Picture Book 10 for 10: Friendship Favorites

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“…nothing breaks this golden strand

spun by heart and not by hand.”

Clare Mishica

Picture Book 10 for 10 is the brainchild of Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy Robeck of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. During this annual event, now in its fifth year, teachers, librarians, and book lovers create lists of 10 essential picture books. Cathy and Mandy collect and share these lists, and everyone is richer because of their efforts. Be sure to visit their blogs to see their lists, and check out links to other lists. Thank you, Cathy and Mandy, for organizing this celebration of children’s literature! This is my third year joining in the fun. Last year, I devoted my list to favorite books by Jane Yolen, and the year before, I shared favorite wordless picture books.

Last month, Jillian Heise and Kim McSorley wrote about their “Top Ten Favorite Picture Book Friendships” for Nerdy Book Club. Their list included many of my favorites, especially several of Mo Willems Piggy & Elephant books, Flora and the Flamingo, by Molly Idle and Deborah Freedman’s The Story of Fish and Snail. But their list got me thinking about picture book friendships from the past, stories that my own children loved when they were small and stories that I’ve shared with my students throughout my teaching career. Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorites.

Amos & Boris  by William Steig (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1971)

9780374302788_xlgI adore this timeless tale of friendship between a mouse and a whale. I spouted off about this book about a year ago. You can read more about it here.

Rugby & Rosie, by Nan Parson Rossiter (Dutton, 1997)


This is a classic boy-and-his-dog tale with a twist. Rugby and the nameless narrator are always together: on the way to the bus, after school, and “he sleeps beside my bed at night.” Rosie, a puppy being trained as a guide dog, soon arrives and quickly becomes part of the family. Rossiter’s story follows the friends throughout the year of Rosie’s training and how the family deals with their sadness after Rosie’s inevitable departure.

Oma and Bobo by Amy Schwartz (Bradbury Press, 1987)

665429Alice is thrilled when her mother tells her she can have a dog for her birthday. She finds Bobo at the local animal shelter. When Alice asks her grandmother, Oma, what she should call the dog, Oma replies, “Trouble, Bother, and Nuisance.” Of course Oma’s feelings change by the end of the book and she plays a key role in Bobo’s success at obedience school.

Mrs. Katz and Tush, by Patricia Polacco (Bantam Books for Young Readers, 1992)


Patricia Polacco is a master at telling tales of friendship, and this story of an elderly woman and her young neighbor is a classic. Strangers at the beginning of the book, Larnel, Mrs. Katz, and her kitten, Tush quickly become friends. Larnel learns much from Mrs. Katz about caring, family, and tradition.

Chicken Sunday, by Patricia Polacco (Philomel Books, 1992)


Another classic tale of intergenerational and multicultural friendship. As in many of her other books, Polacco combines illustration with family photographs, which give this book a very personal dimension. Kids love speculating about who’s who in the pictures on Miss Eula’s sideboard.

Pink and Say, by Patricia Polacco (Philomel Books, 1994)


Polacco tells this heart-breaking true story of two young Union soldiers with honesty and sensitivity. At the end of the book, Polacco shares how this story has been passed down through her family for generations. Thank you, Patricia Polacco, for sharing it with us.

Frog and Toad are Friends, by Arnold Lobel (Harper Trophy, 1970)


Is there anyone who doesn’t love Frog & Toad? In this perennial favorite, Lobel depicts Frog and Toad weathering the everyday trials and tribulations of friendship with humor and compassion.

Farfallina & Marcel, by Holly Keller, (Greenwillow Books, 2002)


Holly Keller’s gentle tale follows the friendship between Farfallina, a caterpillar, and Marcel, a goose, and how they withstand separation and BIG changes.

The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Kathryn Brown. (Harcourt, 1996)


The old woman of the title has outlived all her friends and makes up for her loneliness by only giving names to things that will outlive her. But when a shy, brown dog arrives at her gate, the old woman reconsiders the wisdom of this decision. Rylant explores our universal need for companionship with tender understanding.

Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, 2000)


Poor Wemberly worries about everything. Her family tells her she worries too much, but this doesn’t stop her. Wemberly’s list of worries gets even longer when she starts school. But when she makes a new friend, Jewel, her worries are forgotten. Wemberly Worried is a fine example of Henkes’s mastery of capturing the feelings of preschool and primary kids.

There are so many other books I could have included on this list. What’s your favorite tale of friendship?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

Have you ever gone looking for a book and found a different book, one you haven’t thought about in a while, instead? That happened to me the other day when I came across Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu, with amazing photographs by Peter Greste (Scholastic, 2006).


This book tells the story of Owen, a baby hippo, who was left stranded on a coral reef off the coast of Kenya after the 2004 tsunami. Separated from his pod, Owen was too young to be released into the wild on his own, and wouldn’t be accepted by another pod. Arrangements were made for him to be taken to Haller Park, a wildlife sanctuary near Mombasa. Almost immediately after he arrived, Owen began to follow a 130-year old Aldabra tortoise named Mzee. Mzee had a reputation for being a loner, and everyone at the park was sure he’ll rebuff Owen. But, to the amazement of everyone, Mzee accepted Owen, and the two became inseparable. There are a number of other books that recount the story of Owen and Mzee, but this is my favorite.

This story of a most unlikely friendship made me think of another tale of two very different creatures becoming devoted friends. Amos & Boris, by William Steig (Farrar, Straus & Giroux,1971) was one of the first picture books I read as an adult that opened my eyes to the power and depth of children’s literature. Children enjoy listening to the mouse Amos’s efforts to build and supply his boat, the Rodent. But events soon get serious, and a happy adventure turns into a matter of life and death in an instant.


Rescued by Boris, a kind whale, Amos professes his thanks and pledges to help Boris anyway he can, whenever necessary. Boris laughs at the thought of a tiny mouse being able to help a huge whale, but he accepts the offer. Of course, years later, Amos’s help is needed, and is gratefully accepted.

Both of these books offer children a picture of pure generosity. There is never a “what’s in it for me” thought; never a hesitation to help a soul in need. This alone is a good reason to share these books with children. There are others though, including the fact that these books both address a number of CCSS objectives. (Amos & Boris is listed as an exemplar text in Appendix B, but that is not why I love it.) Anchor standards 1-3 in both Literature and Informational text are easily met, and pairing these books seems like an obvious choice for anchor standard 9, “Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.” There are also plenty of opportunities to develop vocabulary (Literacy Anchor standard 4 and Language Anchor standards 4-6). Steig’s writing is filled with rich, descriptive language, as one of my favorite lines from the book shows:

“One night, in a phosphorescent sea, [Amos] marveled at the sight of some whales spouting luminous water…”

Owen and Mzee have their own website, and video clips of them are available.

Sharing short informational video segments on any of the animals in these books before or after reading would help teachers meet Literacy Anchor standard 7, “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.”

Lucy Calkins recently stated that teachers have a responsibility to build our knowledge base and to be wary of packaged programs. Revisiting books already in our libraries, as well as staying abreast with all the wonderful books currently being published is one way to do this. Teachers working in the classroom have better ideas about how to use books with their students than textbook publishers do.

Be sure to visit Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts to find out what others are reading today.