Over the years when children are reading picture books, they often confront many types of friendship or social dynamics. For example, a child might be dealing with new additions to the family or being partnered up with someone who seems the total opposite. Picture books become ways to explore what good friendships look like and how best to achieve and maintain them. The eight picture books featured in this list of picture books about friendship go over a wide array of situations where characters forge bonds, relationships, and alliances.
Can I Touch Your Hair? by Irene Latham, Charles Waters, Sean Qualls, and Selina Alko
In Can I Touch Your Hair?, authors Irene Latham and Charles Waters collaborate with illustrators Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. This picture book addresses race relations and friendship among elementary school age students, in particular a white girl and Black boy who must collaborate on a poetry project. Latham’s linked poems make this book easy to read and appealing, especially to readers who are looking for alternate book formats. Latham nimbly catches the conversations about race and identity that the book’s age groups are starting to have.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
What? You might be thinking. Isn’t the Grinch about Christmas? I thought the same thing. But upon a recent revisit, I realized that Dr. Seuss’s picture book is really about friendship. The Grinch certainly has a dark side, but in his heart of hearts (two sizes too small), he eventually realizes that becoming friends with the Whos brings him much joy, happiness, and acceptance. I can’t think of a better picture book about friendship.
Niblet & Ralph by Zachariah Ohora
Zachariah OHora’s Niblet & Ralph is worth reading for the bright, engaging illustrations alone, but you’ll want to stick around for the story of two cats who live in the same apartment complex and become friends. Who hasn’t ever witnessed a cat surveying its domain by gazing through the windows? That’s how Niblet and Ralph become friends. But when they accidentally get swapped, the two buddies need to figure out a way back to normal.
Olive & Pekoe: In Four Short Walks by Jacky Davis and Giselle Potter
This picture book is based on the real-life Olive and Pekoe, two dogs owned by best friends and author-illustrator team Jacky Davis and Giselle Potter. One dog is small and curious, while the other is bigger and older. Together, their chemistry forms a sweet friendship we see play out in four vignettes as Olive and Pekoe explore the world around them.
Princess Puffybottom…and Darryl by Susan Nielsen and Olivia Chin Mueller
Adjusting to new members of the family is a topic that many children are familiar with. In this sweet picture book, Princess Puffybottom lives a spoiled life as the only pet in the house. She likes things her way and is very exacting. But when a dog named Darryl moves in, Princess Puffybottom won’t stand for it…until the two find a synergistic and unlikely friendship.
Rumple Buttercup by Matthew Gray Gubler
Little did I know when I checked Rumple Buttercup out of the library that I would soon read one of my all-time favorite books. This touching story is about a socially-anxious, hole-dwelling monster who overcome his shyness and find friendships. Rumple Buttercup is a warm hug of a feel-good book about finding companionship and loving yourself.
Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me by Eloise Greenfield and Ehsan Abdollahi
This heartwarming picture book about friendship tells the story of Jace, a young poet, and Thinker, his dog. Thinker is far more than your average dog…he speaks in verse! But Jace keeps Thinker hidden until Pets’ Day. This friendship picture book is a great way to introduce kids to poetry with poems about lovable Jace and Thinker that children will want to read again and again.
This Old Dog by Martha Brockenbrough and Gabriel Alborozo
Pets and children don’t always get along, but in Martha Brockenbrough’s charming This Old Dog, an old dog and a new baby find much in common. Their connection soon blossoms into a tender friendship where their differences balance themselves out in this lovely picture book about friendship. [Note: Martha is a personal friend of mine.]
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