Here are some outstanding picture books that deal with appropriate behavior, along with friend-ship. All of these books are good for all ages except the first two which are better suited for ages four to six.
I Can Say Please and I Can Say Thank You, both by Tamsin Ainslie, are both sweet little books that project these two kind gestures without being too preachy or saccharine. The same youngster is present, along with her bunny friends, and the courtesy displayed shines through with an expression of ambiance. Soft pastels reflect soft hues that go perfectly with the theme.
Bandit’s Surprise, by Karen Rostoker-Gruber, and illustrated with a combination of pencil, watercolor, ink and Photoshop by Vincent Nguyen, deals with the difficulties of sharing. When Bandit’s owner brings another cat home, he isn’t about to share his toys, his food dish or his life with her. There’s a good lesson here that families and classrooms can learn from.
Dirtball Pete, by Eileen Brennan, is a great illustration of “don’t judge others”. Dirtball Pete is always a filthy mess but when it comes time to give his speech in the special school performance, he changes many opinions about him. He portrays self confidence and intelligence. The painted pictures, especially of Dirtball Pete, are especially effective.
Six Crows, by Leo Lionni, is a reissue that was first published back in 1988. The message in this classic tale is about how to resolve conflict, which seems to be an ongoing problem in schools and families. A farmer in India builds a scarecrow to scare away six gregarious crows from his wheat field. But this doesn’t deter the crows when they build a very large bird to scare away the farmer. The resolution in this matter is simple, yet brilliant. And so is the collage of cut paper and mixed media surrounded by white.
What if Everybody Did That?, by Ellen Javernick, and illustrated with mixed media by Colleen M. Madden, has a boy attempting to make bad decisions and adults intervening by asking the title of the book. This question brings a vision of the possibility to the boy’s mind which makes for some delightfully teachable moments. One moment is when he interrupts story time and the librarian asks “what if everybody did that?” His vision of what would happen is funny and teaches the consequence of this action!
The rest of the books deal with friendship, which is an integral part of school relationships and life. The Tortoise or the Hare, by Toni & Slade Morrison, and beautifully painted with full-page spreads by Joe Cepeda, is not the typical story because this ending is a surprise. The tortoise and the hare – who have some personal issues to overcome – overcome them and become friends in the process.
If I Never Forever Endeavor, by Holly Meade, is a delightful rhyming tale with a simplistic theme and poetry, but with a powerful message. “If in all of forever, / I Never endeavor / to fly, I won’t now if I can. / I won’t know if I can’t.” How will this little bird ever discover all that life offers, which includes making friends, if he doesn’t even try. The blend of watercolor blue sky that covers the pages includes block prints of trees. So go out on a limb and attempt life!
The Next Door Bear, by Mary Kuryla, and painted with vibrant colors by Eugene Yelchin, is all about fitting in. Emma is new to the neighborhood and she is upset that the kids don’t ask her to join in the fun. “They should know I’m new here”, she says, and proceeds to wait to be invited. The lessons learned here are perfect for the beginning of the school year when kids of all ages worry about fitting in. And Emma soon discovers that she needs to put forth some effort.
Poindexter Makes a Friend, by Mike Twohy, deals with shyness and how being reserved keeps kids from making new friends. Poindexter has this problem and doesn’t seek others to play with, instead reads to himself in the library. But his life changes when he meets shy Shelby and both their world’s change when they discover a book to help both overcome their shyness. The ink and watercolor are a nice match with the story.
Weird? (Me, Too!) Let’s be Friends, poems by Sara Holbrook, and the digital illustrations by Karen Sandstrom, has some wonderful poems about friendship and getting along. The nice blend of different types of poems beg for them to be read aloud and in many instances read with group participation.