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Making friends can be hard for some people. Adjusting to classroom settings can be hard for others. Here are some great picture books that deal with feelings and learning the social aspects of school and dealing with the ups and downs of life. All of these books are perfect for ages three to eight.

 NEON LEON, by Brittany Teckentrup, is all about trying to fit in and feeling acceptance from others. This delightful and interactive storyline take a chameleon, Leon, through many scenarios as he attempts to fit in. The storyline is truly a delight and begs to be read out loud. You first find him in a green jungle where fellow chameleons are all green. Leon is a neon orange that almost glows on every page. The text asks what would happen if chameleons went to a sandy desert. You turn the page and discover all the chameleons changed to the color of the sand except for Leon. He remains bright orange. The story continues until he finally finds not only a place to fit in, but a friend as well. The digitally made illustrations are brilliant with every open-page scene full of color

The Thank You Book, by Mary Lyn Ray, and nicely illustrated with pencil and watercolor and then rendered digitally by Stephanie Graegin, is a poetically expressed little book that shares the importance of showing gratitude and kindness to all around you. “It’s for zippers that zip jackets when warm days turn to cold – and for the year’s surprises before Green Days come back. Thank you is for hats and mittens. It’s for hands to hold.” The pictures show friends helping secure a jacket and walking, hand in hand, through a lovely autumn scene. 

Carrot & Pea: An Unlikely Friendship, by Morag Hood, was first published in 2016 and has recently been made into a board book. This delightful and simple read showcases Lea the Pea also with all his little green round friends. It also is about tall Colin the carrot and how different he is to his little friend, Lea. But no matter, they can enjoy their differences and be the best of friends. The message is clear which should help with acceptance for kids of all sizes and colors when in school or at play. Each page is set against a stark white background with vibrant circle greens and rectangular oranges. 

I’m Sad, by Michael Ian Black, and brightly painted digitally by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, deals with this feeling in a unique, yet pertinent way. The fact that the author brought in three completely different characters helps lighten this feeling but doesn’t diminish the fact that everyone feels blue once in a while. The little girl makes it feel real but the main character that is feeling sad is a flamingo. The character that will most likely bring a smile and lighten the theme is the potato. By placing a potato into this story seems silly. However, by placing this funny potato into the storyline brings just the right amount of humor. This character doesn’t diminish the reality of sadness but helps project the aspect that it’s OK to feel a little sad sometimes. The pictures are bold and simple and will surely help motivate discussions about feelings.

Box Meets Circle, by Aaron Hartline, is another story of embarrassing differences while still remaining to have friendships. Box likes to sit while circle loves to jump. This creates an obvious difference but when it looks like they are about to part ways, they come up with a clever solution to keep their friendship strong and enjoyable. The message is great, and the illustrations and text are simple and drawn with a cartoon-like appearance quickly propelling the story to the end. This book will be read over and over again.

Bigger Than You, by Hyewon Kyung, is a multilevel learning tool to help youngsters navigate in new situations in and outside the classroom. With the turn of every page, you find a bigger dinosaur stating: “I’m bigger than you.” The text changes when a mean-looking T-Rex changes the statement to: “I’m more terrible that you!” This scares all the other dinosaurs until you turn the page and see mom getting after her mean-spirited child and states that it’s time for all to get along and play nicely. The ingenious illustrations were created by using traditional Korean paper made from the mulberry tree, Korean paints and watercolors. Be sure to look at the back pages where you find a size scale depicting and labeling the dinosaurs found in the story as well diagrams showing simple machines.

This Story is For You, by Greg Pizzoli, is a celebration of enduring friendship and the importance of love and support. The narrator speaks throughout and continually points out the value of a special friend. “We can play games, and make shadows on the wall, and sing songs we make up on the spot.” The vivid color, done with pencil and Photoshop, completely fills every scene which includes double-page pictures. This is the perfect book to help reassure youngsters that they will always be in the hearts of loved ones, even in difficult times.

Stick, by Irene Dickson, takes a very simple theme and builds a story of imagination and ultimately finding a friend. A young boy and his dog go outside to explore and immediately they discover a stick. Throughout the rest of this story – with just few words on each page – the boy and his dog discover what they can do with this stick, which eventual leads them to a friend. The bright open-page scenes are filled with color made by mixed media.

 The Big Umbrella, by Amy June Bates, and co-written with Juniper Bates, is about acceptance and friendship. A small child in a yellow raincoat and boots lifts a smiling umbrella from beside the door to go out into the rain. More and more children and adults slip underneath this welcoming umbrella to get out of the rain. As people gather, the umbrella stretches to make sure all are kept dry and safe. The umbrella is a vibrant red painted against dull hues of greens and grays. The gorgeous artwork is rendered in watercolor, gouache and pencil on watercolor paper.

 Best Friends in the Universe by Hector and Louie, by Stephanie Watson, and brightly painted with pencil and crayon and then digitally enhanced with Photoshop by LeUyen Pham, is all about the highs and lows of friendship. Hector and Louie have great times together, but they also get into fights. However, they have learned to deal with their differences when they get upset with each other and turn it around so they are once again friends. The scrapbook appearance of the vivid colors is delightful and add to the friendship of these two protagonists.

Big Box Little Box, by Caryl Hart, and wonderfully illustrated with pencil, ink and computer assisted collage by Edward Underwood, showcases an adorable little cat as he explores many sizes, shapes and colors of boxes. The cat and box play is filled with rhythm making it a perfect read-out-loud. “Plain box Jazzy box Spotty box Snazzy box Shoe box? Hat box? Perfect for a cat box.” Each box has this curious cat behind the box or on top of the box or in the case of that last quoted line: each of his paws are in a small box. As he explores all types of boxes, he eventually meets up with a most unlikely friend. This is a great beginning reader because of the repeating phrases throughout as well as a read aloud.