The Picture Book Buzz

A Real Friend - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Even the best of friends have moments of struggle and disagreements. Feelings can get unintentionally hurt, frustrations can build until they explode, and sometimes we just aren't the best communicators. And as hard as it is for us as adults to navigate friendships, it's often harder for kids. Fortunately, young kid's moods change more quickly and they are not as prone to holding grudges. Even so, sometimes all friendships need a bit of help. This book offers a look at what it means, and what it takes, to have a real friend.

A Real Friend

Author: Jennifer Wolfthal

Illustrator: Judi Abbot

Publisher: Clavis Publishing (2020)

Ages: 4-9



Friendship, creativity, robots, and forgiveness.


Benny and Max are best friends. They often play together, until Max annoys Benny and the two friends get into a fight. Then, Benny decides to build a new best friend…

A recognizable story about playing together, quarreling and patching up a quarrel.

Opening Lines:

Benny needed a new best friend.

His old best friend, Max, was

really starting to bug him.

It’s true, they had fun playing

Alien Invaders together.

But Max took forever to play,

and Benny got bored waiting for his turn.

What I Liked about this book:

Benny and Max were best friends. Except that Max's quirks - hogging the controller, always being the hider (during 'Hide-N-Seek'), loving PB&J sandwiches, and talking about bugs - where getting on Benny's nerves. When he grabbed the controller from Max, emotions flared. "You’re not my best friend anymore!” Max shouted. “Good! I’ll find a new best friend!” Benny yelled.

Text © Jennifer Wolfthal, 2020. Image © Judi Abbot, 2020.

And "find" a new friend is exactly what Benny did. In a beautiful symphony of illustration and text, Jennifer and Judi create three fun spreads of Benny creatively using numerous odds & ends he finds to make his new friend Jax. A perfect best friend! Jax let Benny play alien invader as long as he wanted, hide every time they played hide-and-seek, eat grilled cheese for lunch, and always laughed at his jokes. But did this "perfect" friend make Benny happy?

In addition to the themes of friendship and robots, there's also another underlying theme in the book - "Be careful what you wish for." After a while, Benny began to wonder if this friendship with Jax was really what he wanted after all. It was getting boring and "a little creepy." He missed Max's quirks, a little at least. Judi's bright, expressive illustrations poignantly and humorously capture the angst, struggle, and joy of Benny & Max's friendship.

Text © Jennifer Wolfthal, 2020. Image © Judi Abbot, 2020.

Once Benny admits he misses Max, he wonders if Max miss him. "What if Max doesn’t want to be my best friend again?" With a touch of humor and a nod to creativity, Jennifer and Judi create a wonderful ode to friendships and creativity. Be sure to watch the reactions of the little bluebird (of happiness?) that Judi added into many of the illustrations. As well as the similarity of the name and hair style of Jax to Max. I won't ruin it, but you're going to love the way Jennifer and Judi created the ending.

This is a great book for kids about the ups and downs every friendship endures and the need for communication. And also, a subtle warning on careful wishing. It's perfect for our current confined separations and for helping navigate relationships once we can all get back together. Overall, it's a timeless friendship book that I hope finds its way in all libraries.


- make your own 2D or 3D robot out of recycled materials (cereal box & cans), (toilet paper rolls), (2D "junk art"), and many more ideas (

- write a story, or draw a picture, of something you like to do with a friend. Or about a time you had a problem with a friend.

- what makes a best friend special? What could you do to show your best friend you appreciate them? Maybe make a card or bracelet, write a poem, or draw a picture.

- check out the teacher's guide ( and lots of other activities (

If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Jennifer Wolfthal (here).

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.

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