return his caring and seek to make him better. This is another gentle and beautiful story of friendship, with a fun little addition.

10. DEAR DRAGON by Josh Funk

Even the most unlikely twosome can become friends. George and Blaise begin their friendship as a school assignment. Their perceptions of each other, through their exchanged letters, makes this book extremely humorous. But can a dragon really be friends with a human?

And one extra one. Because it is so hard to choose and it is just such a fun book with a type of twisted angle on friendship:

11. I NEED MY MONSTER by Amanda Noll

Maybe the best friend is the one that scares you the most. No matter how many others try, without his special monster the little boy can't sleep. This wonderful, rollicking book turns the notion of a monster under the bed on its head and gives us a spooky type of symbiotic friendship.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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