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The Picture Book Buzz

Friends Stick Together - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Last week I did a post on some of my favorite unique friendship books (here). One of the books, We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan Higgins, ties nicely into Suzanne's back to school theme. And thinking about a post for this week, I realized that I had missed (it was hiding under a pile of library books) a book that I had wanted to add to last week's post.

It combines both a unique friendship and school, so it is perfect for this week's post. Hope you all like it too.

Friends Stick Together

Author/Illustrator: Hannah E. Harrison

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (2018)

Ages: 4-8



Friendship, school, uniqueness, acceptance, and science.

Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):

A touching and timeless story about finding friendship in unlikely places from the award-winning creator of Extraordinary Jane Rupert is a rhinoceros of refined sensibilities. Levi, the new tickbird in class, is not. He burps the alphabet, tells corny jokes, and does really embarrassing air guitar solos. Worse, he lands right on Rupert and is determined to be Rupert's symbiotic best pal! Rupert wants him gone. But when Levi finally does bug off, Rupert finds the peace and quiet a little boring. It turns out, Rupert could really use a friend like Levi. This sweet and moving friendship story shares an important message of acceptance for every reader—whether they're a Rupert or a Levi.

Opening Lines:

I'm Rupert.

I like reading dictionaries, listening to classical overtures, and eating cucumber sandwiches with no crust.

This is Levi.

He is a tickbird.

He likes corny jokes, armpit farts, and popping wheelies.

He just showed up one day, and sat on my nose, and now I'm stuck with him.

What I Like about this book:

When Levi, a rude, bedraggled tickbird arrives in class, he creates the quintessential odd couple by attaching himself to Rupert. A cultured, impeccably dressed rhino, complete with a bow tie and sweater.

To Rupert's consternation, Levi insists on burping the alphabet, making farting noises (in line), playing air guitar at the wrong times, and making a production of eating Rupert's ticks. In short, embarrassing the socially awkward Rupert throughout the school day with his clowning antics.

Rupert tries to dislodge Levi. But all his efforts, even using "centrifugal force," fail. Finally, Rupert declares, "I find your boisterousness a tad loathsome [and] your uncouthness is slightly problematic." I love Rupert's stuffy voice and the rich vocabulary that Hannah Harrison uses throughout the book.

Finally alone, Rupert learns "to be careful what you wish for." Music class is boring, he's extremely itchy, and he's last one standing when the teams are picked. To figure out the problem, he falls back on his dictionaries. Huddled between stacks, he researches the definition of "friend."

Even though,predictably they make up and become friends, the ending is satisfying. Hannah's illustrations are loaded with treasures and humor. From the school supplies in Ms. Kangaroo's pocket, to the character's amazing facial expressions, and the penguin's sardine and boxed salt water lunch. She beautifully captures images of a typical school day. And, although clothed, the animals remain quite realistic.

Subtly within the greater message of friendship and acceptance of others lies the scientific nugget of the symbiotic relationship between rhinos and tickbirds. Tucked into the end pages, there are two definitions of "sym-bi-o-sis." At the beginning, "1: a close association of animals or plants of a different species that is often, but not always, of mutual benefit." This is immediately followed by a solo picture of Rupert. At the end, a second definition "2: the relationship between two different kinds of living that live together and depend on each other," follows an image of Rupert and Levi playing air guitar together.

Overall this is a great book about starting friendships, especially some unlikely ones, with a bit of science and language arts (vocabulary and dictionary usage) thrown in.


- how do you differ from your friend? Try out this classroom activity ( or draw a picture of something you like to do and something your friend likes to do;

- can you think of other symbiotic pairs of animals or plants?

- use a dictionary (or two) to look up words you don't know in the story. Are there multiple meanings? Do different dictionaries all have the same definition?

- take a chance and try making a friend with someone a little different from yourself.

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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